TRT World's upcoming documentary series features some of the community members in light of growing racism and anti-Muslim hatred across the country.
TRT World's first documentary within Storyteller is “The Mosque Next Door,” a three-part series that takes us up close and personal into the community of a specific mosque in Brisbane, Australia. Throughout this series, we get to meet community members and follow their separate journeys as they navigate their lives as Muslims in Australia. Here is some insight into the lives of each character.
“It is damned if you do and damned if you don’t.[…] These cultural Nazis who are wanting everyone to dress in a Billabong shorts and thongs need to understand that Australia is a diverse nation and a woman wearing a hijab is as Australian as a woman wearing a bikini.”
Kadri, 35, is from India, and he arrived in Australia 16 years ago. Sectarian violence and anti-Muslim riots in India led to the death of his brother, so his father sent him to university in Brisbane for his safety.
Since meeting and befriending Imam Uzair at Holland Park Mosque, Kadri has become a committed advocate for his community, and is now the spokesperson of the Islamic Council of Queensland. He also runs a string of successful accountancy and training businesses.
“Of course it makes you sad that the image of your religion that you believe is beautiful is being tarnished. I am in pain because of what is happening throughout the world, but I have a responsibility as a leader of this community that I need to stand up.”
Uzair is the 45-year-old Imam of Holland Park Mosque in Brisbane, and its spiritual “Father”. He was born in England before going to Islamic School in Pakistan as a 10-year-old. After graduating 20 years ago, he moved to Australia to become the country’s youngest imam at just 25 and now all these years later, he regards the mosque community as his family. As the imam, he conducts the five daily prayers, gives the Friday sermon, oversees weekly classes, performs all the weddings, and is the agony uncle for the various personal, social and familial issues of the community.
"I've seen first-hand how hard it is for society to allow you to change. […] There's so many obstacles and hoops that you have to jump through. […] I’m very blessed I’ve got a job with our community, but if our community wasn’t open to me where would I work? …You know, look how I look, I’ve got crime written all over me.”
Ex-bikie Maestracci spent years involved with crime and served time behind bars before he found Islam five years ago. Now a devout Muslim, he’s even given up his addiction to tattoos, which are forbidden in the religion.
He is now a youth worker for the Islamic Council’s initiative, Brighter Future Collective. In this role, he helps guide and support troubled teenage refugees from the mosque.
“That’s the sad part, I grew up in a refugee camp and there was no madrassa. My daughters they are better than me and I wish them a very bright future.”
Asha grew up in refugee camps across Africa after her family fled the civil war in Sudan when she was very young. Now a single mum with five children, and with no other family in Australia to help her, Asha depends on the mosque community and her religion to help her and her children navigate the tricky adjustment to a new life in Australia. Her two daughters, Khadija and Batool, both attend the Mosque’s Islamic school every afternoon after school, but her son has been struggling.
“We want to show that we as any other Australian, we are proud of being Australian.”
Fiery, fun and forthright, Galila founded and runs the Islamic Women’s Association and is a lifelong advocate for women’s rights, both inside and beyond the mosque. Married with grown children, she is well respected in the community for her tireless community work and outspoken opinions.
Aunty Galila, as she is known, is currently campaigning for better facilities for the women who pray at Holland Park Mosque. She also delights in spending her spare time matchmaking, and recently introduced Ali Kadri to his fiancee Sara.
"You know. I don’t wear hijab, I have a tattoo. Surprise! I’m Muslim… Growing up Muslim and Australian shouldn’t be hard, but it is. There’s this … split that's pushed onto you that you have to choose one or the other."
Twenty-eight-year-old Lamisse is the eldest of six children from a cross-cultural family. Her mother converted to Islam after meeting her Egyptian-born husband 30 years ago. Having abandoned Islam in her late teens, Lamisse is recently divorced and trying to reconcile herself to her faith and identity. It’s a journey fraught with contradictions as she struggles to find a place for herself in the mosque and community. It’s something Lamisse is determined to speak out about – however controversial that may be.