Recently, the MWWA gathered to support a very important campaign, a campaign that not only speaks about a sensitive topic but also addresses a current issue that affects every single one of us in various ways.
This campaign of Racism: It Stops with Me is part of the National Anti-Racism Partnership and Strategy which was launched in August 2012. The campaign encourages and coordinates efforts by those who are already working to reduce and prevent racism.
We all know that racism has no place in Australia, but this doesn’t mean that it does not exist and that it has not affected the young and the old in our Muslim Communities.
The campaign urged organisations to develop their own anti-racism activity and to stand against racism, and support this campaign, the MWWA decided to honour and celebrate the cultures, traditions and Islamic values that make up the individuals in our community.
To do this, the MWWA held a term long competition that was open to the public, in particular inviting youth and students to design an expressive piece such as an artwork to highlight what it is that makes them a proud Australian.
The competition was well received by individuals of many walks of life with deep and meaningful expressions that were unique to them. Multiple entries were accepted from varying areas in Sydney and pieces which expressed significant ideas.
The artworks were displayed in the Liverpool Grand Hall for attendees and visitors of the exhibition to enjoy. Moreover, a sophisticated display of heritage pieces that symbolise Islamic Cultural props such as the book of the Qur’an, the Masbahah, and Qur’an stand.
These cultural props surrounded large informational posters which presented to the audience the significant Islamic figures in history that made a difference in society.
Shortly before the exhibition was declared open, the MWWA initiated the event with a formal opening which the attendees watched. The event opened with a heart-warming recitation from the Holy Qur’an by sister Sarah Kahil from MWWA, followed by a collective recital of the Australian Anthem by Mariam Saad.
The attendees then watched a short video which was put together by MWWA in light of the event In which our president Mrs Faten El Dana OAM, mentioned the definition of racism, why the MWWA chose to address it in their exhibition, the religious judgement associated with racism, and a possible suggestion of how to respond to racism if someone was faced with a scenario of the sort.
Following this, the viewers were given a very brave insight into a young woman’s real-life story in a situation where she was face to face with a racist perpetrator in an event that was witnessed by a Channel nine journalist Mr Ross Greenwood.
The event was documented in an interview and attendees were given the opportunity to watch the interview and listen to the story of the young victim.
After this, Mr Chris Hayes, the Federal Member for Fowler, was called to the stage to offer his insight on the topic – during which he discussed the importance of what MWWA was doing in the exhibition and that addressing the topic was a very necessary matter in our society.
He commended the MWWA on the exhibition and spoke highly of the President of MWWA, Hajji Faten El Dana OAM and her achievements in the community.
In light of his support to the MWWA, his speech was followed by a special production produced by the MWWA specifically for the campaign, the chant titled “You should feel like you belong” was performed for the first time since its release by sisters Mariam Saad, Lea Kassar from the Indonesian community and Hajja Faten El Dana, president of MWWA who recited the Arabic lyrics of the chant. The chant was well received as the audience applauded their effort encouraging the new production.
Following the chant, Mrs Elizabeth Wing from the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW offered a few words of support to the MWWA and gave the audience a brief overview of how their board can help individuals who may have suffered from racism in NSW.
To end the formal event, a short word from one of the representative of Veil of Faith, a local Islamic wear business promoting women’s confidence in their hijab, offered her words of gratitude for the exhibition and complimented the nature of the event – suggesting that more should be done to encourage the youth, especially Muslim women, to feel proud of their culture and identity.
It was at this point that the exhibition was declared open and the attendees were offered delicious Mediterranean lunch and dessert. Apart from this, an array of stallholders displayed their own cultural pieces; ranging from Indonesian, African, Uyghur, Australian, Syrian, Palestinian and even a well-renowned bookstore.
They put on display their cultural attire, food items, home décor pieces and other unique props that make up their identity and attendees were able to walk in and around their stalls discussing the unique pieces with the exhibitors.
In addition, the NSW Police held a stall alongside the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW offering attendees an opportunity to seek information about experiences of racism or discuss possible situations that would assist them. Attendees were also given the opportunity to vote for their chosen artwork, which would then be used to declare the winners.
The exhibition itself proved to be a massive success as attendees walked through and viewed all the amazing pieces that the exhibitors had to offer. What did the MWWA aim to achieve through this?
Many of the youth or even elderly members of the community who have admitted to experiencing a significant event with racist intentions towards them have highlighted that the racist slur was directed at either the colour of their skin, their cultural attire, their head-covering or even their accent.
To say No to such racist occurrences, we want to remind members of the community about why they should be proud of their identity and ignore this hideous racist noise.
To close the event, the MWWA tallied the scores of the people’s choice and announced the top three artworks.
The Third-place prize was of $100 cash prize was given to Mrs Sarah Najafi while the runner-up, Mr Riyad Najjar received a $150 cash prize gift for a sophisticated painting of Arabic calligraphy.
The first-place winner, Mr Yasmin Awad who achieved the top choice in people’s votes represented a hand sketch of a woman covered in a vibrant coloured hijab.
The hijab used was a real material which gave the artwork a 3D effect and won the participant a valuable Tablet worth $250.
The audience applauded the winners and enjoyed the rest of the day as they mingled among the exhibitors and artworks.