Duo of Dialogues: Melbourne
Thirty-three year old Nasya Bahfen is a lecturer at the School of Media and Communication, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. She is also a radio journalist at ABC Radio Australia, and a committee member of the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria.
I was born into an Arab-Indonesian family in Jakarta. I am part Egyptian, part Javanese, part Betawi (indigenous Jakartan) and part Hadrami (Southeast Asian of Yemeni descent). My family moved to Melbourne when I was two.
Inner-city Melbourne is multicultural and metropolitan, so there have been no challenges from non-Muslims. In rural areas or the suburbs where there are not many Muslims, there are stares and nasty comments on rare occasions.
Being a Muslim in a non-Muslim city has taught me to re-evaluate what is important to me, as well as to have discipline and patience. Examples are sticking to a halal diet, or finding appropriate clothes. Knowing that I can practise my religion here gives me a sense of satisfaction and it is [also] a source of strength.
At its most basic, Islam is like a compass that gives me an identity, a sense of community, and a level of spiritual comfort. However, I do not always agree with what my community does, or the way it thinks.
Some people have a preconceived notion that Muslims hate non-Muslims and want to kill all infidels. I do not see the point in reasoning with these people. However, if a non-Muslim has a genuine interest in Islam, I will try to find common values taught in Islam that they might also believe in, like social justice and helping the oppressed. I also like dismantling people’s stereotypes about Muslim women being subjugated, constantly pregnant and always working in the kitchen.
Some people have a preconceived notion about how much Muslims hate non-Muslims and want to kill all infidels. I do not see the point of reasoning with these people
If money were not an issue, I would first make my family comfortable before I establish a fund to help kids go to school, or something equally vomit-inducingly noble. I was impressed by a talk that I attended at the 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne. The speaker was a lecturer from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and a finance expert. She called for a change in the administration of zakat. Traditionally strictly about helping alleviate poverty, she said zakat should also be more widely seen as a form of ‘capacity building’ like microfinance, long-term development assistance or scholarships.
I juggle two jobs and depending on the radio shifts, my weekdays can start from 4.30am to 7pm or from 9am to 10.30pm. My husband understands as he is also a journalist who works long hours – during the Aussie Rules football season in winter, he has to work half days on Sundays, too. We spend time together at weekends and on Friday nights, I swim with my mother and sister at a women-only centre.
I unwind by reading, although most of the books I am reading now are academic ones. I did read the Kite Runner and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. For a long time, at the end of my email signature, I had a quote taken from He Got Game, a song by my favourite hip-hop artist Chuck D: ‘Don’t let a win get to your head or a loss get to your heart’.
Fajr means dawn in Arabic
The seerah is a collection of narrations, or a study, on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as well as the people and events surrounding his life. It includes information on events that preceded his birth; his interactions and dealings with his family, society, and his companions during his life; and also the events that occurred shortly after his death.
I love Melbourne but they don’t understand real football. By that, I mean ‘soccer’. They play Aussie rules football here, its birthplace. Aussie rules is a very Australian sport and a religion in itself [cheeky grin]. Also, the native possums freak me out, believe it or not. They’re evil! We are not allowed to kill them as most Melbourne local authorities have banned the harming of possums. Not that I want to kill any animal, but they really scare me.
I am too old for hopes and dreams. Back in the deepest recesses of my addled brain I am sure there is a novel, but I doubt it will ever see the light of day. Since I was five, I have wanted to visit the Great Mosque of Xi’an, China. Maybe I will do so after I have performed the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Insha’allah.