During the panel discussion at the countering Islamophobia conference on Thursday 21 November, one of the panelists Ali Kadri, Spokesperson of Islamic Council of Queensland shared a familiar story.
After the recent Islamophobic attacks at the Brisbane Holland Park Mosque, the oldest in the city, members of Muslim community decided to proactively get to know their neighbours.
Ali Kadri encountered one of the neighbours who has been living there for the last 25 years and asked him if he knew of the mosque and what they did there. The neighbour simply replied saying “yes, you burn dead bodies there.”
Apparently, there is a crematorium close to the mosque and therefore the neighbour assumed that the mosque was part of the same complex.
Br Ali lamented the fact how ignorant non-Muslims were of Islam and Muslim practices that the neighbour, living next to the Mosque for 25 long years did not know anything about the Mosque.
During the group discussion that followed, I asked Br Ali Kadri, if any of the Muslim frequenting the mosque during the last 25 years made any proactive efforts to educate their neighbours, what the Mosque was all about?
He did not really know because he has not been there that long.
The moral of the story is that reduction of Islamophobia, racism and hate is a two-way street. We all have to make efforts in our own capacity, Muslims, non-Muslims, government, police, educators and community leaders.
In this globalised world we can no longer afford to live as tribal societies, in our own ghettos divided by race, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We need to get to know our neighbours of our own faiths, other faiths and no faith in order to live with peace and harmony.
I know, we all have preference to stick with our own, but in the contemporary world we cannot longer afford to live the way we have been living in the past.
People of different background and faiths need to recognise each other as humans and our commonality as humans to appreciate each other and to know each other.
After all the Quran says, “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” (49:13).
People of differences need, indeed, to get to know each other.