Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
April 2012


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Salaim alaikum


Every identity needs sources of self-respect to be sustainable. Our media, popular culture, and social landscapes located in schoolyards, at the beach, shopping malls, sports arenas and elsewhere, sustain and reflect majority identities—hardly surprising. A beleaguered minority, on the other hand, works hard to rescue its self-respect. While religion is just one of many building blocks that shape one’s identity, other factors like status, education, family history etc all play a part. Yet Australians, who are Muslims, soon learn that ‘others’ view them as nothing but religious objects.

It’s only natural that people choose different ways of asserting their identity and dignity. Some women wear hijab for religious reasons or to accentuate their identity—or for both. Other women declare it’s not a part of their identity, cultural or religious. Some Muslims believe they have to anglicise their names to get a job interview or drape themselves in the Australian flag to prove themselves: they keep the cameraman happy and show suspicious ‘bystanders’ that they’re ‘really, really’ Australian.

The need to belong is part of the identity conundrum. Younger Muslims are pretty adept at juggling traditional customs with ‘western’ ways. They know that their parents have a tremendous fear of Australian popular culture; they’ve heard it all their lives. But sometimes those ‘balls’ they’re keeping up in the air get a bit slippery; they fumble and drop the ball. Keeping everyone happy—their parents, their peers, themselves—isn’t easy.

Intergenerational conflicts between immigrant parents and their offspring are usually par for the course. Sensible parents know children must choose to follow—coercion is not the way. As time passes, attitudes are usually modified and tensions lessen. Conflicts are resolved, ignored or, sadly, in extreme cases, people become estranged from one another. However, change is inevitable.

Between generations religious priorities also shift. First and second generations focus on laying institutional foundations: building mosques, schools, setting up organisations and maintaining cultural traditions—they look back while moving forward. Subsequent generations don’t disregard their heritage but are more interested in the here and now. Fortunately for them the pioneering work has been done—often against enormous odds.

In the years to come younger Muslims in the twenty-first century may decide that the need for Australian-born imams is an over-riding priority, while others concentrate on developing political lobbying skills in order to influence the way the Australian Government looks at Middle Eastern affairs. Yet another group may conclude that religion is more of a private matter but continue to celebrate Eid ul-Fitr with their communities and observe Ramadan, Haj, and other Pillars of Islam.

Yes, we certainly owe the 1st and 2nd generation of Australian Muslims our acknowledgment and respect, for we are indebted to them. But let’s also start imagining subsequent generations: 3rd, 4th and 5th generation Australians who ‘happen’ to be Muslim (there are already a few around).


Quote of the Week:

‘First we take the football pitch, then we take the parliament.’ (Young Lebanese female coach).

Another soccer fanatic reinforced the message:

‘I want to change the impression that girls in hijab can’t do anything except sit at home [and be] quiet. By doing sports we can change this and express ourselves.’

The great news is that FIFA’s four-year ban on wearing the hijab during international matches has recently been suspended. The international football body’s change of heart will allow a four-month test period; a specially designed head scarf fastened with Velcro instead of pins will be worn by Iranian, Lebanese and any other Muslim soccer players choosing to do so, including any Australian Muslim players who may one day reach international level.

FIFA has stubbornly banned headscarves since 2007 and caused a scandal when it prevented the Iranian women’s football team from playing Jordan during a recent qualifying match for the Olympics. This led to women and girls around the world, dropping out of the game. Not only must they convince their parents that they should go out and play sport—they now had to convince FIFA as well!

A campaign led by FIFA Vice president, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, and the UN’s Special Advisor on Sport for Development and Peace, plus other high profile supporters, finally convinced FIFA heavy- weights to overturn the ban. This happened just a few days before International Women’s Day and will make an incredible difference to millions of female players around the world. Ironically the ban was introduced to prevent injuries though none had been reported; headscarves are worn in other sports—rugby and taekwondo for instance.

(Quotes taken from an article by Jen Juul Peterson-Beirut written for Common Ground News published in the Middle East Online 23 March 2012.)

Nearer to Home


I’m not 100 per cent sure, but if I were a betting woman (which of course I’m not) I’d hazard a guess that if elected on 28 April, Yasmin Khan will become the second Australian-Muslim woman to be elected to local government (or any other tier of government) in Australia. No matter what side of politics one leans towards it’s an interesting fact and of course Sultana is above party politics. Yasmin incidentally is a member of Sultana’s Dream Advisory Committee and wrote an article about Muslim feminist, Amina Wadud, for our September 2011 issue. She has been endorsed as the Lord Mayor’s representative for the Brisbane City Council ward of Moorooka. Her family has been associated with the south side of Brisbane for more than 120 years while her forefathers were instrumental in building the first mosque in Queensland, the Holland Park Mosque, which is now more than 100 years old.   

We hope you enjoy our third issue and thank you for your support. You may now subscribe directly to our magazine.

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Hanifa Deen
April 2012