A Call for Confidence

Ferdous Bahar reports on the most recent initiative from New South Wales’ Muslim student organisations

Students across New South Wales gathered in Campsie on Sunday for the conclusion of a campaign to help Australian Muslims effectively push back against Islamophobia.

The ‘Confident Muslim Campaign’ was launched last August by eight Muslim student associations in New South Wales, including Sydney University Muslim Students’ Association (SUMSA).

Current SUMSA President Nasreen Dean, one of the campaign managers, described the purpose of the campaign to Honi. “Given the current Islamophobic climate in Australia and the wider world,” she said, “being visibly Muslim has never been more difficult. Our campaign’s idea is to empower and make Muslim students proud of our way of life.”

Dean described the campaign as being “for Muslims, by Muslims” and said it sought to address the attitude of “diffidence” often adopted by Muslims when faced with Islamophobic experiences.

“We are tired of being portrayed as the exotic and barbaric other. We are tired of being spoken about and not given the platform to speak for ourselves and to empower ourselves.”

The conference on Sunday was the biggest event of the three-month campaign. Six speakers discussed issues such as the Muslim inferiority complex and the impact of anti-terror legislation and media rhetoric on the Australian Muslim experience.

The conference included speeches from clinical and forensic psychologist Hanan Dover, former Guantanamo inmate Moazzem Begg and Wassim Doureihi, a spokesperson for controversial group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which former Prime Minister Tony Abbott branded “an organization that justifies terrorism” in 2014.

Spoken-word poetry and a theatrical re-enactment of a terror raid were performed on stage in between speakers.

When asked about the inclusion of the final two speakers, master of ceremonies Sufyan Badar said that the very climate of ‘controversy’ necessitated hosting such a campaign.

“This campaign is an internal conversation, he said. “In terms of who we would choose, we look to Islam. We don’t refer to the popular ideas out in society; we certainly don’t refer to the media which is infamous for holding various Muslim activists hostage and giving them a trial-by-media.”

Whilst the campaign has ended, organisers are hopeful that it will be picked up again next year and similar campaigns will be initiated by Muslim student associations around Australia.