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CommunityFaith

An interview with Australian Muslims on a road trip of combating Islamophobia

CommunityFaith

An interview with Australian Muslims on a road trip of combating Islamophobia

“We thought what better place than Uluru, especially with the significance that it has. In respect for the Aboriginal people and the rock itself which is very sacred, we won’t be climbing the rock, but instead, we’ll be going there and doing a clean up and pray there for the peace and prosperity of this great country.”

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Inspired by a 2017 study which found that 70% of non-Muslim Australians knew little to nothing about Islam and Muslims, a group of young Australian Muslims have embarked on a road trip. This road trip is more ambitious than most – it took between six and eight months of planning, the group consists of more than 60 men from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, and they’re currently travelling over 30,000 km to visit 50 different rural and regional towns. Their goal is to meet people throughout the country and challenge their misconceptions about the religion of Islam.

I sat down to speak with one of the men currently on the road, Naveed Ahmad, about what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve. 

Naveed is 26 and moved to Australia five years ago from Pakistan, after he survived a terrorist attack in which he lost his father. He now lives in Sydney where he works for a consulting company as a project manager. When I spoke to him, he was in Broken Hill, on the second day of the road trip. 

NA: So I’m part of the Sydney team, and our first stop was Cobar NSW. And yesterday we arrived in Broken Hill. At the moment we’re campaigning in the streets and in the main town, as well as meeting people along the way. We introduce ourselves, who we are, what are we doing, why we’re here and people are appreciative of that. We’ve had great conversations with locals, like people working in the farms and living in these small beautiful historic towns. 

RF: Is there any particular conversation that’s stuck out so far? 

NA: So just along the way when we were refilling the petrol, we met a couple of people who asked what we’re doing here, and we introduced ourselves and one guy said ‘Asalam-o-alaikum’ to us which is obviously the Muslim greeting. It was really good to have that kind of interaction. We also met a person who owns a sheep farm and leaned how his life is day to day, and how things are done in this part of Australia too. 

RF: Is this your first time travelling to a rural or regional town in Australia? 

NA: It is. I’ve only been in Australia for five years and this is my first experience travelling through the regional parts and it seems to be very different here. We we just woke up this morning and went into the town around 7.30 to see that everything is still closed. In the city you expect things to start a lot earlier. But it’s not just the pace of life itself. The environment and the vibe that you get, the scenery is beautiful when you travel through. And we’ve seen a little bit of the desert. 

RF: What has the reaction been like so far? Have you prepared for any negativity?

NA: It’s been great actually. It’s really been two-way learning. I mean we do come across different types of reactions and we’re totally fine with any. We don’t mind, considering what people know because of the way things are portrayed in the media. They might have a negative effect on people who have never met a Muslim so we don’t blame the people. This road trip is to counter that and go out and you meet real people so that we can have real conversations and answer any questions about Islam, about us, about what we do. We’re normal people with good jobs and families and everything. We try to engage people in dialogue and ask them what they’ve heard of Islam or how they ended up having a negative perception of it. And we try our best to talk to them and change that perception.

RF: In terms of misrepresentation in the media, what do you think can be done there?

NA: So part of our responsibility in our youth group is to, whenever we see anything of that sort, we respond to it. We try to write in the newspapers. We try to contact the media and respond to those allegations or to those kind of narratives. And I think that’s the most effective thing. We straightaway respond by using our pens.

RF: One thing I noticed with this road trip, as a Muslim woman, is that everyone on the trip is a man. I’m wondering why that’s the case.

NA: So our youth association has different auxiliaries, and the ladies have their own auxiliary where they organise their events and have total independence in running them. This particular one was organising by the auxiliary which happens to be all men. 

RF: One last thing before I let you go. The road trip ends at Uluru which is a sacred location for the Indigenous community, and is located right in the middle of the country. Why was it chosen as the endpoint? 

NA: So we’re all travelling through different parts of Australia – from Perth to Sydney – and wanted to gather at a central point. We thought what better place than Uluru especially with the significance that it has. In respect for the Aboriginal people and the rock itself which is very sacred, we will go there and try to understand its history, meet the Aboriginal people who we have a better opportunity of meeting here and in regional areas in general. We won’t be climbing the rock in respect, instead, we’ll be going there and doing a clean up and pray there for the peace and prosperity of this great country.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

“We thought what better place than Uluru, especially with the significance that it has. In respect for the Aboriginal people and the rock itself which is very sacred, we won’t be climbing the rock, but instead, we’ll be going there and doing a clean up and pray there for the peace and prosperity of this great country.”

Inspired by a 2017 study which found that 70% of non-Muslim Australians knew little to nothing about Islam and Muslims, a group of young Australian Muslims have embarked on a road trip. This road trip is more ambitious than most – it took between six and eight months of planning, the group consists of more than 60 men from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, and they’re currently travelling over 30,000 km to visit 50 different rural and regional towns. Their goal is to meet people throughout the country and challenge their misconceptions about the religion of Islam.

I sat down to speak with one of the men currently on the road, Naveed Ahmad, about what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve. 

Naveed is 26 and moved to Australia five years ago from Pakistan, after he survived a terrorist attack in which he lost his father. He now lives in Sydney where he works for a consulting company as a project manager. When I spoke to him, he was in Broken Hill, on the second day of the road trip. 

NA: So I’m part of the Sydney team, and our first stop was Cobar NSW. And yesterday we arrived in Broken Hill. At the moment we’re campaigning in the streets and in the main town, as well as meeting people along the way. We introduce ourselves, who we are, what are we doing, why we’re here and people are appreciative of that. We’ve had great conversations with locals, like people working in the farms and living in these small beautiful historic towns. 

RF: Is there any particular conversation that’s stuck out so far? 

NA: So just along the way when we were refilling the petrol, we met a couple of people who asked what we’re doing here, and we introduced ourselves and one guy said ‘Asalam-o-alaikum’ to us which is obviously the Muslim greeting. It was really good to have that kind of interaction. We also met a person who owns a sheep farm and leaned how his life is day to day, and how things are done in this part of Australia too. 

RF: Is this your first time travelling to a rural or regional town in Australia? 

NA: It is. I’ve only been in Australia for five years and this is my first experience travelling through the regional parts and it seems to be very different here. We we just woke up this morning and went into the town around 7.30 to see that everything is still closed. In the city you expect things to start a lot earlier. But it’s not just the pace of life itself. The environment and the vibe that you get, the scenery is beautiful when you travel through. And we’ve seen a little bit of the desert. 

RF: What has the reaction been like so far? Have you prepared for any negativity?

NA: It’s been great actually. It’s really been two-way learning. I mean we do come across different types of reactions and we’re totally fine with any. We don’t mind, considering what people know because of the way things are portrayed in the media. They might have a negative effect on people who have never met a Muslim so we don’t blame the people. This road trip is to counter that and go out and you meet real people so that we can have real conversations and answer any questions about Islam, about us, about what we do. We’re normal people with good jobs and families and everything. We try to engage people in dialogue and ask them what they’ve heard of Islam or how they ended up having a negative perception of it. And we try our best to talk to them and change that perception.

RF: In terms of misrepresentation in the media, what do you think can be done there?

NA: So part of our responsibility in our youth group is to, whenever we see anything of that sort, we respond to it. We try to write in the newspapers. We try to contact the media and respond to those allegations or to those kind of narratives. And I think that’s the most effective thing. We straightaway respond by using our pens.

RF: One thing I noticed with this road trip, as a Muslim woman, is that everyone on the trip is a man. I’m wondering why that’s the case.

NA: So our youth association has different auxiliaries, and the ladies have their own auxiliary where they organise their events and have total independence in running them. This particular one was organising by the auxiliary which happens to be all men. 

RF: One last thing before I let you go. The road trip ends at Uluru which is a sacred location for the Indigenous community, and is located right in the middle of the country. Why was it chosen as the endpoint? 

NA: So we’re all travelling through different parts of Australia – from Perth to Sydney – and wanted to gather at a central point. We thought what better place than Uluru especially with the significance that it has. In respect for the Aboriginal people and the rock itself which is very sacred, we will go there and try to understand its history, meet the Aboriginal people who we have a better opportunity of meeting here and in regional areas in general. We won’t be climbing the rock in respect, instead, we’ll be going there and doing a clean up and pray there for the peace and prosperity of this great country.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

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