Saturday, September 24, 2005


Dave, Sal, Ali, Lev, Abdul & Neuroscience – Some Ordinary Aussie Mossies

Some days back, I was visiting a new Australian. Dave did not come to Australia on a boat, though a large number of his ancestors did in the years following 1788. Dave is from London, and some years back fell in love with Sal.

Dave and Sal are married and live within earshot of Sydney’s Gallipoli Mosque. Sal catches fraudsters for one of Australia’s major banks, From time to time, she also works as a freelance journalist. Dave hopes to return to studies in graphic design, and currently works as teaching assistant to a Sydney Imam.

Dave has a mate in Queensland who asked him to give me some feedback on this blog. The Queenslander Aussie Mossie said that I spent too much time focussing on the high-flyers. Instead, I should focus a little on ordinary Muslims. That way, readers can see just how extraordinarily ordinary most Muslims are.

So here goes.

Sal is a fitness freak. Last year, she ran in the City-to-Surf. As far as she knew, she was the only woman wearing a hijab.

“I wear hijab because I feel like it. And I don’t think it stops me from running in the City to Surf. It was weird, though. A lot of women were a little surprised to see me run so fast. They thought I must be a ghost or something, running past them in all-white.”

Dave was waiting for Sal at the finishing line. He was ever-so-proud.

“I’m glad it was her, not me! I wouldn’t have made the distance. At the finish line, I was shouting out to her. She just kept her focus on the line. I’d never seen her with such pink cheeks in my life!”

Dave works with Imam Abdul who spends a lot of time working with young Muslims in the Auburn area. Apart from being a Muslim chaplain at two university campuses, Imam Abdul is finishing his PhD. His thesis covers a range of disciplines, including history, sociology, demography and theology.

Dave helps Abdul by taking some of the teaching load from him down at the local sufi hospice. That way, Abdul can focus on finishing the thesis. Abdul teaches some 40 young boys how to read Qur’an.

Abdul grew up in Sydney. His father Ali was for some years imam of the Gallipoli Mosque. Ali was an extremely popular imam, especially with the more secular-minded Turks. He encouraged women to visit the mosque, even if they refused to wear the hijab. He also made time for the less observant Turkish Muslims, especially those in family crisis.

One of Ali’s parishioners is Lev who used to run a local pizza shop in the middle of Auburn. Lev told me about Ali’s major role in helping him cope with his mother.s death.

“I was very close to my mum. When she died, I was just completed stuffed. It was like I’d been hit by a cyclone. One day I went to the mosque. I was sitting in the corner like a stunned mullet. I see this guy dressed like a hoca [Turkish for imam] walking upto me. He sits down on the ground with me and starts talking about soccer. He’d seen me train some of the boys from the local Turkish soccer team.

“Ali Hoca was a legend. He never turned anyone away from the mosque. He was very stern with people who thought they were religious. Many of these people hated him. I often heard them complaining that Ali Hoca only spent time with alcoholics and uncovered women.

Ali Hoca brought so many people back to Islam. And I don’t mean some crappy straight-jacketed Islam. I mean the real Islam that shows compassion and accepts all people. Ali Hoca gave me a lot of peace”.

I asked Lev about Ali’s son Abdul.

“Mate, Abdul is just like his dad. Except Abdul is more mild-mannered and doesn’t have as good a recitation voice. But Abdul has many other good qualities.”

Abdul has been touching hearts for many years. Like all true sufis, his focus is on internal as well as external transformation. If you saw Abdul in the street, you wouldn’t think he was a hoca. He looks just like anyone else.

Abdul was instrumental in bringing Sal and Dave together. Abdul went into bat for them with their sceptical families and communities who could not imagine a Pommy bloke and a Arab chick getting together.

But don’t try praising Abdul about it. As usual, he is philosophical.

“Brother, Allah decided to give me this task. I was not best for the job, and I almost did not succeed. But Allah helped me and my friends along the way, and today they are married.”

Abdul then made one final comment.

“Irfan, when are you going to get married?”

I just smiled and daydreamt of neuroscience.

© Irfan Yusuf

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