Sunday, 10 December 2017

SPEED DATING A MUSLIM

Want to better understand Islam? Do what they have been doing in Shepparton, Victoria. Speed date a Muslim.

  • Speed Date A Muslim arrives in Shepparton, Victoria. (Carlo Zeccola)
'Speed Date A Muslim' is not a romantic or social event. It's a meetup with a difference, designed to provide a safe space for non-Muslims to meet Muslims, ask questions and smash racial boundaries.
By
Maggie Kelly

1 MAR 2017 - 4:41 PM  UPDATED 19 OCT 2017 - 5:31 PM

What can you do to change the minds and sway the hearts of people living in a town with a reputation – true or not – for supporting anti-Islam politics?
According to a metropolitan Melbourne restaurateur and human-rights activist, you pack 22 Muslim women on a bus, send them to the location in question, and ask the locals out on a date.
The non-romantic meet-up that results is ‘Speed Date A Muslim’ and it just occurred in Shepparton, Victoria, a town located in the federal seat of Murray belonging to Pauline Hanson's One Nation party.
Since inception, these dating events have been a wild success, with requests flowing in to Assafiri from around Australia - and abroad - requesting she bring the speed dating team to their region.
Speed Date A Muslim is the brainchild of Hana Assafiri, who launched the event in 2016 from the upstairs dining room of her Brunswick cafe, the Moroccan Deli-cacy.
Born in Australia but raised in Morocco and Lebanon, Assafiri adopted the ‘speed dating’ format to provide a safe and respectful space for local non-Muslim to meet and ask Muslims all the curly questions they were otherwise too shy to. The overall aim is to provide people who want to explore, challenge or better understand their racial and religious perceptions with an opportunity to do just that.
Since inception, these dating events have been a wild success, with requests flowing in to Assafiri from around Australia - and abroad - requesting she bring the speed dating team to their region. But it was the small town of Shepparton that was to be Hana’s first stop beyond Melbourne.
Assafiri tells SBS that she has local mum and member of the Shepparton Ethnic Council, Betul Tuna, to thank for the invitation.
“Betul attended a speed dating event in Brunswick, and stood up halfway through,” remembers Assafiri.
“She said, 'for all your latte-sipping, polished approaches to race relations, things are very different for us in Shepparton. Put your money where your mouth is, and come run this event up there.'
“So we did.”
Shepparton locals partake in a spot of speed-dating a Muslim to deepen their understanding of the faith. (Carlo Zeccola)

Mixed reputations

Shepparton is a town that’s living out the age-old tale of two cities: on one hand, it has acquired the reputation as a One Nation stronghold, but on the other, is a largely multicultural region with a strong Muslim community.
Over the past year, Shepparton has found itself in the spotlight as the unsuspecting face of Australian-Islamic tensions. In July of 2016, it was reported to be home to the highest number of Pauline Hanson supporters outside of Queensland, with a local council candidate named Diane Teasdale even adopting the dubious slogan, ‘Pauline’s busy, so I will look after you in Greater Shepparton’.
In another more serious incident, a local Muslim doctor was attacked in front of her husband for no reason other than wearing the hijab.
‘‘I don’t want to be here anymore, I hate it,’’ the victim was reported to say at the time.
‘‘But if we go back to the Middle East, I’m a doctor, he’s an engineer — we’re dead, we’re targets — where else do we go?”
The overall aim is to provide people who want to explore, challenge or better understand their racial and religious perceptions with an opportunity to do just that.
Despite these events, people in the town are making genuine efforts to promote racial inclusion. 
According to the region’s Interfaith Network, the Muslim community of Shepparton is just shy of 3,000 people. The town is known for its vibrant multicultural community, with 20 per cent of its population made up of immigrants.
Greater Shepparton City Council is a major partner with the Human Rights Commission ‘Racism. It Stops With Me’ campaign.
The council proudly claims that this national anti-discrimination campaign aligns with its values and cultural diversity initiatives, from its Cultural Diversity and Inclusion Strategy and Action Plan, and Council’s Aboriginal six point Partnership Plan.
In 2015, the town was also one of the first nationwide to trial the Report Racism project in collaboration with the Victorian Police.
But, given the post-truth world in which we live - where anti-Islamic sentiment is becoming increasingly prevalent in mainstream media - Assafiri felt it was time to get her dating event on the road. And so last week, Speed Date A Muslim was held in Shepparton.
Assafiri and Tuna tell SBS they were understandably anxious on the day as they waited for guests to arrive. Tuna had been battling a swarm of aggressive Facebook trolls in the weeks leading up for the event, while Hana was unsure what to expect outside of her stomping ground in Melbourne’s Brunswick.
“I was just hoping people will be respectful and interested,” says Tuna.
But as the people of Shepparton began to file into the event, it became clear that this dating night was to be peaceful. Those attending, it appeared, had come to learn about Islam and Muslim 'others', with a proverbial olive branch in hand.
“Hopefully, we can all walk away a little more informed,” says Assafiri as she welcomed the group on Sunday, “and as a community, a little more solid.”
And thus, the ‘speed dating’ began.
“Hopefully, we can all walk away a little more informed.” 
SBS was at the event, along with 50 others in attendance. Under colourful umbrellas on local bar The Deck, Hana’s cheery crew of Melbourne Muslims fanned out among the crowd, each woman pairing off with a handful of Shepparton locals.
Of note was the heartwarming scene of interfaith couples pairing off - an older Shepparton woman in a floral frock and neatly applied makeup sitting happily by a woman dressed in the full niqab, chatting about the heat.
There were mothers and daughters, young couples, teachers, and even members of the local Indigenous community.
One young man, when asked by our reporter why he decided to attend, cited that he was Aboriginal and he believed that as such, all minorities should support each other and “...help educate others.”
Speed Date A Muslim is the brainchild of Hana Assafiri, who launched the event in 2016 in Melbourne. (Carlo Zeccola)

Fighting unconscious bias

Hanife Coskun is a fourth-generation Shepparton local who describes her family as “very Aussie”. She tells SBS she converted to Islam 17 years ago. Hanife no longer wears the head covering, and says that many people are not aware she is Muslim. She says she attended the event to help bridge the social gap in her local community between the Muslim and non-Muslim families.
“When I first converted, my family were scared,” says Coskun. “The first thing mum asked me was about female genital mutilation!”
“In Shepparton, I’ve seen racism and I’ve experienced it. I’ve heard comments, usually from older white males, who say things like ‘Go back to where you came from’ directed to women wearing scarves, who are a representation of our religion.”
However, Coskun says, she also believes that the ‘racist’ tag on her local town is unfounded.
“I would say that Shepparton is an open-minded town. We’re into diversity. Shep is very accepting.”
“Shepparton is not racist. There is a very, very small percentage of the community who feel that way [against Muslims]."
Mal Ross, another long-time Shepparton local, is a careers counsellor at the local high schools. She attended the event in a bid to better understand how she can support Muslim students, who often present with very different learning and lifestyle issues than her other tertiary students.
She was paired up with university student Sajda Yakub, who had travelled from Melbourne with Assafiri for the event. Ross asked Yakub what she should avoid when dealing with young Muslim women preparing to leave school.
“Unconscious bias,” Yukub tells SBS.
“You [might not]  realise that you are being biased towards [Muslim women]. Despite the fact that they might have broken English, they can read body language really well.
"It also takes a lot for a student to tell a teacher ‘Mum won’t let me study’, or ‘Mum won’t let me work so I can look after my husband’ - and if there’s an eye roll, a step back, or a look of dislike on your face, they will retreat back into their shell again.
Ross nodded and took notes, hanging on the young law student’s every word.
As the crowds relaxed and personal stories were shared, the mood began to feel like old friends catching up. People swapped numbers, photos of their kids, Facebook friend requests. Plates of food were brought out as the local footy players began to drift in after their Sunday game. For a city apparently battling racial tension, Shepparton locals displaced strength in solidarity.
Even the two police officers in attendance were there in high spirits; when asked if they were anticipating violence at the event, they both laughed - “Nah mate,” they said, “We’re friends with Betul and are just here to support her.”
“Shepparton is not racist. There is a very, very small percentage of the community who feel that way [against Muslims],” says Constable Walker. “I would say everyone gets along pretty well... very few issues at all.”
As Assafiri looks ahead to the endless possibilities of a Speed Date A Muslim event series –around the country, she tells SBS she doesn’t want to preach to the converted.
“Social change only happens if you can walk the journey of those that you are wanting to engage,” says Assafiri. And if Shepparton is anything to go by, most Australians are ready – they’re just looking where to begin.
The Mosque Next Door begins Wednesday 8 November, 8.30pm on SBS, and continues on Wednesdays. Episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere, for free via SBS On Demand
#TheMosqueNextDoor

Speed Date a Muslim is being telecast as 11am to-day on the Compass program.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Little Gidding: and T.S. Elliott, Nicholas Ferrar, Susan Grey. A tribute from Malcolm Guite.

A Sonnet for Nicholas Ferrar of Little Gidding, on his feast day

by malcolmguite

Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar's monument
Little Gidding and Nicholas Ferrar's monument


Nicholas Ferrar
Nicholas Ferrar

The Church of England keeps December 4th as the feast day of Nicholas Ferrar, the devout Anglican who founded the Community of Little Gidding in the early seventeenth century. Ferrar was trying to find a fruitful via media between protestant and catholic understandings of what it is to be Christian. As a member of a reformed church he and his community were devoted to reading the scriptures in their own language, to sharing their faith, and to worshipping together in the beautiful services of the Book of Common Prayer. But he was also keen to preserve and explore the Catholic heritage of community life, the daily offices of prayer, and praise, the pattern of Benedictine work and prayer, rooted in the psalms and the gospels. in holding these together he was recovering and preserving what he called. 'The right good old way'. His great friend George Herbert, from his death bed sent Ferrar the manuscript of all his poems, and it was Ferrar who published them for all of us. In the 1930s TS Eliot visited Little Gidding, and eventually enshrined the experience of prayer and awareness granted him there, in the poem Little Gidding, the last of the Four Quartets.
Ferrar died on the 4th December 1637, the day after Advent Sunday, at 1 am, the hour he had always risen for prayers, and my sonnet touches on that. Certainly the place in which he and his community kept prayer going at all times, recited the psalms, and lived out their gospel harmony, is still soaked in prayer, still, a place through which the eternal light shimmers into time, still, as the inscription on the chapel says, 'The very gate of Heaven'.
I would like to dedicate this sonnet to the memory of Susan Gray, a friend and parishioner who loved Little Gidding, both the place and the poem. When I took her last communion to her in the Hospice, she spoke the line from Little Gidding 'In my end is my beginning'.
As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the 'play' button.
2187029-for-nicholas-ferrar.mp3
For Nicholas Ferrar

You died the hour you used to rise for prayer.
In that rich hush beneath all other sounds,
You rose at one and took the midnight air
Rising and falling on the wings and rounds
Of psalms and silence. The December stars
Shine clear above the Giddings, promised light
For those who dwell in darkness. Morning stirs
The household. From the folds of sleep, the late
Risers wake to find you gone, and pray
Through pain and grief to bless your journey home;
Those last glad steps in the right good old way
Up to the door where Love will bid you welcome.
Love draws us too, towards your grave and haven
We greet you at the very gate of Heaven.

malcolmguite | December 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm | Tags: AdventchristianityFerrarFour QuartetsGeorge HerbertliteratureLittle GiddingPoetrySonnetsTS Eliot | Categories: imaginationPoems | URL: https://wp.me/pj0Sl-1fj    See also:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Gidding_(poem)


Monday, 4 December 2017

FAITH COMMUNITIES COUNCIL OF VICTORIA : DECEMBER 2017 NEWSLETTER

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FCCV DECEMBER 2017 NEWSLETTER

Faith Communities Council of Victoria
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2017 VICTORIAN INTERFAITH NETWORKS CONFERENCE: FAITH COMMUNITIES COUNCIL OF VICTORIA

On Sunday November 12th, around 240 people gathered at Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo for the 2017 Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference.

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FAITH COMMUNITIES UNITE TO SAY 'NO' TO FAMILY VIOLENCE AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

The Faith Communities Council of Victoria (FCCV) has issued the following statement on the prevention of family violence and violence against women. 

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2018 MULTIFAITH CALENDAR

The Faith Communities Council of Victoria has released it's annual multifaith calendar outlining major holy days and festivals for Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

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'THEIR CROSS TO BEAR': THE CATHOLIC WOMEN TOLD TO FORGIVE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Pope Francis has denounced domestic abuse as 'craven acts of cowardice'.

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PHILIP RUDDOCK TO REVIEW RELIGIOUS PROTECTIONS AMID SAME-SEX MARRIAGE DEBATE

Former Liberal frontbencher Philip Ruddock will chair a panel tasked with reviewing protections for religious freedom, the Federal Government has announced.

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MAPPING SOCIAL COHESION 2017: THE SCANLON FOUNDATION SURVEYS REPORT

This report presents the findings of the tenth Scanlon Foundation Mapping Social Cohesion Survey conducted in 2017.

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UNIQUE PROJECT AIMS TO FIGHT AGAINST ISLAMOPHOBIA AND PUBLIC ABUSE

April Robinson is still shocked when she hears stories from Muslim women about being spat on, pushed over, having their head scarf torn from their heads, or simply being ignored.

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MUNGO MAN WELCOMED BACK TO COUNTRY IN DANCE AND SONG

Dancers, musicians and cultural leaders from Indigenous communities across Australia gathered to celebrate the return of Mungo Man, Australia's oldest known human remains.

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MUSLIM LEADERS LEARN ABOUT JEWISH MELBOURNE

Fifteen Muslim community leaders participated in the Jewish Immersion Day. 

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SIKH TEMPLES OF LEARNING FOR NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

The greater Melbourne area, which boasts of a sizeable Punjabi population, has a number of gurdwaras or Sikh temples.

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TALE OF TORTURE AND CRUELTY BEHIND SYDNEY LANDMARK THE BAHA'I TEMPLE

It towers over Sydney's northern beaches hinterland, its grand white dome aglow in all kinds of weather.

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ADVERTISING WATCHDOG BACKFLIPS, BANS MLA'S CONTROVERSIAL RELIGIOUS LAMB AD

The advertising watchdog has backflipped on its decision to give a controversial lamb ad the green light. 

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THE RELIGIOUS SHORT FILM PRIZE

The Religious Short Film Prize is an opportunity for film-makers to explore the religious quest through a powerful contemporary medium.

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PARLIAMENT SUPPORTS CLIMATE & HEALTH DECLARATION FROM PONTIFICAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The Parliament of the World's Religions and its Climate Action Task Force expresses an emphatic appreciation for a "significant and substantive" declaration on climate change and health.


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ARCHAEOLOGISTS FIND 'CREMATED REMAINS OF BUDDHA' IN ANCIENT CHINESE BOX ALONGSIDE 260 STATUES

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Chinese box, which according to the inscriptions on the chest, holds the 'cremated remains of the Buddha'. 

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