The AMUST Awards Night and Gala Dinner celebrating 5 years of Muslim Media attracted more than 220 movers and shakers from diverse backgrounds and professions enjoying a jam-packed program that included a documentary on AMUST success story and video reflections by community leaders topped up by Uyghur music and highly popular lion dance performances.
The attendees at the event, held on Saturday 20 July 2019 in Bankstown, Sydney, were addressed by Jihad Dib, MP from Lakemba and Chin Tan, the Race Discrimination Commissioner with awards presented to almost 50 AMUST team members with outstanding contributions towards making AMUST a powerful positive media platform within the last 5 years.
The program was kicked off by Mobinah Ahmad, the Managing Editor of AMUST introducing the MC for the event Jane Jeffes, the former Executive Producer for ABC Religion and Ethics and currently the Communications and Impact Director for the G20 Interfaith Forum who has just co-founded ‘War on Slavery’.
After acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land and welcoming the guests present, Jane mentioned her passion for telling the Muslim stories in Australia that have included the film ‘Silma’s School’ among others.
Recognising the achievements of AMUST, Jane remarked, “When Zia told me about this awards night, I was so pleased that The Australasian Muslim Times – now AMUST – was celebrating its fifth year, and that there was an opportunity to reflect on the powerful role of community-based storytelling, and how through the development and growth of journalism, AMUST has established a central point for community news and opinion.”
The program formally started with the recitation from Quran by Ibrahim Karaisli in his melodious voice with some relevant passages selected for the occasion that included, “If an unreliable person comes to you with important news – verify it, lest you harm others,” thus rejecting fake news followed by Jane’s comment, “That could be or should be a motto and modus operandi for all journalists.”
Jane then introduced Mehar Ahmad, giving her welcome address, “A full-time school teacher, Mehar’s passion, leadership and commitment to the advancement of interfaith relations in Australian society also characterises her role as the president of Seena Incorporated, the non-profit community organisation that publishes AMUST.
Mehar talked about the formation of Seena more than 5 years ago primarily for the production of AMUST and its other activities including advocacy for refugees, the disabled and women in leadership positions.
“With Allah’s blessings and with the support of the community, the Australasian Muslim Times has grown tremendously within five years. Within such a short span of time AMUST has been recognised as one of the best and most credible community news platforms, locally and internationally amongst all people, Muslims as well as people of other faiths and no faith,” Mehar remarked.
She further added, “AMUST provides the opportunity to share stories of protesting for justice, celebrating success, helping the needy, giving a voice to the persecuted or those who have had their human rights violated. It’s the gift of promoting peace, learning about our history, and demanding change.
“This is the purpose and intention behind AMUST and how it is playing a significant role in building a better multicultural Australia,” Mehar concluded.
The program proceeded with addresses by guest speakers, audio-visual presentations and entertainment with award sessions to AMUST writers, advertisers, distributors, supporters and Muslim media partners.
The well known Uyghur singer Shohrat Tursun sang a Naat in praise of Prophet Mohammad (s) and Hamd, “Allahoo” glorifying God that had the audience mesmerised.
Mr Jihad Dib, state member for Lakemba during his address congratulated AMUSt for its achievements during the last 5 years and talked about the Australian Muslim narrative.
“In AMUST, Muslims have a platform where their opinions can be voiced freely and their ideas shared broadly with the Australasian community. It has given a platform to some who may otherwise not have the opportunity.”
“Muslims have played a role in Australia’s history for a long time. From the Afghan Cameleers to the wave of immigrants who helped build our country, they were all proud to be both, Muslim and Australian.”
“The metric we use to measure our success is by asking ourselves, how our voices and experiences have impacted the broader community and how our stories have been shared. This is what AMUST has and will continue to flourish in for years to come.”
“We all, in our own ways, make a contribution and it shouldn’t matter whether you are a Member of Parliament, a public figure, a doctor or a tradie; do your very best in everything possible and aim to give the most positive example of what the Islamic faith teaches us; make a difference and help others, regardless of who they are or what they may or may not believe in . That’s what makes us proud Australians.”
The keynote speaker Mr Chin Tan after acknowledging the presence of honorable guests talked about the role of the Australian Human Rights Commission and its relevance to the Australian Muslim community.
“At the Australian Human Rights Commission, we have a responsibility to monitor how well Australia is implementing its human rights obligations and to ensure that these obligations are delivered without regard to a person’s race, religion, gender, age, sexuality or disability.
As the Race Discrimination Commissioner, I have the responsibility and functions to address racial discrimination under the Racial Discrimination Act. Section 20 of the Act sets out, among various functions, the role to combat racial discrimination and also to promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among racial and ethnic groups.
In my view, anti-racism and promoting multiculturalism are two sides of the same coin. We will not be able to eliminate racism in Australia if we do not continue to strengthen and enhance our successful multicultural society, and work to make our multiculturalism resilient. We will, however, not be able to strengthen our multicultural society without eradicating the discrimination and prejudice that, sadly, do continue to exist and permeate our community, in various ways.
Australia’s Muslims and the Muslim community are a vital, integral and valued part of our multicultural society. There are no exceptions or exclusion.
But as we know, Muslims, in general, continue to face particularly intense forms of scrutiny which often result in discrimination and prejudice. While polling shows us that public support for our multiculturalism remains strong, the community has, generally, been found to hold more negative or prejudicial attitudes towards Muslims, when asked about them directly.
As many of you would be aware, my team and I have begun holding national consultations with Australian Muslim communities as part of the Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims project. This project aims to build robust intelligence and narratives about the experience of Australian Muslims in order to inform the Australian Human Rights Commission’s work in promoting social cohesion, inclusion and in providing the evidence necessary to bring about better changes to protect all our citizens.
During my recent consultations, I have heard a lot about the role of the media in the Australian Muslim community. It has a profound impact on the community and many have shared with me the crucial importance of having a more balanced narrative as well as the community having representation within that narrative. By this I mean as writers, editors, presenters, reporters, producers and so on.
And, I acknowledge the importance of tonight’s event, to honour these individuals for their invaluable contributions within the Muslim media and the wider media landscape.
Independent media entities such as the Australasian Muslim Times are an important response mechanism to this imbalance. The Australasian Muslim Times plays the role of educator, community voice, community response and connector. But more importantly AMUST is also recognised for its role as a balanced and constructive instrument of understanding, respect, peace, unity and inclusion.
The Australasian Muslim Times has a strong track record of delivering that unique inclusive view. It is a highly awarded and respected multicultural multimedia news platform that demonstrates its strengths in sharing the expert opinions of Australian Muslims communities on the matters that impact on them.
I want to pay particular tribute to Zia and Mehar Ahmad for their immense contribution in making AMUST the success story it is today but more so for their years of demonstrated sacrifices and contributions to the welfare and advancement of the Muslim community and to the wider community. This is Australia at its multicultural and harmonious best.
Thank you Zia and Mehar and of course, Mobinah, who is doing some important and great work on behalf of the Commission.”
The program concluded with a vote of thanks by Zia Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of AMUST for all the guests attending the event and award winners and other volunteers who have contributed towards the AMUST success story.
He also acknowledged Mehar Ahmad, not only as his better half as the rock for the family but also as his boss who has been the glue for the AMUST team for all these years in leading Seena for building AMUST as a highly successful positive news media platform.
Jane closed the proceedings for the night with her final comments, “On behalf of everyone here, thank you, Zia, for such moving words – and to you and your team for a wonderful evening. I look forward to seeing AMUST going from strength to strength, and to celebrating its 10 year anniversary five years from now. Thank you to our guest speakers Jihad Dib and Chin Tan. And to all our presenters, award winners, sponsors and supporters. Thank you to you all for attending – you’ve been a wonderful audience and I’ve really enjoyed being your MC.”