When are you at your happiest?
I think I’m always happy, so to speak. I’m just generally a happy person. I enjoy having my family around me, and that’s good, and I love when my family come to visit. So I suppose that’s probably… I don’t know happiness is a funny term. Certainly it comforts me and I enjoy it. Because I’m always happy I don’t find that I’m extra happy when that happens. I know that I have some sad moments, sometimes when the broncos lose or something like that.
Happiness is an amalgamation of things, everything’s going right in the world, and you’re contented with your home, and you’re grateful with what you have, and your family is around you. And I think that all combines to be some sort of happiness.
What are you passionate about?
The rights of women. Because a lot of women don’t know what their rights are. A lot of women have fought for their rights and still haven’t got them. And a lot of younger women are coming through thinking what have the older women done, and whats feminism done for them? And a lot of people thinking that Muslim women need to be rescued. And yet Islam has given women rights that western women are still fighting for.
So yeah the rights of women. And that’s always intrigued me, it’s amazing how people look at third world countries and countries where ‘brown people’ are and think they are all backwards and oppressed and women need to be rescued. And when you look at ‘white western feminism’, places like America and European countries are still looking for their first female leader.
Whereas third world countries and developing countries and countries with lots of ‘brown people’ have already had women leaders for a long long time. I just wonder then where the oppression is and how that works, and whether it’s a little more systemic in white western countries that women can’t get elected and women can’t be representatives, and yet other communities seem to have women leaders constantly. So yeah it’s the rights of women, and I think there is a new generation of women that are maybe misunderstanding what feminism is about, which is unfortunate.
In the domestic violence field where I am involved, it is pretty distressing to see that in this country, in this day and age, that women are still being oppressed, and abused, and violence is against them constantly. Just because of power, control, ego, and pettiness in some cases. ‘I’m just not going to give you any money. I’m just not going to allow you out, and I’m not just allow you to socialise with those people or mix with those people’. So it’s not even about violence as such, it’s about that control and I am going to control your life and keep you in servitude. So it’s that kind of thing and that’s unfortunate. For those that live in those third world countries you can understand to a certain extent because there is some education issues that people need to be educated for, but in this day and age and in this country we shouldn’t have to educate people to stop hitting women. It should be a given. But unfortunately we have to do it constantly, every day. And unfortunately almost every day a woman loses her life due to domestic violence and that is a tragedy.
What’s a significant achievement of yours?
I don’t look at the mountains that I have to climb, I just climb them. Sometimes I look back and think gee what have I done in the last 10 years or 20 years. I think I did that, I did that, well that’s pretty interesting. But I don’t look it as achievements and say I must achieve that.
The fact that I suppose that I don’t actually have to go to work to live is an achievement, maybe, I don’t know. I’m grateful to the good lord above that he’s given me that opportunity, that I don’t have to actually go and get a 9-5 job to pay the mortgage and put food on my table, thank god. But that’s because I have worked the last 30 years or so to get to that stage. So I’m very grateful for that and I’m very lucky for that. Which has allowed me now to do other things that I need to do and that I want to do, I suppose. And I suppose that is my greatest achievement, that I have my own ability to pick and choose where I work, and what I work at, and what I do, and what I want to get involved in.
What do you hope to achieve in 2016?
I need to finish my degree! That’s an achievement. That has been going on for so long. I always say that you never stop learning, and that’s all terrific, but my goodness just get your act into gear and finish this bloody thing! I’ve got 3 subjects to go so this is my year Insha’Allah [God willing], this will be my year. I have already planned out what my next step in education is going to be, and I’ve already planned out a masters degree and a PHD, but I haven’t finished my bachelors degree.
Who is your role model?
My mum. And everyone says their mum. She was, and sometimes my mum even gets a bit worried or ‘why do you do those things’ or ‘just keep a low profile’, and does things because she is protective of me and says those things to me.
But then I look back and say “that is not how you brought me up, you brought up a strong independent woman.” Because that’s what she was.
In effect I suppose I am the product of a single mother, my dad died when I was very young. My mother was 28 years old, a widow, with seven children, and had no relatives in this country. So that’s my role model, all my life that’s who I’ve seen, this woman struggle, be successful, be re-trained, and have to go back to work and do all those things that are probably unexpected, well it was very unexpected with the death of her husband, but certainly she wouldn’t have seen herself in those situations when my dad had died. But over time that’s what she has had to do, and she’s had a very successful career, doing what she was doing, and enjoyed a very wide circle of friends, but has also given her children an ability to enjoy the best of both worlds. Enjoy and relish and live and contribute to the Australian society because we’re all born here. But also to understand our Pakistani heritage, and certainly our religion. And I think that’s been her greatest success at least. For her to allow us as a family to have feet in both camps. And I’m forever grateful for that.
She understood you’re living in a new country and you’ve got to experience new things. So we went and did the same things that everybody else in our little country town did. So we weren’t restricted. We had a strict upbringing, there’s no doubt about that, but it was a strict upbringing not by virtue of the fact that you’re not allowed to do this, you’re not allowed to do that, we had guidelines, and we knew how far our religion allowed us to go, and we never crossed the boundary. And we just knew that so we weren’t rebellious in any regard and she kept a pretty tight control over that. But as far as allowing us to experience other things, if it didn’t go against religion, well we could basically do what we wanted, and we participated in sports and participated in our school graduation, school dances, plays, drama, art and all those sorts of wonderful things that every child should have access to. And we did all those. So we just participated as normal people in our community and it was wonderful.
But she also instilled in us a love for our culture, and she’s a Pakistani heritage, and she’s been in this country for 55 years or so, and still wears traditional clothes to this day. Only Pakistani family in our little country town, and she never had any discrimination against her, and we never experienced discrimination all our lives. But she never changed, she never came and said now that I’m living here I must wear blue jeans and a shirt or whatever. Just wore traditional clothes, still wears traditional clothes to this day. And got a job, worked, did all those things, bought up 7 kids, and is now grandmother of 12 or 13 and yeah, she’s my role model.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I’m a qualified cricket umpire, so people would be surprised by that. But whether qualified now means qualified as I think it means… When I became a cricket umpire I was qualified, but I haven’t kept it up since then. But yes I was one of the very few female cricket umpires in Queensland, I operated in the northern league in far north Queensland, but I never took it any further than that.
While I was there I did all the grade A games in Cairns and surrounding areas. I don’t know that I was the best umpire, it was something I did, it was something that I had a passion for, that I had a love for, I still love the game to this day. But yes I am a qualified cricket umpire. Whether I could go out and do it now, well of course the rules have changed, everything has changed about cricket now! So I don’t know that I’d probably be able to be considered a qualified anything in cricket today, but I wouldn’t mind giving commentary a good go. I would have to brush up on my skills!
What’s something that has changed your life?
Certainly when my dad died that changed my life. My life is what it is. I’m not one of those types of people that say ‘if this happen then I will be happy, if this happens I will be rich, if this happens I will be famous’. I’m not into that sort of thing. I think today, where I am, is the product of my life. And I would never be anywhere else but here in this point of time now. So I don’t look back and say ‘If I had made that decision, like the sliding doors thing, my life would have gone on that trajectory’. I don’t believe that for a moment. My life is now, where it is. And I’m comfortable with that, and I’m happy with that, and no regrets, no wallowing, no self pity, just accept I am what I am and be grateful for what I have and thank the lord that I am a million times better off than a whole heap of other people in the world.
What’s your best advice to give to other people?
My best advice is to stand against injustice. And it’s not a new phenomenon. It says in the Quran to stand against injustice. Just stand against injustice. I don’t care who is being oppressed or who is doing the oppressing, you have to stand against injustice, wherever you see it, by whoever is doing it. It’s not a matter of saying we have to stand against this government or those people or whatever, and keep silent about your own. No, it doesn’t work for me. If your own are doing the wrong thing you have to stand against that as well, and if other people are being victimised you have stand against that, you can’t just stand against your own people being victimised. Justice means justice for all.
Justice and injustices are occurring all across the world, and we’ve got to be beacons of justice for everybody. And because we have that responsibility as people that have a democratic country that has freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech, we should utilise that.
I think god has given us a responsibility to stand for those that don’t have a voice. And I think if you have a voice you should use it. And if it means you are going to cop some criticism, so be it. As long as you’re standing for right and what is right, and doing right, you should never be ashamed or embarrassed by that.
What role do your beliefs play in your life?
My beliefs are who I am, it’s what I am and what I do. It governs everything basically. I don’t believe my religion is a once a day thing or once a week thing. It’s not a ‘lets all go on Sunday and absolve all our sins and then come home’ and go back to being whatever during the rest of the week.
I think that’s where people get confused, that Islam is a way of life. And it’s not just about being covered and having prayers and fasting and that. And yet they’re the fundamentals of the religion. But the way of life comes into the fact that you have to be careful about what you say, are you hurting someone, or are you cheating someone, or are you lying about something, and in your business transactions, and in your day to day transactions, and are you looking after your neighbours, looking after your parents, being kind to children, and are you looking after orphans, and are you giving charity.
So it’s every day, everyday things you’re doing. Are you cheating someone if I take that, have I been honest with my dealings with people, and have I been honest in my transactions, and have I got halal money, have I worked for my money or have I cheated someone out of some money, or have I misrepresented a contract.
They’re things that every day my religion teaches me. In every facet of my life, in everything that I do. That my religion says to be honest, trustworthy, honorable and all those sorts of things. And they’re the things that my religion teaches me and they’re the things that I live on a day to day basis.
So it’s difficult to say ‘well what does your religion teach you’ because it’s taught me how to live I suppose. Because I encompass the teachings of my religion in my every day dealings. And sometimes you lose track of that because you get narky and you get bitchy about things, and you say things, and you gossip, and you do those sorts of things, and that just goes to show that we’re all human after all and we have foibles and shortcomings.
We ask for forgiveness and we try to be better next time, and we try to constantly improve ourselves. And that’s what Jihad is, it’s about that self-improvement constantly, it’s about being more disciplined, it’s about being more aware, self-improvement, rather than trying to change the world it’s about changing yourself, and what your reaction is and what your response is to what is happening around you.
I think the fact that we don’t have a clergy or hierarchy in Islam is one of the greatest factors we have. Because it highlights the fact that you have a one on one relationship with god. And it’s not about the dress or the actions you go through every day. It’s about the spiritual connection you have, and how do you do that. When I have a glass of water I say gods name, when I yawn I say god’s name, when I wake up in the morning I say god’s name. It’s about being god conscious and that’s the important part about Islam, and people forget that.
And people just say ‘if I go to the mosque 5 times a day, and I have a beard, and cover my head, then I’m a good Muslim’. Well no I’m sorry but Islam is a bit more important than that and a bit more spiritual than that. And I think unfortunately some Muslims have lost the way, and lost the connection with the spirituality of Islam, rather than the actions and the deeds of Islam.