For two days after the Paris attacks, I was either at home, in my own area, in the car, or at university. The area in which I live is quite multicultural, with a large Muslim population, therefore I generally feel safe here, even late at night. My university is in Leicester City, with alot of home students. It has an active Muslim student society, and I have never felt uncomfortable on campus.
On the third day, I decided to take the bus to uni, which requires a short walk through the city centre. I had read accounts of Muslims sisters being harrassed and knew that I should be more cautious than usual.
But, I did not know exactly how scared I was.
As I walked through Leicester City Centre, I got the general abusive behaviour. People tutting at me, and someone told me to ‘Move out of my way letterbox’. The sort of non-violent hostility I had become accustomed to.
Suddenly, somebody next to me began shouting and swearing, and I stopped.
My legs became jelly like, as I composed myself to walk again. I glanced to my left, and saw that the man was shouting at his friend. They were arguing about what to get to eat, and some other random stuff.
I realised at that point how much I had internalised people’s hatred towards me. I instantly thought that a random person’s shouting on the street could only be directed towards me.
I know that some people believe that I am responsible for attacks by strangers in another county. But I shocked myself by how much I expected hatred, and wonder whether Muslim children, who should feel safe, also expect the same hatred.
I feel pretty safe in Leicester City Centre, but know that I am not as safe when I visit other British towns and cities. It worries me to think that Muslim women have to be on high alert every time we leave the house. Parents worry about their daughter’s safety because she wears a headscarf.
Why does this country, which boasts of tolerance, allow its citizens to feel scared of openly practising their beliefs?