Breaking Barriers Key to Combat Anti-Muslim Bias: Muslim Convert

11:56 - March 02, 2024
News ID: 3487391
IQNA – An Australian Muslim convert says breaking barriers and communicating is the key to standing against rising anti-Muslim sentiments and hate.


Zainab Sajjad Ali, a Muslim artist from Melbourne, made the remarks in an interview with IQNA when asked about measures that can help people accept hijab in non-Muslim states.

“I think that it just comes down to breaking barriers and communicating with people,” she said, adding that some people see Muslims as “scary and enemy” because they see Muslims as “other”.

“Once you're no longer other, once you start to socialize and get to know one another then those barriers break down then you realize ‘hey she's just like me’ or ‘I have kids too’,” she said, adding, “Once you break down the barrier then you can communicate and get along.”

She also reminded of a Quranic verse that reads: “O mankind! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you nations and tribes that you may identify yourselves with one another.” (Surah Al-Hujurat, Verse 13)

Sajjad Ali says she converted to Islam some nine years and six months ago and has become a Shia Muslim since 2017.

A painter, she says has dedicated her art “purely for religious reasons” as she paints portraits of religious figures.


Asked about whether she had faced any harassment in Australia since wearing hijab, she responded, “Yes, yes.”

“So I first became Muslim at the height of ISIS [Daesh or ISIL] and I was in a smaller city that was very small Muslim community but it was pandemonium,” she said, adding that she was getting harassed “every day” as she could not sometimes even leave the house given “how Western media portrayed Muslims … as a threat.”

Muslims, she said, “had to check the today's Media to see the gauge if it was okay to go outside that day.” And this was especially true with hijabi women who were visibly Muslim and were a target, she added.   

“I wore hijab. I constantly got nearly assaulted, harassed, screamed at, things thrown at me,” she remembered.

Harassments depend on the “media cycle” as they portray “who is the enemy”, she said, adding, “if you have any good year you are less targeted.”


She said that at the moment, the situation is “incredibly bad” as she is being “harassed at least weekly.” There has been a rise in anti-Muslim sentiments across the world, especially in the Western states, since the start of the war between Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza and the Israeli regime in October.

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Beyond social factors that can help fight anti-Muslim sentiments, having Muslim women in power can also “help break down” barriers, Sajjad Ali said referring to the Muslim senator Fatima Payman who made it into the Australian Senate in 2022.

Sajjad Ali believes that senators like Payman can also contribute to drafting laws against religious discrimination.

Not sacrificing religion for this world

In another part of the interview, she was asked about the core features of a Muslim woman in the modern world.

The artist said the “core features would be keeping your Iman [faith] and practicing on Deen [religion] but not sacrificing it for Dunya [world], not being worldly.”

“You have to adapt to the modern world but you shouldn't have to sacrifice our faith or our hijab or our social hijab or any of our practices,” she stressed.

Muslim role models for hijab, patience 

Referring to the Muslim role models, she said, “I think from Lady Fatimah you would learn the concept of hijab and how important it was for her; the fact that she went and debated and gave her sermon about Fadak and she still kept her hijab so you can you can stand up for yourself without sacrificing your morals.”

Sajjad Ali also named Hazrat Zaynab as a role model of “resilience and patience”.

“As a woman in public you are speaking up for what is right, you are defending Islam but you do within the parameters that are allowed and I think we have a lot to learn from that,” she added.

She noted that women can both act as mothers and professionals outside the home. “If we choose we have the right not to work and just to have children and help so the seeds of society; it's our role to take care of the children and nurture them and … have an Islamic foundation to life and practice but at the same time, if a woman wants to be a Mujtahid or if she wants to be an oncologist, go for it.”


Interview by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas