Years ago, I worked in a Northern Suburb called Preston, back then it was a few years after 9-11. I like to visit Preston, the market, shops etc. But I don’t really want to live there and I worked there for about four years.
On a Friday after work, I was on the train heading home, the train carriage was not very full and I was tired after a typical busy week. There were the standard array of passengers heading home from work, maybe heading to the Friday night football or to meet up with friends for drinks or had started drinks already.
In front of me, sitting opposite me was a young woman shrouded completely in black, she was wearing a Burka, by some referred to as the “Letter Box” where you can only see their eyes.
I know ‘wrong’ again, but I didn’t make it up and by putting it in context, image you will appreciate me using it just this once. So off we went to the city. A young man (note no use of words like ‘Gentleman’) stood and started to verbally abuse the young Muslim woman. I don’t recall what he was saying exactly, but it was repulsive. He was suggesting she take off her Burka and hated words in Australia, that she go back where she came from.
Oh, so I did recall. Bit hard to forget.
The young woman shrank into her seat, nervous eyes darting around the train carriage. I moved my bag from the seat beside me to my lap and I patted the now spare seat and invited her to move over next to me.
I gently touched her leg with the back of the hand and told her the best thing to do was to face him. She didn’t want to, so she kept her back to him and I told her to not react to him. Although, it’s not what I did admittedly.
First, I simply tried to educate and reason with him. I asked him where his parents had come from because he looked like he was more Italian than I am. I told him my father was from Italy, but I’d been born and raised here.
I attempted to enlighten him that every new culture that came to Australia, enriched us with their foods and styles. Now, you know, he argued and debated back with me and maybe I had not expected that, but the temperature in the train carriage changed and I had really had enough anyway. He was beyond my help. A guy was sitting facing me on the other side of the isle. He wore black slacks and a white shirt. He looked to be a Security guard, but slim build, presumably off to work in the city. His left hand dropped down to his side, dangling into the isle. His fingers twitched in a shaking negative motion. Without looking at him, I inclined my head a little and blinked my eyes, I just subtly let him know I understood. I confess to say when I ‘growl’ people learn not to mess with me.
So, I growled!
“Enough” I told him. I told him to sit down, he immediately made a move to sit opposite me in the seat the woman had vacated. Seeing this was his plan, I growled again, ‘NO’ and pointing sternly, I told him to “Sit there” and indicated the seat he had been in earlier and so there was no doubt, I told him to face the other way. We did not need him facing us.
I think there was a moment where the whole of the occupants of that carriage shared a ‘sigh’ and I’m sure we were all relieved, we all think shit like this happens elsewhere.
I don’t know if I hadn’t spoken up, if someone else would have, I want to imagine ‘Yes’, but you never know until you are in that situation.
Another moment went by and we were closer to my home suburb and still a few suburbs from the city. Most smaller stations are unmanned day and night. I wondered what would happen to my passenger, when I got off and hoped that she would still be safe. I politely asked her if she was going to the city and did she have friends to meet her?
She said yes to both queries. I suggested she text her friends to meet her on the platform. The whole time she has spoken to me, it was a soft voice that only I could hear. She was polite, calm and neatly presented. She didn’t have an unpleasant odour, I hope you hear me when I’ve expressed my opinions about Muslims and Terrorists and none of this should impress or surprise people, however my part is.
Despite my disability and what others would perceive as a weakness, in a similar situation I would not be intimidated or fail to come to the aid of someone if I felt they were being unfairly persecuted and I would like to hope others would come to my aid if I needed it.
Then that leads me to the end of my topic, for now about my exposure to Muslims and Terrorists.