It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ambreen, a dear friend of mine.
I got to know Ambreen through work, and during a 6 month-long Young Women‘s Leadership Program in 2010 (with 23 other women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds). It was an amazing experience, of which I am thankful that along with learning a lot, the program resulted in the development of many beautiful friendships, as well as the strengthening of the friendship I have with Ambreen. It has also paved the way for the start of this series titled ‘The Beauty Of Difference’.
Coming from a mixed background, and also not entirely ‘belonging’ in one particular place, I have chosen to take the principles of my religion as my culture (although background / culture and religion are two different things). I choose to be known as a Muslim first, because this allows me to be a human being first, and then sub divided into different races, backgrounds, etc.
Coming to Australia
I was born and raised in Kenya, and moved to Australia in 2004 when I was 19, with my Mum, Dad and elder Brother. Before coming to Australia, I had never been to another country – not even for a visit. So Australia was the first overseas country I ever traveled to. I came in peak summer and it was really warm and everything was brand new. I struggled with this for a while.
What I liked about Australia was how laid-back things were. Things are so fast passé even in Africa, but coming to the city of Perth, well – there was a certain peace.
The most challenging part about the move was trying to learn everything from scratch. From getting used to the currency, the roads (I can’t tell you how many times we have gotten lost), to some heavy Australian accents.
The most beautiful thing about my culture is the importance the family unit plays. Our family members are always at the forefront of every decision, every occasion and every difficult moment in our lives. Children grow up knowing each other, and always have support they can rely on. Nowadays, where peer pressure, bullying, etc. are a challenge in society, I do believe that having a solid family support system allows children to grow up to become stronger adults.
One of my favourite traditional events is a religious event, and that is the month of fasting. In Arabic, it is called Ramadan. It is a month where we give up food and drink during the day (day light hours only). This teaches us self-control, humility, empathy towards the less fortunate, along side being in the worship of God.
The reason it is my favourite event is not only because of the cleansing of the body (physically and spiritually – and subsequent fat loss), but because of the thought that every Muslim around the world is taking part in the global event at the same time, an event that brings us all together regardless of language, location, financial status, etc.
As mentioned before, having taken my religion (Islam) as my culture, it is no surprise that the one thing that is a misconception is the idea that Islam is radical and that Islam preaches ideas of terror.
Fortunately, it is just that – a misconception. Islam actually teaches peace, and promotes intellect and reasoning. It also teaches the value of human beings, as is stated in the following verse in the holy book – the Quran:
“Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)
The Beauty In Difference
I share with you quote from the Holy Quran to show why it is important to embrace difference:
“O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.
The one thing I believe people should know is of the respect that Muslim men and women have for the opposite gender. It is because of this respect that we avoid physical contact with people outside the family. It is the case of being aware of ones personal space and it is for that reason that many do not shake hands with the opposite sex. It is not out of disrespect, but on the contrary – out of respect and humility.
A Picture Says A Thousand Words
The picture I am sharing is one of the grand mosque in Mecca. The reason I choose this picture is that this shows the celebration of multiculturalism.
I visited this mosque several years ago, and stood shoulder to shoulder with people from different races and backgrounds, some who I could communicate with in English, while others spoke a different language. However there was still peace and understanding. The picture tries to capture the unity celebrated in this vicinity; the white and black specs are in fact people. At one time, there can be about 3 million people gathered.
Words of Wisdom
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.“
— Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners
This quote for me is just a reminder of the importance of being kind to one another, and is a reminder of kindness.