Interviews With People came from my 2013 New Years Resolution to ‘get to know everyone well’ which, for some reason, seems a tad ambitious to some people. There was even one woman who turned away and whispered impossible under her breath.
That won’t stop me from trying though. I want to know everyone. That desire won’t die.
This week I got to know Salwa, about her goals for herself and her family, and how she deals with the assumptions and prejudice that comes with being Muslim in Australia ~ RD.
Getting To Know Salwa
My name is Salwa. I thought I would have owned one or two successful child care centres and had 5 kids by now. But I'm happy with 4 girls.
I’m upset with all the hate people have for one another. Even if they are from the same family, follow the same religion, live in the same country etc.
It’s unexplainable why I love THAT person so much? Every time I see him I fall more in love with him. He makes me smile every time I see him.
The highest point in my life would be when we moved our family down south to Wollongong. Loved living near the beach. The lowest point is now since we found out my father in law has cancer and had to move back to Sydney.
Getting To Know Salwa Well
RD:I have four boys. I have been very aware of the all the media attention on bad men doing bad things lately and am very keen to continue talking to my boys about the positive aspects of being male. What worries you most about raising girls today and what practical things are you doing to combat your concerns?
Salwa: Having all girls is such a blessing. As much as they make me crazy they also make me see things differently. Society has changed since we were little. I remember being out on the street till the sun went down with the neighbours kids. These days my children can't do that. So I like to teach my kids how to be safe. My biggest worry is them not being able to defend themselves. So what am I doing about it? My girls do Maui Thai training once a week and I plan on keeping them in this training till they want to leave. At the moment they are loving it and not showing any signs of leaving. They love the boxing, the knee's, the elbow's and the kicks that they do.
Another concern is clothing. Just like playing outside and being safe has changed so has clothing for young girls. Young girls are wearing things that older teenagers would be wearing and I don't want that for my kids. Clothing in the stores are making young girls grow up to fast. I teach my children to respect their body and cover up in a respectful way to not show too much for anyone's wondering eye. For example if they are wearing a dress they are to wear bike shorts underneath. When they are older and more developed they are to wear t-shirts and no singlets while out. This is another way to keep my children safe. I believe that this is the way to combat it for MY children. Others may have a different perspective on this and that fine.
I also teach my girls they they can do what they like. They can go to uni. They can go to work. They also see a great example of how a man is supposed to treat her by seeing their father.
RD: Family is important and there are obviously positives in having extended family heavily involved in your life. But there are also negatives. How has/does having a close extended family affected you and your goals negatively?
Salwa: Having close family is great in a way. But they all wanna get up in my business. Sometimes with some things people just need some privacy and need to do things for themselves. Having a huge family restricts that because they all wanna know what's going on and have to have their two cents. My mother always has two cents.It hasn't affected my goals negatively too much but when it comes to me, my kids, my husband and what goes on in my house that's up to me and my husband.
RD: There is a long way to go. What is going to change in your life for you to achieve your personal goals?
Salwa: I think for me to achieve my goals in life I need to get back into training and working. I am currently looking to do an Advanced Diploma in Children's Services to extend on my knowledge in that area. I already have my Diploma. But because of all the changes in child care at the moment that diploma is pretty much nothing now. I need to get back into doing a course and going back to work. I wont be able to do that until my littlest is big enough to attend child care with her sister.
RD: There is the perception among many people that Muslim women are treated badly by the men in their life, that they are unable to express their opinion, are denied basic personal rights and are not respected. How would you respond to that?
Salwa: I would say that that is a load of bull. In every community there are bad men (who we shouldn't call men) who treat women badly. In every society some women are controlled by the man in their life and who are not respected by that man. It happens in the muslim community but it also happens in other communities no matter what religion, race, colour or country. This type of abuse isn't only from muslim "men".
I blame the media. The media plays a huge role in shaping and putting all Muslim's in the bad bucket. They take the bad and play it or write about it till it's death and then some.
All the men who do these things are very uneducated. Unfortunately it happens a lot around the world and mostly in the poorer countries I would presume. These men were once boys. They watched their father and how he was. His father was once a boy he watched his father. Abuse of this kind I think is learnt by people around them. My father is not like this. My father in law is not like this. In fact no man in my family is like this. Different Muslim countries are different too. Go to Saudi Arabia or Egypt and you will see the extreme. Go to Lebanon they are laid back.
We are able to speak up about it but in some countries sadly its not the case (even here in Australia). The women don't know that they can speak up. Or they know and are scared to. A lot of the laws that are set in the Muslim countries are set by their government thinking that this is what the religion teaches. When its not true. It really irritates me to read some stories in the news.
I am an educated Muslim woman. I have worked. I can go where I please. I can spend money where I please. The Hijab, or my husband, can't and wont restrict me from doing the things "normal" women can do. The Hijab is a choice that has to be made by the woman to please one and that is god. Just like the nuns wear their head gear and people go to pray at church, it's very similar. No one know how similar the three largest religions are. There are just a select few who have a bigger voice then us who are the majority. Even if we all speak up, people wont believe. I now just get irritated when I see something stupid in the media about my religion and then shrug it off because the damage is done I can't do anything about it.
I believe that the society as a whole restricts me from expressing my opinions, denies me of my personal rights and does not respect me for what I want to do or wear.
RD: You look radiant and happy wearing a Hijab and holding a glass of bubbly in the photo you provided. I understand that it's a woman's choice to wear a hijab. I also understand that hate and prejudice exists all over the world and that being white and male protects me from experiencing it as much as others. Has wearing a Hijab made you more aware of prejudice in Australia? Can you give an example of how it has led directly to you being discriminated against?
Salwa: I have to laugh. I am not holding a glass of bubbly but a glass of non alcoholic champagne that tasted more like bubbly apple juice. Wearing the Hijab has seen me cop many types of abuse. From people yelling out from their cars as they pass me while I walk along or people giving me death stares at the shops. Some people see the Hijab and automatically think I can't talk English and are surprised when they hear my very aussie accent. I'm sure if these people saw me with out it they wouldn't even know that I am a Muslim. That is the only thing that gives it away. Because of that people think that it's ok to pick on it.
I have also copped a lot of prejudice in the work place looking for a job. I was given a job and then refused the job when I placed my introduction onto the board for parents to know who I am. They said some parents were not too sure about having me at the centre.
At a place I did start working at (after more then 6 months of interviews) a parent had admitted to me that she wasn't sure she was happy with me at the centre. She changed her mind once she got to know me. What she didn't know was the owner and the admin lady were Muslim as well but never wore a Hijab so It wasn't obvious.
So because the Hijab is so obviously out there and outrageous and because of media feeding crap into peoples minds I do get discriminated against. I have had it so much now that I can shrug it off. If I respond it only makes it worse.
Salwa's Blog - Salz's Dummy Spit
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