Monday, August 22, 2005
Bilal & Maha - A Couple of Aussie Mossies
I have always been a fan of Andrew ever since I read him make the brave declaration “Zionism is just bullshit” during an interview with the Australian Jewish lifestyle magazine “New Moon”. Andrew speaks his mind and just doesn’t give a flying flock who gets offended. And rarely do people ever get offended since he is so funny about it.
Today, Andrew’s hosts were a couple I went to university with. In fact, I am honoured to say that they were my friends. Bilal (“Bill”) Mahmassani was secretary of the Macquarie University Muslim Students Association (MUMSA) when I was president. And when I was silly enough to join the Young Liberals, Bilal also signed up.
Bilal studied economics at Macquarie University where he met the love of his life. Today that love has become “she-who-must-be-obeyed” and is still known as Maha Shiyab (she will not change her surname, and he won’t even bother trying to convince her). I knew Maha before she wore a hijab (traditional Muslim headscarf, called a “tadung” in Malay Muslim cultures geographically closest to Australia).
Bilal and Maha were interviewed by Andrew in the shadow of rising talk of Muslims being seen as a threat to every atom and molecule in the universe. As Chicago-born Muslim funnyman Azhar Usman notes, Islam has always been presented as a synonym for cream cheese, having been historically portrayed as spread by sharp metallic objects.
Today, Muslims are viewed as being worthy of stoning (or should that be "Stoning"? As in the case of The Australian newspaper which allowed the near-xenophobic rant of a former National Party Sentaor to go to print but refused my submitted refutation) for not being prepared to assimilate.
Yeah, right. Try telling that to Bilal and Maha.
Bilal runs a small business. He also works and has completed studies in economics at both Bachelors and Masters level. Maha is similarly educated, though her specialty is in the area of education. When she is not looking after her 2 children and bossing Bilal around, Maha teaches at a public school in Canley Vale in Sydney’s south-west.
The interview had some classical highlights. There was Bilal’s admission that he ate fried lamb brains and tabouli to school, wondering all the while why his friends did not wish to share in his delicacy. Thankfully, he never offered this to me at university.
Maha spoke of getting abused while walking with Bilal a brief 10 minute walk to the hospital in Westmead when she was ready to give birth. On the way, she was almost run over twice by passing motorists.
Bilal spoke of his parents insisting he grow up and mix with children from non-Muslim backgrounds. He watched the video of Melbourne-based fanatic Abu Bakr who told the ABC’s 7:30 Report and expressed accurately the sentiments of all Australians regardless of religious or ethnic background.
“I can’t blame Australians for having hatred toward him. He came to this country seeking help and help was offered. He lives supported by Centrelink. And now he bites the hand that feeds him!”
At one stage in the interview, Bilal and Maha spoke about the frustration they have with Muslim leadership. Their views were particularly significant given the meeting that would take place in Canberra between Mr Howard and Muslim organisational leaders.
“They don’t represent us. They don’t know us and we don’t know them. They never consult us. I don’t see any polling … We need an injection of young Muslim people brought up in Australia.”
Bilal and Maha represent the best and brightest that Muslim Australia has to offer. They are young, hip, madly in love with each other (anyone who saw Maha continually holding Bilal’s arm could see that) and with Australia. These are the people who should have been invited to Canberra. These are the people John Howard should be talking to. These are the people who have every reason to defend Australia against terrorist attacks or indeed any other threat.
Bilal and Maha are proud. They are proud of their faith. They are proud of their marriage and of their family. They are proud of their country. They are true Australian Muslims. They are what one Anglo-Australian Muslim convert described 30 years ago as “Aussie Mossies”.
And having seen them go through university and struggle with their often difficult personal circumstances, I am proud to know them. And after watching them on national television, I am proud to be an Aussie Mossie.
(The author is a Sydney industrial lawyer and freelance writer who grew up in John Howard’s electorate and was endorsed Liberal candidate for the seat of Reid in the 2001 State Election. He is a columnist for OnlineOpinion.com.au and altmuslim.com.)
© Irfan Yusuf 2005