I am a Muslim social worker and have been working in The Anglican Trust for Women and children (ATWC) for 14 years.
Many people have changed jobs since, but I have stayed on. On several occasions I have been asked why I don’t change jobs like many others in the same profession. I also asked myself this question numerous times. Each time I had a different answer, but I didn’t really know why until today when I felt overwhelmed with the warm feelings, love and support from non-Muslim friends and colleagues following the 15th of March terrorist attack on Christchurch. Now I can clearly see why I didn’t move out of ATWC even when there have been opportunities with a better package.
My first social work job in NZ was with ATWC Family Start. Since, this Agency has become my family, after the one I left in Iraq 25 years ago when I came here looking for a safe home for my children.
During my 14 years working for ATWC, I never experienced racism or felt like I was treated differently or unfairly regardless being a Muslim migrant. Rather, I was always treated with love, respect and dignity. I was supported by the CEO and the senior management to develop programs or workshops to support our refugee and migrant community including the Muslim community – thank you Judy Mataia, Shelmaine Terblanche and Elizabeth Walker.
My colleagues were very sensitive towards me and other Muslim staff whenever terrorist attacks occurred by radical Muslims in other parts of the world. My non Muslim colleagues never shared their anger or frustration about these attacks in front of me. Instead they hugged me to reassure me that they know I am a Muslim but not terrorist, thank you Tania Beekmans and other colleagues for always being there for me.
In Ramadan, the month of fasting, I was supported to provide food parcels to our Muslim families. The agency provided a prayer room for us to do our daily prayer during work. We were offered flexible working hours so we can get home early and cook a decent meal for our families. Most of my colleagues try not to eat or drink in font of me while I’m fasting or apologise if they have to eat. One of my non-Muslim colleagues fasted the whole month with us, the three Muslim staff, as a way of support, love and aroha to Maylene Tavita. In every work event or celebration, we the Muslim staff and clients were provided with a Muslim meal.
I was promoted to a manger role although I am a Muslim and was wearing scarf then. I always felt loved, respected and valued for bringing diversity to the agency. I feel special because of my differences not because I am a second level citiizen.
What else can I ask for if I have a family like ATWC? Leaving a family behind in Iraq and building a new family at ATWC is something I wouldn’t easily change even for better package.
I am proud to be a New Zealand Muslim working for The Anglican Trust for Women and Children and supporting families from different cultural and religious backgrounds.
I am terribly sorry for my Muslim brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the Christchurch terrorist attack. However, I am thrilled at the amount of love non Muslim New Zealanders have for Muslim because we are one. I also appreciate the love and support messages from my non-Muslim colleagues and friends since the attack. I always introduce myself as a ‘Muslim but not terrorist’ and I definitely know this not who New Zealand or New Zealanders are.
At this difficult time, I encourage you all to comfort and reassure our Muslim and non-Muslim families that we are one and nothing can divide our peaceful country. We chose NZ to be home for our children and we all responsible to keep the peace and protect our NZ.
I am leaving my mother-home soon and looking forward to return to my home of choice, NZ. I am not worried about my children staying behind at this time because I trust they’re well supported by their Muslim and non-Muslim colleagues and friends there. I am shocked but feel relived when I think about the load of hugs and kisses I could have received from all of you if I was there at this difficult time.
Love to all