The SBS TV documentary, ‘Muslims Like Us’ screened on 21 and 22 February 2018. Ten Muslims of diverse backgrounds and often diametrically opposed outlooks lived together in one Sydney house for eight days. Four were practising Muslims; the others held their own views on what it meant to be Muslim.
It was a public spectacle, set up with potential adversaries that would engender tension, conflict and argument. There was, however, a genuine effort for mutual understanding.
Some were well-known – Nigerian/Aboriginal ex-NRL footy star Jamal Idris, Ex-Iranian poet, Kaveh, and female boxing champion, Bianca Elmir.
Others included Aisha, law graduate of Indonesian/Yugoslav parentage with two children from Perth; Anjum, niqab-wearing stay-at-home mum, married with two boys from Hobart; Afghan-born Mina with three children; Rida, a bisexual ‘sufi’; Fahad, Pakistani/Palestinian homosexual medical student; Hassan, Melbourne deputy school principal; and Husnain of Pakistani heritage.
The title is a misnomer since Muslims are not just ‘like’, but are indeed as much ‘Australian’ as anybody else.
Further, LBGT participants in the program at 20% do not reflect true representation amongst Muslim Australians.
Even if put at 1%, most Muslims would question such a high percentage.
As Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) emphasised in their statement released on 10 March 2018, the practice of homosexuality is totally forbidden for Muslims and a major sin and one who partakes is disobeying God.
Given that SBS also often highlights the gay Muslim, Nur Warsame, calling himself Imam, the SBS CEO, himself gay, gives the impression that SBS is promoting homosexuality amongst Muslim Australians. This is surely not the role of a government broadcaster.
Neither does this dilemma reflect well on the SBS Chairman, himself a Muslim.
Many who viewed the series commented that they were confused by the portrayals provided.
This is unsurprising given some in the show didn’t display much knowledge about Islam.
Except ‘cultural’ Muslims, all acknowledge “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is God’s Messenger”. Having respect for Muhammad (s) and the Qur’an are also non-negotiable elements of being Muslim.
Authority of the Sunnah is well-established: “they can have no Faith, until they make you (Muhammad) judge in all disputes, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions.” (al-Qur’an 4:65)
God stresses that those with knowledge are not equal to those without. (39:9) Consequently, Muslims need to follow knowledgeable Imams about what is True Islam.
Commendable projects that the group undertook included following Jamal’s charity to provide the homeless lunch at Woolloomooloo Police Citizens Club, conducting Street da’wah in central Sydney, and showing hospitality to neighbours inviting them over for a BBQ.
Visiting Martin Place Lindt Cafe to reflect on the 2014 Siege engendered responses that the hostage-taker was a criminal who only showed support for ISIS to camouflage wrongdoings including his wife’s murder.
Actions of some members were less praiseworthy, such as visiting a pub.
Once Mina mused, “Why would God say ‘No’ to music; life would be so boring.” Islam’s understandable prohibition of certain music was well-demonstrated when karaoke music was played while Fahad danced erotically. Aisha, a modest Muslimah, remarked about it, “my eyeballs are burning.”
Anjum objected harshly but needn’t have worried about the ‘Sufi’ session led by Rida since participants recited well-known dhikrs contemplating God.
However, any insinuation Muslims could just perform dhikr while ignoring salat (ritual prayer) is misguided.
The Prophet (s) said: “First thing for which a person will be brought to account on Resurrection Day will be his salat. If it is sound, he will be successful; if it is lacking in any way, he will be doomed.”
So-called ‘sufi’ practices without followers performing salat are without merit.
There is a role though for orthodox Sufism whose teachings were disseminated by eminent sheikhs in an unbroken line back to Prophet Muhammad (s).
Participants needed to have access to knowledgeable Imams to advise them on Islamic teachings to help resolve prickly disputes. Some may well have changed their mindsets.