Sumayya Omar | 11 May 2016
In April of this year, I spent my days vacationing Europe.
On my return I was charged to document my experiences and observations. It is obvious that one cannot ignore the political and social realities that impact various nations, neither can we circumvent the mass production of deception and insecurities produced by media houses, claiming to represent the interest of the people or rather the ‘situation on the ground’.
Even though my vacation was a retreat, my political ambitions and interest journeyed along. I was anxious to enter the European Union as a foreign Muslim, mainly because my arrival was two days after the Brussels attack. Naturally I began to formulate scenarios based on self-interested questions, taking into account the war in the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the proliferation of ISIS, the influx of refugees into Europe and the management of the refugee crises by governments and and their people.
Thus my question on arrival was: “What would be the reception and hospitality towards a ‘foreign’ Muslim by European citizens?”
Since the 9/11 tragedy and the invasion in Afghanistan and then Iraq, many mainstream media outlets continue to unapologetically portray the Islam and its followers in a negative light. This has to some extent created a hostile perception of Muslims by people of other faiths and at times by Muslims as well.
But is this Is lamophobia, and hatred for Muslims by white European non-Muslims as bad as it is made out to be? With this in mind, I began to tell myself that the historical lessons taught in institutions of higher learning and so forth are flawed in the sense that history is only written by the side of the oppressor. There is an untold story that needs to be discovered.
My holiday comprised of travelling between Switzerland and Italy and no matter which city I was in, I wasn’t treated any different. I wasn’t feared because of my religion.
The only time I felt different was when I conversed with the nationals of these countries and I could not speak their mother tongue.
In fact, I found it very fashionable to be a Muslim in Europe. The Muslim dressing of men (fist length beards and pants above the ankles) has become very popular amongst European men. Whilst for the women, the hijaab and cloak (modest look) is a new trend for European women as Dolce & Gabbana has spared no expense in splashing their new line of designer cloaks on almost every billboard!
I may have only travelled two of the European Union countries, but I remain resolute that Islam and its people are very much welcomed.
The highlight of my trip was the day of my departure back to South Africa. We took a shuttle from Milano Centrale (train station) to Milano Malpensa Airport. The shuttle driver was Muslim, the ticket officer was Muslim and the entire company was managed by Muslims. The Muslim employees of this company were Italian nationals, spoke multiple languages, secured into the workforce and thus living as Muslims without being feared or discriminated against. In fact the bus driver turned out to be Palestinian. As he drove us, I could faintly hear him having a telephonic conversation about Gaza (in Arabic). I departed Italy with a warm conviction that living and working in Europe will be free a choice, regardless of any persons religious beliefs, nationality or status. Settling in Europe will no longer be seen as an occupation by refugees who are fleeing and settling out of desperation.
Europeans are aware of the political and social realities that are occurring and it is unfair that the media portrays ALL Europeans as being hostile towards Muslims and their causes. Therefore we cannot accept the fabricated analysis put forward by western media coverage of events and situations.