The first Muslim woman to be a member of parliament in Australia is fighting back against social media trolls who bombard her with sexist and racist abuse.
Dr Mehreen Faruqi is an Australian Greens Party MP in the New South Wales Upper House, and a former environmental engineer, who fled an “oppressive regime in Pakistan” in 1992 with her husband and infant son.
But she has found herself facing a grotesque cascade of abuse unleashed by internet trolls.
“There is this real vile mix of racism and sexism that is happening within Australia from certain people who don’t believe I belong to this country, maybe because of my colour or the religion that I belong to. That is pretty upsetting,” Dr Faruqi told the BBC in Sydney.
An MP in Australia’s most populous state since June 2013, she is now fighting back against her tormentors.
“I decided to start a project on Facebook and it is called Love Letters to Mehreen. So every few weeks we pick a particularly hate-filled message and I respond to it in a humorous way, and that has really taken off. I think people do appreciate that we are exposing these issues and, of course, it is quite cathartic for myself and my staff as well,” she explained.
Dr Faruqi has been ruthlessly targeted by anonymous assailants online – some have questioned, in the most abusive terms, how a Muslim has “been let into Australian politics”.
Love Letters to Mehreen curates some of the “racist and sexist filth” her office receives, which she responds to “with just a touch of sass”. But she believes these anti-Muslim views are nothing new.