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Abir Shalati: ”Ask if you like, but don’t throw stones, don’t shout at me and don’t use bad language”

Abir Shalati
Abir Shalati
Foto:Sofyan Aswad

The first time was when a bunch of children threw stones at me while I was standing waiting at a bus-stop. They yelled ’bloody Moslem!’. And a neighbour used to come and knock at the door in the middle of the night with an axe in his hand and shout ’bloody Arabs’

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher n several schools. A number of children there have asked me in an aggressive way, ’Why do you wear a veil? Can’t you take it off?’

I can’t remember how many times I’ve been subjected to incidents like that. But I do remember that on every occasion I felt sad, angry and provoked. It ruined my day.

The question is why anyone, whether an adult or a child, should behave like that. The answer is that they have never learnt or understood that we are all individuals, all different from one another.

To begin with I thought everything was strange in Sweden. For example, to wait at a bus-stop for a bus which comes at a certain time, to avoid sitting beside someone on a bus, that a colleague sitting opposite me doesn’t offer to share what he/she is eating with me, how people hug each other when they meet.

Once I said to a neighbour, ”People in this country are strange’”. The neighbour interrupted me and said, ”No, not strange, different. You might also say, not like us”. In a flash I realised what she meant – of course, that’s just how it was.

The neighbour was quite right, of course. We’re just not the same, that’s all. Although it seems so obvious that people are different from one another, some people refuse to accept the fact.

Why isn’t there a subject in school that takes up culture? So that children can learn about different cultures from an early age

You and I don’t wear the same kind of clothes, our skin colour is different, our origins are not the same. This does not mean that I and everyone else like me are normal, and you are not normal.

I wear a veil, you don’t, but that does not mean that I am right and you are wrong. You don’t have to love me the same way as I love my brothers and sisters and my parents, but you must respect me as a human being.

At one time I too thought that other people were strange, people who chose to live and dress differently.

So I sometimes wonder – why is there no subject in school which deals with culture? To let children learn about different cultures from an early age. In India people use different spices in their food, in Japan people greet one another in a different way, and in Syria some women wear veils.

It’s something completely natural to wonder why othe people dress differently or are different in other respects. Just ask – without throwing stones or shouting or using bad language.

Every time I’ve landed in a difficult situation, I’ve simply wanted to shout out, ”People aren’t all exactly the same, can’t you understand that?”

But I was so shocked, my only answer was silence.

Facts

Abit Shalati

New chronicler in Kb Mosaik. Works as a reporter, some of the time at Sveriges Radio in Malmö. She is studying to be a maths teacher, and is interested in social questions and things to do with the community.

She finds questions of integration very interesting.

– I’m proud that Kb Mosaik comes out in three languages. I wish there were a paper like that everywhere in Sweden, she says.

Age: 24.

Family: Married to Samer Wahbe – her husband is a chef.

Born: In Damascus, Syria.

Lives: In Skurup.

Education: Has studied for one year at the Faculty of Mass Communication at the University of Cairo Has completed the basic course in tadio production at Radio AF in Lund.

Background: Left Syria when she was 17 and went to Egypt. Came to Sweden in October 2013.

Job: Is a reporter at Swedish Radio in Malmö. Has worked at Radio Sweden’s Arabic section. Has her own private business which gives help with homework. In her spare time she is involved in Radio AF.

The social media: Likes to discuss social questions and other questions of interest in the community, such as integration and the environment.

Favourite book:”The social guidebook to Sweden”.

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