Imran, Not For Profit Consultant
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m with my family. I have two kids, now aged 17 and 16. My wife and kids were all born in Singapore, and we moved to Brisbane two years ago. So we’re a pretty close nit family, and they definitely create the most joy in my life.
What’s something that you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about things that are not so fashionable to talk about in social circles. I’m passionate about religion and politics and the intersection of those two. I notice most of my Brisbane friends want to avoid those questions.
It’s really quite funny coming back to Brisbane having been away for 30 years because I wasn’t a Muslim 30 years ago. A lot has changed in Brisbane and a lot has changed for me in that time.
What is a significant achievement of yours?
The thing that I’m most proud of is my two children. And it’s my wife that deserves much more credit than me. She was a kindergarten teacher by training and she’s done a fantastic job of bringing up our kids.
Some friends of mine in the same situation as us, one partner Australian, one partner Asian refers to their kids as hybrids.
Recently we went to a wedding where both the bride and groom were hybrids. So we’ve always been keen to stress to our kids that they have the benefit of both worlds. But sometimes they have identity issues because they are not entirely one culture. But they have settled into life in Brisbane really quickly and very well.
What do you hope to achieve in 2016?
This year… I’m trying to get my own business up and running, in conjunction with my sister. I’d like to be able to get that up and properly established, running better and becoming a reliable source of income instead of doing things part time as I am doing at the moment.
My sister and I are setting up a consulting business. She’s just recently quit her job working for an NGO in the child care sector and is doing some consulting work in that sector. I’ve been doing a lot of voluntary work for the past 10-15 years in the not for profit space. So I’d like to do some consulting work for those kinds of organisations.
What has been a memorable experience from your time helping refugees and asylum seekers?
It has been wonderful to meet so many different people from all over the world that have come to live in Brisbane and to be able to do something practical and helpful for them to settle into their new lives here. It has been much more satisfying than just complaining about government policy.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
In Brisbane most people would be surprised to find that I am a Muslim because they don’t think I look like a Muslim. Their image of Muslims is that they come from another country, rather than coming from Brisbane, so that’s something that surprises people that don’t know me.
But then again my wife wears the Hijab so if they see us together they are not surprised.
What is something that has changed your life?
The biggest thing was in 1997 when I decided to embrace Islam and got married in the same year, about 6 months after I converted. Everybody talks about the big change when they get married and have children.
I had no idea when I decided to embrace Islam that it would completely change the way I looked at the world and the business that I used to do, I used to be in the banking industry at that time. I’ve completely changed my view on lots of things, in relation to the banking industry, and the business world, and politics. It’s been a very big change and I had no idea at the time how big a change it would be.
How did you meet your wife?
We met on a ferry from the Indonesian Island of Batam on the way back to Singapore. She and her friend had to sit next to me as it was the only remaining spare seat. She had a lovely shy smile which I had never seen before and it matched her personality.
What’s your best advice for others?
I think that generally it would be a much better world if we all knew a lot more about what is going on around us. Fortunately these days with the internet there are alternative sources of information compared to the mainstream media, because the stuff that comes out of the mainstream media in relation to politics and religion is so incredibly biased. So my advice would be for everyone to read more and seek out new and interesting sources of information that are now commonly and easily available on the internet.
What role do your beliefs play in your life?
Very strong, that’s the thing that has surprised me most. Before I converted I was a non-practicing Christian and religion had not played a big part of my life, apart from my early days when I was sent off to Sunday school. It was surprising to me that I have embraced Islam in the way that I have. Because it encompasses so many different facets and it’s a way of life rather than just purely a faith. It has completely changed the way I interact with other people and the life that I lead. It does have a very big part. I am much more aware of the less fortunate and the issue of social justice these days. Hopefully, I am not as self centered as I was.
What drew you to Islam initially?
I started attending classes just to learn the basics of Malay Muslim culture but then was attracted to the wisdom (or the Hikma as we say in Arabic) of the complete package or way of life.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I’d like Australians to reconsider their attitude to refugees and asylum seekers. I’ve been involved the last few years as a volunteer with refugees and asylum seekers. I just think the way that Australia treats these people that are fleeing war and conflict is abysmal. I understand why people feel that way and why there is this fear of an invasion coming from the north. I just think so much of what we have done and the way we treat refugees and asylum seekers contradicts with our basic Australian values. We need to reconsider our attitude to those people and those less fortunate than us as well.
In our history we’ve done some amazing things for Vietnamese refugees and others when they came to Australia so many years ago in the Malcolm Fraser days. I can’t for the life of me understand why we can’t do the same thing again as we did then. And help them integrate into Australian society as the Vietnamese have done so successfully.