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January 17, 2022

Muslim and non-Muslim talk packs Lismore hall

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The panel in action: facilitator Elly Bird, Dr Zuleyha Keskin, Jenny Dowell, Rashida Joseph, Kate Lavender. Photo supplied.
The panel in action: facilitator Elly Bird, Dr Zuleyha Keskin, Jenny Dowell, Rashida Joseph, Kate Lavender. Photo supplied.

A Lismore Women’s Festival event held last Thursday, focusing on Muslim and non-Muslim women coming together, packed out the venue where it was held.

‘So many people came,’ said Sabina Baltruweit, Remembering and Healing (RaH) coordinator. ‘They just kept arriving and people ended up sitting on the floor at the front and it was standing room only at the back.’

Dr Zuleyha Keskin contributing to the 'Weaving of Our Lives and Cultures Together'. Photo supplied.
Dr Zuleyha Keskin contributing to the ‘Weaving of Our Lives and Cultures Together’. Photo supplied.

The panel discussed both the similarities and differences between Muslim and non-Muslim women.

‘People were interested in the dress code and the hijab for women,’ said Baltruweit.

‘Panellists talked about how women are oppressed in different ways and women’s bodies are objectified differently in different cultures. They also spoke about how this is part of Muslim culture but not one of the five pillars of Islam and that how people dress has taken different forms in different culture and countries.’

The panel discussion was between two Muslim women, Dr Zuleyha Keskin from the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University and local mediator Rashida Joseph and Lismore ex-Mayor Jenny Dowell and long-time feminist community activist Kate Lavender. This was followed by round table discussions giving people a chance for more intimate interactions.

‘One person said the afternoon of discussion had really helped her understand more about Islam,’ continued Baltruweit. ‘She said she feels more able to talk within her family about Islam where there are more reservations.’

The success of the event has inspired organisers to begin thinking about how else they can bridge the gaps in understanding between cultures. ‘We want to build on the experience and work out how to reach other parts of the population.’

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  1. Can’t sweeten the pill with fond words. The reality is, as we’re seeing all over the world, that Islam has become a brutal militant political ideology regardless of whatever ‘good’ some may see in it.
    Women in Muslim societies like Egypt and the recently liberated parts of Iraq are shucking off their veils and niqabs and decrying the low legal status women have in most Muslim countries.
    They have a long way to go to settle their own problems but we in the West do not want to import any of the evils of their religion, not that we haven’t spawned plenty of our own within the Catholic church. But why would we choose to bring further cultural conflict into Australia under the guise of compassionate immigration?

    • Jon Having over four decades traveled, lived and worked in a Muslim countries, having studied Islamic social history and social anthropology in the largest Muslim country, having many colleagues, family and friends who are Muslims – and some of those Muslim feminists – I find your characterization of Islam as it is lived and practiced in those countries to be quite inaccurate. Your commentary with its references to terms like “niqabs” can best be summarized by the proverb – a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. We do not choose to bring cultural conflict in Australia; it is people peddling inaccurate nonsense like this about supposed evils of Islam who are generating the conflict.

      • Thank you, Petrus, for your remarks about how a lack of awareness and education leads to misunderstanding and that proverb you mentioned really nails the point that you are trying to make. As a Muslim youth from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, it troubles me to hear that people make claims about Islam without adequately knowing the context of what they are saying. I quite agree that the ‘inaccurate nonsense’ is what leads to this conflict that we are currently facing. The garments worn by these Muslim women are an act of modesty. The point worth remembering is that Islam is an Arabic word where its root word is salaam which means peace. So essentially, if the very name of Islam means peace, then it would make all the sense in the world to say that every single one of Islam’s teachings is motivated by the ultimate goal of peace in society. This peace is applicable to any society and every society. It does not matter where this society is or what era in history it is based, all of Islam’s teachings have the motive of achieving peace in society.


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