“Maybe when I was younger those things might bite a little bit and hurt. As I’ve become more philosophical about the issues in the world today I find myself reflecting on why it is people are making those comments,” she added.

After close to 3 decades in the military, there’s no doubt she would have seen her fare share of difficult situations, making her a tough and formidable woman!

She spoke in detail about how education, not anger, is the answer to breaking down the dominant narrative surrounding Muslims today in the West. Like many Muslims who are raising their voices to condemn any terrorist attacks done in the name of Islam, Mona calls them “abhorrent” and “evil”, but says it is the moderate Muslim community who are affected the most.

“The ramifications that are there for people of the Islamic faith from the actions of these groups are even more significant than they are for non-Muslim. It is Muslims that are on the ground fighting with their lives against these groups; it is Muslims that are fleeing from the activities of these groups, it is Muslims who are investing time and effort into protecting their children against the lure of these groups,” she said.

Muslim women in the Australian Navy have only been allowed to wear the Hijab since 2013, when the Vice chief of defence force, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs, who also appointed Captain Shindy as the cultural adviser, recognized the need for diversity and inclusiveness.

“I got a lot of flak, and I still get a lot of flak, from people who don’t agree with this view. Not only do we get more diverse views and better decision making but the available talent from which we can draw is bigger than it otherwise would be,” he said.

Mona’s presence in the military has clearly made a huge difference and impacted many, as she was named the 2015 Telstra Business Woman Of The Year, an accolade which celebrates the most ground-breaking and accomplished women in Australia annually. In a post-ceremony interview with Martine Harte from Engagingwomen.com.au, Mona says the attitudes of hate toward Muslims in general has not made her shrink back in fear from her public role, in fact it has made her speak all the louder.

“This current reality makes me even more determined to work for a world where we don’t look at things like religion, gender or any form of difference for that matter,” she said.

In a statement about the significance of her award, Mona had this to say: “As a senior military officer and engineer, project director and business leader, being successful as a female has always just been one piece of the puzzle. Effecting necessary change, in business practice or community attitudes, requires strong leadership by example.”

It is a great reminder to all of us that we can lead by example in our lives and change the world for the better.

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