Unless you’ve been living under a rock where you have no exposure to the outside world, you’re probably well aware of the recent ‘Muslim ban’ fiasco.
On the surface it appears the issue predominantly affects those in the US and the countries that have been banned entry into the States. I’m here to tell you that, no, it’s much larger than that.
I am a Muslim.
I am a female. Born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. I am here to say that this directly affects me and in turn, affects you.
The very idea of wanting to deny certain people their basic human right of, well, living their lives is completely abhorrent. It perpetuates a culture of bigotry, hate and violence. This, we all know. The other thing it does – that not everyone may be aware of – is the subconscious act of division.
I’m very pleased to say that in my 22 years of being alive and more so my 11 years of wearing a hijab full-time, I haven’t really encountered huge amounts of discrimination. I’ve been lucky enough to not have violent slurs yelled at me, have people try to pull my hijab off or even have strangers try and hurt me. Instead, I’ve been categorised as “the other”.
Ever since I entered the weird world of adolescence, I’ve somehow managed to become an outcast. I’m a self-proclaimed heavy music lover. I rock out to all things hardcore, punk, metal and alternative. If it has loud guitars, you best know I have my devil horns up (much to the Muslim community’s dismay). So not only did I grow up not fitting in to the non-Muslim crowd because of the piece of fabric on my head – but I also somehow outcast myself from the conservative religious folk who thought I was head-banging to Satan music. Fun, right?
I was pretty reserved growing up. I didn’t go out to gigs – not because of my religious parents but because I was underage and they were wary of exposing their 14-year-old daughter to a world they weren’t familiar with. Fast forward to 2011 and I attended my first gig; Counter Revolution. That night was one of the best of my life. I felt at home amongst the sweaty punters in Festival Hall who were all there for the same reasons: to have a great night of live music.
At the time, I didn’t take much notice to the weird glances people gave me. They weren’t necessarily mean looks but more like a question of “Are you lost? Should you be here?”. Looking back on it now, this would become a common theme for me.
Most recently, I saw Every Time I Die headline a packed out 170 Russell, although I was mainly there to see letlive, with a friend of mine who also wears a hijab. Before they played their hit song ‘Muther’, singer Jason Butler made a very touching and empowering speech about how we need to build women up and treat them right. This of course made me feel invincible and so when Butler threw the mic into the pit, my friend and I gladly grabbed it to sing along – until some guys behind us couldn’t stand our voices and took over.
After the show, we were lucky enough to meet Jason. As we were waiting, some ladies who were backstage approached us. “You girls were singing during Muther, right? That’s so cool! You never see girls like you do that”.
Now you might think I’m reading too much into it, but we all know by “girls like you”, they really meant Muslims. I can’t blame them though; we were the only two visibly Muslim people there.
The key phrase there was “visibly” Muslim. That’s not to say that there weren’t other Muslims there, you just wouldn’t know by looking. While I’m happy to take a compliment where I can, the comment didn’t completely sit right with me. The reason for that is because what makes me different from anyone else at the gig? My hijab? Surely not.
If you saw me in the street, you’d only be able to tell my religion because I wear a hijab. Anything else, I’m just your typical ‘still growing out of my emo phase’ young adult. I put my black skinny jeans on one leg at a time, just like everyone else.
My issue with this whole ‘different’ thing is that, I’m not. Just because I follow a certain faith, doesn’t mean I can’t throw down in the pit. I don’t mind being classified as “that hijabi” because I’m not denying my identity – in fact, my blog tagline is literally “That Muslim chick at your local hardcore gig”. This is my identity; this is who I am. But I’m still your average smudged-eyeliner joe.
The best part of this is, I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone. There are tons of Muslims out there who love heavy music, some are even in punk bands (hell yeah, they exist). In fact, there’s a whole genre of Islamic punk music called Taqwacore. Thanks to the works of established author Michael Muhammad Knight, I found peace in a fictional world that allowed me to embrace two extremes of my personality.
So although I like spending my weekends having a bit of a mosh, I’m still hella Muslim. Don’t mistake my lifestyle for assimilation – I’m just me.
My faith taught me to be open, to be relentlessly honest, to be kind and to be me.
Punk rock has reinforced these very sentiments.
It’s things like the Muslim ban that reinforces the idea that we’re some strange species that you should be afraid of. The only thing you should be afraid of is me making your ears bleed with my out-of-tune singing. Sorry again, 170 Russell.
Muslims come from all different walks of life. Some of them are more conservative and strict than others, while some are super chill and might even share a pint with you.
The time to be inclusive is now.