Dr. Suzan Carland

“Repel [evil] by that [deed]
which is better”
(Quran 41:34)

She had tried blocking, muting, ignoring or engaging them. But none of them felt like she was embodying the Quranic injunction of driving off darkness with light. After putting in some thought she finally came up with an idea to fight the racism and hate directed toward her as a Muslim while promoting that Muslims are kind and generous people despite assumptions to the contrary. She was going to respond them in line with the fundamental values of her own faith.

 

Responding to evil by better deeds…
Approaching the hate filled minds with love…
Starting a kindness revolution spanning across the world inspired by faith

Susan Carland was born in Melbourne, Australia to a New Zealander mother and Australian father. She is 37 years old and mother of two children age 14 and 10.

After her Bachelor’s degree she completed her PhD in the School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University in 2015. Her research and teaching specialties focus on gender, sociology, contemporary Australia, terrorism, and Islam in the modern world. Currently she teaches in Sociology Department at Monash University. Her research scope is the Muslim women’s problems stemming from the particular regions where they live.

Carland hosted the “Assumptions” series on ABC’s Radio National, and in 2012 she was named on the 20 Most Influential Australian Female Voices list by The Age. She has also been listed on the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World list, and as a “Muslim Leader of Tomorrow” by the UN Alliance of Civilizations. She is a regular paper reviewer on ABC TV’s News Breakfast, and has appeared on the Agony series, Q&A, Studio Ten, The Circle, Sunrise, The Einstein Factor, and Compass, as well as on numerous occasions on commercial and public radio.

Her writing has appeared in local and international newspapers, academic journals, websites, and anthologies.

Susan Carland’s first book of essays “Fighting Hislam” is published by Melbourne University Publishing in 2016. The acclaimed sociologist, who continues her academic work, focuses on social research.

In her teens when she was occupied with the questions about understanding and making sense of this life she told her mother that her new year resolution was to find out about other religions. “What does to live mean? Where am I heading to?” Such questions led her to question her faith. Moving in the direction of these questions she started researching about the faiths around the world. However Islam was not among the religions she was planning to research yet. Because she originally thought that Islam was “a barbaric, out-dated, violent and sexist religion.” But the books that she read led her on to Islam. Then some of the things started to change. After detailed research her negative opinions have disappeared one by one as she realized Islam was based on human values.

Fighting Islamophobia

As soon as Susan Carland chose Islam she also started to fight Islamophobia. In one of her speeches she commented that acts such as honour killings, lack of autonomy of women and lack of education contravene Islamic teachings and yet are practised in some Muslim communities often firmly based in culture. This picture results in Islamophobia at the end of the day although authentic Islam does not encourage nor permit these practices. Carland tried to explain it as much as she could. Her research at the university was about Muslim women and racism, two topics she was passionate about.

She put her best efforts to explain Muslims and Muslim women. She was trying to explain those, who believe Muslims are terrorists and prone to violence and murder, that they are mistaken. In order to break down the prejudices in people’s minds she would time and again express that Islam is a religion of kindness and compassion.

Meanwhile Susan Carland had, one of the most famous Australian media presenters, her husband Weleed Aly’s full support. Along with her husband she challenged stereotypes about Muslims and tried to change negative perception of Islam in Australia. They have been trying very hard to build a bridge between Australia and the religion of Islam by breaking down the prejudices.

What they have been doing is an effort to help Australia try and learn coexistence with different races, religions and languages. In the country that they live Muslims are identified as “other” and negative discourse about the visible signs of difference are predominant. The prejudices would go to the extent of creating tension and breaking down the social peace while Muslims are regarded as potential threats. Susan Carland has been fighting in civil society in order to help create strong bonds between different societies and to remove the potential trouble areas.

Post September 11

The terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001 in the USA marked a turning point in dissemination of Islamophobia in USA, Europe, Australia and many other regions. With these attacks the relationship between state and religion came under scrutiny. The prejudices against Islam and Muslims began with the advent of Islam in history, which by establishing a new civilization challenged the Western hegemony. Anti-Muslim sentiment which increased with the Crusades grew bigger with Muslims’ arrival in Spain, Istanbul and to the Western world`s heart, Europe through the Balkans. This sentiment in the subconscious became alive after September 11 and resulted in restraints on Muslims’ civil rights.

One thousand two hundred Muslims were detained in the USA with the allegations that they were involved in the terrorist attacks although almost all were released before being taken to the court. Only two out of four hundred Muslims detained in the UK were imprisoned. Extensive powers were given to policemen in the USA and Europe. Even if you had the citizenship as long as you were a Muslim you were the other. The public opinion was manipulated in a way to project Muslims as potential threats. All kinds of social, cultural, economic, legal and political context were dismissed when Muslims were concerned.

Muslims in Australia came under intense scrutiny after September 11. They were treated with suspicion as racism became rampant. Susan Carland recalls, “We went through a real period of feeling quite under attack.” Then she started to think about the best way to respond in these kind of situations because the world was going in a very bad direction and she wanted to leave something good and kind in this world.

Susan Carland knew how to deal with the assaults targeting her. But when she was with her children it was more difficult to do that. She experienced Islamophobic attacks in the malls and while walking down the street with her kids. She was so upset that her children had to witness these heart-breaking incidents.

When speaking about her faith Susan Carland points out that we are living in a time when we say Islam the first things that come to mind are intolerance, fear, war, terrorism and poverty. These things are associated with Islam because what is happening in countries that are defined as Muslim feed into the negative perception of Islam. “Those who would like to seek out the truth should look into the Quran and the Prophetic tradition,” she adds.

Shuts Down Haters with Kindness

Susan Carland and her husband are among the celebrities in Australia. Therefore they receive hate-filled messages and insults more than any other Muslim couple would do. Yet they never give up their polite manners. However, the hateful discourse toward them just grew bigger and more annoying.

On the top of verbal insults, online hate messages started to stream in. Susan Carland initially tried to ignore the hate-filled messages that she received whenever she went on the internet. It was the best to dismiss them altogether. However she could not just remain silent. She was trying to respond to all of messages from haters and giving descriptive explanations in order to prevent misunderstanding. But the situation did not change. The hate-filled messages were not decreasing but growing bigger as she responded to them. She had to find a solution to this as a Muslim. The verse “And not equal are the good deed and the bad” was on her mind these days. She was thinking about the implications of “Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better” while trying to find the most edifyingly Islamic response she could give. She had tried blocking, muting, ignoring or engaging them. But none of them felt like she was embodying the Quranic injunction of driving off darkness with light. After putting in some thought she finally found a way to fight the racism and hate directed toward her. She was going to respond them in line with the fundamental values of her own faith. This is how the idea of donating $1 to UNICEF for every hate-filled tweet she received was born. It proved to be the best way to take hatred and make something good out of it. Making donation after hate-filled tweets made her feel good. And one day she tweeted back:

“I donate $1 to @UNICEF for each hate-filled tweet I get from trolls.

Nearly at $1000 in donations. The needy children thank you, haters!”

While announcing her philanthropic mission she dealt the haters a sarcastic blow. Until she tweeted it people did not know about the donations she has been making. Upon her tweet the public came to know about her new concept and others followed suit. Another day she received a totally different tweet. Someone was tweeting to ask if they could sponsor the donations of the next fifty hate messages as a way of supporting her mission. So the kindness was multiplying in each hateful message. Carland has achieved her goal and showed the world that it was wrong for a human being to pressure another human being because of her or his faith. While doing so she took her inspiration from her faith. Moreover her novel concept raised public awareness about needy children and more donations started to come in. Some, inspired by Carland, even launched campaigns for poor children around the world. Susan no longer felt upset about the hate-filled messages. Every hateful message was turning into something good and kind. What else could be more beautiful than that? Only in 2016 Carland’s donations amounted to 4000 $.

Susan Carland managed to transform hate into kindness. Muslims in Western countries were unable to exercise their rights as citizens, to be represented in political and public arena in proportion to their population. They were demonized and targeted by racist groups due to their different cultural identities. With her behaviour Susan Carland has demonstrated to the world that what is important is the human being. Inspired by her faith she turned hateful messages into something good for the benefit of children and future generations.

 

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