Five Muslims including Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, Chief Adviser of AMUST have been honoured with the Order of Australia announced on Australia Day, Sunday 26 January 2020.
Dr Ahmad, resident of NSW and a retired professor of engineering is a veteran Muslim leader who has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition of his outstanding services to the Muslim community, and to interfaith relations.
Professor Mohamad Abdalla, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of South Australia and an Imam has been honoured as Member (AM) in the general division of Order of Australia for significant service to education in the field of Islamic studies.
Ms Tasneem Chopra of Victoria currently Chair of the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights has been recognised with the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for services to the community through a range of roles.
Ms Faiza El-Higzi from Queensland, convenor of Professional Muslim Women’s Network has been recognised with the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for her service to the community through social welfare organisations.
Mr Toufic Zreika, resident of NSW, lawyer, councillor and currently the Chairman of AusRelief has been awarded the Medal (OAM) of the Order of Australia for service to the community, to local government, and to the law.
Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad, 89, arrived in Australia from India in 1971 and determined then to make Australia home for him and his family.
Since then he has contributed to the betterment of society engaging actively in community affairs by establishing organisations and institutions on local, state and federal levels to ensure Muslims have the opportunity and structures to be productive members of the Australian society.
He was the founding President of peak Muslim body, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) 1976, founder of Islamic Foundation for Education and Welfare (IFEW) 1983, established the first Eid festival in Australia, the Multicultural Eid Festival & Fair (MEFF) 1986 and Editor-in-Chief of the multilingual Australian Muslim Times in 1991.
On being asked how he felt to be named as one of the OAM recipients this year, he said, “I feel very honoured but also glad that the tradition of recognising community leaders and volunteers is alive and well because they are the backbone of a cohesive society.”
A tribute to my living father: Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad OAM
Life and achievements of Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad
Dr Qazi Ashfaq Ahmad’s Reaction after being named for the Order of Australia on Sunday 26 January 2020.
Interview conducted by Manarul Islam
1. How did it feel to be named as one of the OAM recipients this year?
I feel very honoured but also glad that the tradition of recognising community leaders and volunteers is alive and well because they are backbone of a cohesive society.
2. How does it feel to represent the Muslim community in this years honours?
Well I don’t necessary see myself as a representative of the Muslim community. Yes I am a Muslim and I have worked for the betterment of Muslims and their role within the broader community.
3. Why do you think it’s important to volunteer with so many community groups and organise community events like the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair?
As I said earlier, volunteers are the backbone of society. Community-based ventures can’t survive without the passion and dedication that volunteers bring. Society need community-based ventures to ensure that they are vibrant and that service goes beyond dollars and cents. Whilst government services are very important, community-based delivery of some of those services achieve a lot more than throwing lots of money can ever do. This is a value that I sought to instil in my family – that whilst excelling in their profession is important, they aren’t complete without the free time, effort and money they contribute for the betterment of the community.
4. What are some of your proudest achievements to date?
What makes me happiest is to have been part of teams,some of which have included members of my family, that have established sustainable institutions that aren’t based on the cult of a personality. This includes the national bodies for Muslims both in Australia and Papua New Guinea, student organisations, interfaith bodies and, of course, the Multicultural Eid Festival and Fair, which is run annually in Fairfield.
5. What would you say to say to people of various beliefs to encourage interfaith relations?
Reach out and understand others. By understanding and knowing others better, you also clarify your own identity and beliefs. Others become less a threat and more an opportunity as we realise that the similarities far outweigh the differences. And with that understanding, together we can do better for society.
6. Do you know who nominated you and what would you like to say to them?
Actually I do not. The person has not revealed themselves to me but still I can be and am grateful for their acknowledgement and effort for making the nomination. So I would like to say thank you. Initially I was perplexed and my inclination was to withdraw. However it is important that the history of Muslims in Australia and their efforts to established themselves within the wider community is better known. Through this recognition of my humble efforts I feel this will help in that objective.
7. How old are you and how long have you lived in Australia?
I am nearing 90 years old and arrived in Australia in 1970. Except for some years teaching at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea, I have been happy to call Australia home.
8. Is there anything else you would like to add?
When I came to Australia to do my PhD at the University of Sydney, I was overwhelmed by the support and friendship shown to me by Australians, including our original inhabitants and owners of the land, those with European ancestry and more recent migrants. I knew very early that Australia would be our new home.