SYDNEY - Taking the full brunt of racism in the post-9/11 era, young Muslim women in Australia are developing a strong sense of identity to tell the public about themselves and their faith.
"There's now a generation of young Muslim Australians who have grown up in the shadow of September 11, Christina Ho, a researcher on migration and cultural diversity, told ABC News on Wednesday, March 7.
Ho said Muslim women have taken the full brunt of racism and abuses following the 9/11 attacks in the United States.
As they faced growing suspicion, Muslim women began to speak out to clear their image and highlight the true face of their faith.
"Muslim women say that they've had to answer a lot more questions since September 11, and that obviously is a burden for them, Ho said.
But on the other hand it's also given them an opportunity to speak out.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
"Muslim women in particular, especially those who wear the hijab or the headscarf, have been quite visible so they have often borne the brunt of the anxiety and racism towards Muslim Australians, Ho said.
"There have been some pretty horrific cases of abuse, both verbal and physical abuse.
For instance women have been followed home, people have chased them in cars, screamed at them, pulled off their hijabs. There are a lot of those kinds of stories out there."
A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.
A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.
Facing a growing Islamophobic environment in the post-9/11 era, young Muslims began to speak out to clear misconceptions about themselves and their faith.
A lot of Muslim women say the flipside to the racism is that a new space has opened up for them to actually talk about themselves, to explain what they believe, and to try to demystify their culture amongst ordinary Australians, Ho said.
I am noticing young Muslim women in particular have really become very articulate in talking about these issues, explaining who they are.
The researcher, who migrated from Hong Kong, says she understands the difficulties that faced Muslims in the 9/11 era.
"My family migrated to Australia in the 70s from Hong Kong, so I guess we were a part of that early wave of Chinese migration to Australia, she said.
"I always had a sense of culture and of difference, and I suppose I've always been drawn to people who have similar stories.
She recalls being approached by a Muslim women group to document their experiences in Australian society.
"A few years ago we at the University of Technology Sydney were approached by a Muslim women's association which wanted us to document some of the experiences that their members had been having, particularly after September 11 and the fallout from the War on Terror.
As she got closer to Muslims, Ho found that Muslim women have developed a strong sense of identity to tell the Australian public about themselves and their faith.
"There is this sense of identity about these young people, because they've grown up having to answer all these questions and being very visible in public, Ho said.
For a lot of women, I think that's lead to a new sense of being able to articulate their sense of self."Because they are often more visible, they are required to take on these roles of speaking out. So I think there's actually quite an amazing generation of younger Muslim Australian women who are really finding their voice in the community."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net