My first memory of religion was the Presbyterian Church near where I grew up. On the way to the shops we would pass by and my mum would stop to talk to Minister Chai. He would give us sherbets, redskins, and milkos. Church seemed pretty good to a 5 year old when it involved lollies and neighbourly chat.
Then my mum turned Pentecostal, there was less community and more conflict as she church hopped looking for the most spiritually-correct version. As a teenager I flirted with it for a while. It was like a short-term fling gone bad. I called it off and I couldn’t face it anymore. Since then I’ve avoided all organised religion. I’ve developed a fine-grained dogma-filter.
With conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Syria, Nigeria, and terror attacks in the West, Islam has been under the microscope.
One of my Facebook friends regularly asks why Islam, unlike other organised religions, is prone to acts of violence.
For a short time, a Muslim family lived next door. Warm, friendly, unobtrusive, they brought food over at the end of Ramadan, they were the nicest neighbours I ever had.
In the interest of all things Hobart, This Girl took a look inside Hobart’s Mosque on National Mosque Open Day recently.
What I found was the people I work with, shop with and pass in the street.
And I found neighbours, friends and onlookers wanting a look inside Hobart’s Mosque.
There’s been an Islamic presence in Australia since the Afghan camel herders in the early days of European occupation, some say even before this. In Hobart, there’s been a makeshift Mosque since the early seventies. The first purpose built Mosque, designed by local architect, Michael Cooper, was constructed in 2004.
The Muslim community has come and gone from Tasmania, often arriving for work at the hospital or in science fields and then moving on. In more recent years, the community has made Hobart their home.
Here are five things I learnt about Islam and Hobart’s Muslim community at the open day:
- Facing Mecca for prayer gives Muslims a sense of community, unity and direction, that they are acting together in worship.
- Hobart’s Muslim community is the face of diversity: they hail from Fiji, Egypt, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, many African countries and more.
- After fasting for Ramadan, a period of controlling all your senses from dawn to dusk, you go visit friends, ask them to forgive your transgressions and share food together.
- Today around 220-250 people pray each Friday at the Mosque and they are led by the Imam, a Hobart local for 47 years and ex-maths teacher. The Imam fielded questions from visitors including sticky political questions probably out of the realms of spiritual guidance.
- Tolerance, humility, generosity and justice are some of the core values of Islam.
|The Imam and members of the Lebanese Muslim community.|
This is no treatise on Islam.
There’s plenty that doesn’t make sense to me.
Like Christianity and Judaism, in Islam, all people are equal but women are still subservient. As a visitor I was welcomed into the front of the Mosque while women members sat in the partitioned section at the back.
We were taught Islam means peace but this is contentious, others believe its origins comes from the word to ‘surrender’. A very different concept and one open to interpretation personally and politically.
With its fair share of fundamentalism, the extremist byproduct is something to be worried about and not something that the Muslim community seems to actively advocate against. When asked why peaceful Muslims don’t speak up against terror, the Imam was of the view that it’s best not to draw attention to it.It made me think of army chief Lt General David Morrison on violence against women, ‘the standard you walk by is the standard you accept’. And so it is for all acts of violence.
But at Hobart’s Mosque Open Day, Hobart’s Muslim community were welcoming and open, keen to be part of the community around them and to be seen as real people.
This Girl is all for breaking down barriers and for supporting diversity.
The people I spoke to felt accepted in Hobart and loved living here.
Thanks to the Lebanese Muslim Community for organising the day.
You can find Hobart’s Mosque at 166 Warwick Street, Hobart.
For a little Hobart Mosque history have a look here.
Media on Hobart’s community:
Hobart Mosque open day an experience to open Tasmanian minds, The Mercury, 26 October 2014.
Islamic State no true Muslims is the message atHobart mosque’s Friday Prayer, The Mercury, 28 September 2014.
Here’s some information from the Lebanese Muslim Association who facilitate National Mosque Open Day.