The 16th Australian Muslim Achievement Awards (AMAA), a beacon of recognition and celebration, illuminated Victoria on Sunday 11 February 2024 held at Melbourne’s The Park in Albert Park, hosted by the Mission of Hope.

With Palestine as the theme of this year’s event, Muslim high achievers, presented with awards in various categories, amongst many others included cricketer Usman Khawaja, double awards to both Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqui as well as Australian Islamic Medical Association (AIMA).

AMUST was the winner in the Media Outlet of the Year category while its Technology Manager Rubinah Ahmad was recognised as Volunteer of the Year.

Australian Muslim Achievement Awards’ annual occurrence since 2005 serves as a platform to spotlight and honour the remarkable achievements of Australian Muslim individuals and organisations, underscoring their contributions to society.

The AMAA stands as a testament to the commitment of its organisers to elevate the profiles of Australian Muslims and showcase their accomplishments.

By acknowledging their successes, the awards not only promote their prominence within the country but also inspire fellow Muslims to actively engage and excel across various fields.

The event, attended by esteemed figures and community leaders, began with a Qur’an recitation by Imam Alaa Elzokm OAM, establishing a reverent atmosphere for the evening’s proceedings.

Uncle Andrew Gardiner, a respected Aboriginal Muslim Australian and esteemed elder of the Wurundjeri clan, then delivered the Welcome to Country.

Abdulah Hamimi and Toltu Tofu, serving as MCs, highlighted the sense of community and continuity at an event. Toltu expressed delight in seeing both current and past finalists, emphasizing how the community builds upon each other’s successes.

She reflected on the strength of these foundations and the potential for lifetime achievements. Abdulah acknowledged the challenges faced, particularly in Gaza, but emphasized the opportunity for unity and support within the community during difficult times.

Reflecting on the essence of the awards, AMAA founder and director Hanan Dover said, “The Australian Muslim Achievement Awards was born out of us, as a community, recognising one another and celebrating each other’s achievements.”

Echoing Hanan’s’s sentiments, Hakan Ozyon, CEO of Hejaz Financial Services, the major sponsor, emphasised the need for mutual recognition within the Muslim community.

“I’ve seen so many Muslims with so much talent, yet even the Muslims don’t even know what they’re doing. So we need to start seeing each other now. First, recognise each other then we start showing ourselves to the world Inshallah,” Hakan remarked.

Despite being unable to attend in person, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, Grand Mufti of Australia, conveyed a powerful message through a video address, stressing the importance of the soft power wielded by achievers within the Muslim community.

He highlighted the significance of showcasing the talents and contributions of Australian Muslims, underscoring their role in shaping the nation’s greatness.

Throughout the evening, distinguished guests and award recipients shared insights and reflections, illuminating the diverse achievements of the Australian Muslim community.

Winners of 16th Australian Muslim Achievement Awards
in various categories

Business of the Year: The Australian Indonesian Muslim Exchange Program AIMEP, delivered by Mosaic Connections, was recognised for its commitment to fostering friendship and understanding between Muslim leaders from Australia and the ASEAN region.

“The Australia Indonesia Muslim Exchange Program and the Australia Young Muslim Exchange Program and the Australia ASEAN Muslim Exchange program… they’re international exchange programs dedicated to building friendship, connections, and understanding between inspiring young Muslim leaders,” explained Mosaic Co-founder Brynna Rafferty-Brown.

Event of the Year: The Australian Islamic Medical Association (AIMA)’s Inaugural National Conference received acclaim for its efforts to promote healthcare equality and highlight the contributions of Muslim medical professionals.

“We decided we should have the first National Medical Conference in Australia, which will drive towards reducing the gap of inequalities in healthcare,” shared AIMA Vice President Dr Omer Shareef.

Best New Community Project: AIMA was once again honoured for its inaugural conference in Sydney, which convened more than 300 Muslim medical professionals to discuss topics at the intersection of modern medicine and Islamic ethics.

AIMA President, Dr Muhammad Afzal Kahloon stresses the unity of purpose among individuals working in diverse fields, stating, “We are all working for the same cause from different angles, from different aspects.”

He highlighted efforts in cricket, media, and medicine, aiming to combat Islamophobia and present Islam positively.

Media Outlet of the Year: The Australasian Muslim Times (AMUST), was celebrated for its decade-long commitment in providing independent news and amplifying diverse voices within the Muslim community.

“It’s been an amazing ten-year journey which started out as a passion project and rapidly grew due to an overwhelming demand for independent news,” said Mobinah Ahmad, Managing Editor of AMUST.

Community Organisation of the Year: Islamophobia Register Australia, led by CEO Sharara Attai and Board member Dr Susan Carland, was recognised for its role in documenting and combating Islamophobia in Australian society.

Thank you to our sponsors, our stakeholders, our partners and a special thank you to all the people who report incidents of Islamophobia to us for trusting us with their experience, because it’s not easy to talk about and share those often quite traumatic experiences,” expressed Sharara.

Volunteer of the Year: Rubinah Ahmad was honoured for her proven long track record of selfless dedication to various charitable and educational endeavours within the Muslim community.

“Our community thrives because of the countless members who selflessly dedicate themselves in so many different areas,” Rubinah remarked.

Creative Artist of the Year: Dr Randa Abdel-Fattah was celebrated for her impactful contributions to literature and advocacy, particularly in raising awareness about the Palestinian cause.

“I feel, if anything, Islam gives us a life of intentionality and purpose… to fight for justice, fight for people’s dignity and liberation,” remarked Dr Abdel-Fattah.

Woman of the Year: Dr Mehreen Faruqi OAM was acknowledged for her fearless advocacy on behalf of Muslim women and her unwavering commitment to social justice causes.

She expressed gratitude for the supportive environment amidst ongoing hostility, stating, “I’m used mostly to being showered by hate and vilification and threats. So, you know, it’s been so lovely for the past couple of hours to be in the company of such incredible, loving, supporting, nourishing people.”

“I accept this award on behalf of all the fierce, unapologetic Muslim women that fight every single day,” declared Dr Faruqi.

People’s Choice Award: This year’s award was dedicated to individuals contributing to social justice or advocacy for Palestine.

The People’s Choice Award this year recognised individuals dedicated to social justice and advocating for Palestine. Instead of public voting, all five nominees were awarded for their significant contributions due to the extraordinary circumstances of Palestinian suffering.

The winners included:

Mayor Bilal El-Hayek, emphasising the humanitarian gesture of flying the Palestinian flag.

“My council’s decision to fly the flag was unanimous and a humanitarian gesture for all lives lost… the flying of the Palestinian flag is about justice and compassion, and we will continue to load it so high and proud until a meaningful cease fire is declared,” Bilal said.

Aseel Tayah highlighted the power of storytelling through her organisation Bukjeh.

She shared, “I am here because of Bukjeh, my small organisation, Bukjeh started as a small show at the immigration museum , an art project, that told the stories of what happened with us in 1948 where I invited refugees to share their pain under our tent’s roof. And over the years became a movement of hundreds of artists around the world.”

Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi OAM stressed the importance of recognising community efforts, particularly those of Muslim women. She stated, “I can’t tell you how important it is to make sure that people in our communities are recognised.”

Assala Sayara spoke of the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation.

She respectfully noted, “I just want to also say respectfully, that today is not a day of full celebration, because today there are still Palestinians that are being killed in cold blood. There Are still thousands of Palestinians back home and in the diaspora that await to return home. The full celebration is when Palestine is liberated from the river to the sea.”

Nasser Mashni, President of APAN, emphasised the importance of acknowledging colonisation and dedicated the award to Palestine and its people’s resilience.

“This award is for Palestine. It is not for any of us. It’s for our work. And what we to do for those that are suffering the cruelest, the cruelest of oppressions for the Palestinians that are there and are teaching humanity every day to every human being, teaching them of the beauty of our people, of the steadfastness of an indigenous people, of the connection of our native people to their land, but also also to their belief, to their God, to their faith,” Nasser emphasised.

Sportsperson of the Year: Usman Khawaja, a standout Australian cricketer, garnered recognition for his exceptional performance, winning awards like the Shane Warne Men’s Test Player of the Year 2023.

He bravely tackled issues of racism and advocated for human rights, notably expressing solidarity with Palestine despite facing criticism from the ICC.

He stated, “For me, the greatest thing we can do as Muslims is to lead by example the greatest way we can lead by example is to follow the teachings of the prophet. And the biggest thing I’ve learned from my time in trying to learn Islam and the teachings of the prophet is inclusivity is being able to be a muslim, but also being friendly and faithful to your next door neighbour, And for us, that’s Australia.”

He further emphasised the need for Muslims to actively engage with the wider community, demonstrating through actions, the values and beliefs of Islam.

 Professional of the Year: Dr Dzavid Haveric was honoured for his extensive expertise in various fields related to Islam and multiculturalism in Australia.

He expressed gratitude, stating, “I’m glad to say that my three decades of research, writing, community engagement, contribution to universities, museums, libraries and different ethnic groups as well as the media are broadly recognised. I dedicate my heart, I dedicate my spirit, my knowledge and my skills to all Australians, Muslim and non-Muslim.”

Lifetime Achievement of the Year Award: Janeth Deen OAM received the Lifetime Achievement award for her remarkable contributions to fostering multiculturalism and understanding, particularly through the Queensland Muslim Welfare Association Inc. At 80 years old, she continues to tirelessly work towards promoting peace between Muslims and non-Muslims.

She humbly acknowledged, “I have not done the work in my community alone… It has been an honour to work with so many of them who have even come down here today.”

Role Model of the Year: Marwa Abouzeid was honoured for her dedication to providing art classes to vulnerable communities and her commitment to fostering inclusivity and empowerment.

“I’m also grateful for the remarkable Australian community of mentors, colleagues, and friends who have been instrumental in shaping my path,” said Marwa.

Youth of the Year: Assala Sayara was acknowledged for her advocacy and activism, particularly in the areas of mental health, youth empowerment, and Palestinian rights.

She reflected on her struggle with belonging and identity, drawing inspiration from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. She expressed a commitment to making a difference in various areas, driven by the lessons learned from navigating between two worlds.

Abyssinian of the Year Award: Antoinette Lattouf, recipient of the Abyssinian of the Year award, was recognised for her advocacy and provision of safe spaces for Muslims in media. As an Australian-Lebanese journalist, she faced challenges, including being sacked from the ABC for her accurate reporting on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

In a video message, she highlighted her commitment to diverse perspectives and responsible journalism, aiming to promote social cohesion despite facing obstacles.

“I’ve always stayed true to my values, to be fair, to try and uplift marginalised voices, to try to increase social cohesion through responsible journalism. Sometimes it comes at a cost. But I sleep well at night knowing that I’m doing my tiny bit in the face of enormous injustices, both here and abroad,” Antoinette stated.

Man of the Year: Dr Mohammad Jehangir, celebrated as Man of the Year, symbolises the triumph of multiculturalism in Australia. From his roots in Pakistan to embracing a new life in Western Australia, he exemplifies resilience and integration, breaking down barriers and fostering understanding.

His dedication to providing medical services to Aboriginal communities and promoting interfaith harmony underscores the transformative potential of diversity.

“This award is important because it stimulates the community to do the right thing. But remember, there will be a day, there will be a time when we all will be given our awards. Our Book of Life. I pray from Allah (s) on that day, on that time, all people who are here, their families, their extended families and their friends will get the award and the Book of Life in the right hand with Allah’s Fazal and Shifa of Prophet Muhammad (s),” Dr Jehangir said.

Each award celebrated excellence and resilience within the Australian Muslim community, underscoring the importance of recognition and unity. As the event concluded, it left a lasting impression of hope and progress for all Australians.