Author: irfan-yusuf

Dear Prime Minister: Congratulations

Congratulations on what surely is a miraculous victory. You defied the pundits and the polls. It wasn’t the Australian Financial Review or the Daily Telegraph that delivered you votes. Your victory proves that ultimately it isn’t inner-city journalists or the lobbies or the talking heads on TV sets that win elections. It is real voters with real concerns. Voters like the readers of this newspaper. Your party stands for maximising the opportunity for individuals. Please treat me as an individual. Don’t treat me as just a member of “the Muslim community” separate from broader Australia. Don’t see Muslims as some single monolithically religious...

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Remembering Colombo Christians this Ramadan

Growing up with Ramadan was always fun. I grew up in a family where we all fasted. Mum used to wake us up early in the morning. She’d cook lots of fried shami kabab that would keep us thirsty all day. To combat the thirst, we’d eat watermelon. I’d eat a meat pie or two. Then at iftar, I’d eat a third and a fourth. The best thing about Ramadan was late afternoon hunger when you’d feel like you were floating. The worst thing was the lack of sleep, especially during the long days. In high school, my mates...

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The perils of being a minority writer

It’s a terrible conundrum. You enjoy writing and being published. But if you live in Australia or the US or any other Western country and come from a minority background, you only ever seem to get published when you write about your background. It has happened to me too many times. My first article in a “mainstream” publication was when I hacked into an imam for implying that women who dress a certain way may be “eligible for rape”.  The piece was published in the Sydney Morning Herald in April 2005. Now I‘m serving a literary life sentence of...

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Somalis are not all the same

As part of my doctoral studies, I interviewed young Muslims from Sydney. Some of my participants were from the African continent. One young Somali told me about how he was subjected to racism from Arabic-speaking Muslims in Lakemba. I thought of him when reading American Somali Abdi Nor Iftin’s 2008 memoir Call Me American. “Growing up with a huge number of Somali exiles returning from Saudi Arabia, I never understood why my mom and her parents dreamed of living in a place [Madinah] where Somalis are unwelcome. It would be many years before I realized that Somalis are pretty...

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Seeking knowledge in an outback Australian pub

It’s 10pm on a Thursday night 20 December and I find myself sitting in a pub in Broken Hill. The beer (and in my case, the Coca-Cola) is flowing freely as is the conversation. The couple next to me are accompanied by their adult son who is the same age as the bloke behind the bar. “I grew up here,” said the wife who works at the local hospital. “I love this town, but all the young people are leaving. One of my kids is studying in Melbourne. It’s just us oldies left. The town has nothing for them.”...

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