9/11 in­tro­spec­tive wins top award

What was your ex­pe­ri­ence grow­ing up as an Aus­tralian Mus­lim pre-Septem­ber 11? How does that con­trast with your brother?

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS -

AN in­tro­spec­tive ex­am­i­na­tion of life for Aus­tralian Mus­lims grow­ing up pre- and post-Septem­ber 11 earned Bic­ton-based artist Ab­dul­Rah­man Ab­dul­lah and his brother Ab­dul the in­au­gu­ral arts and cul­ture award at the WA Mul­ti­cul­tural Recog­ni­tion Awards week.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, part of WA Fo­cus at the Art Gallery of WA, high­lighted the ex­pe­ri­ence of young Mus­lims grow­ing up in Perth and the shift in per­spec­tive that oc­curred in Aus­tralian Mus­lim iden­ti­ties af­ter the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tack.

The pro­ject con­sisted of a se­ries of sculp­tures, prints, pho­to­graphs, draw­ings and paint­ings that ex­plored the politi­cis­ing of iden­tity.

Ab­dul-Rah­man, who is 22 years older than his younger brother, spoke with Com­mu­nity News­pa­per Group about their con­trast­ing child­hoods, the last­ing ef­fects of Septem­ber 11 and the im­por­tance of mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.

last through old­est sons to a con­vict who ar­rived in Syd­ney on board a trans­port ship named The In­de­fati­ga­ble in 1815. Our con­vict an­ces­tor’s name was Charles Blin­man; he was a shoe­maker from Lon­don who was trans­ported to the pe­nal colony af­ter be­ing con­victed of steal­ing two stamps and a watch-chain.

When the ex­hi­bi­tion opened last year at the Art Gallery of WA it was our fam­ily’s 200-year an­niver­sary of ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia.

So much of my child­hood re­volved around spend­ing time with other Mus­lim fam­i­lies. It was a small, mostly mi­grant com­mu­nity with peo­ple from all over the world build­ing a sense of home here in Aus­tralia. Back in the 1980s we were largely in­vis­i­ble in a broader so­cial sense. For me, be­ing a Mus­lim was in­sep­a­ra­ble from the idea of close fam­ily, amaz­ing food and a very do­mes­tic sense of spirituality. Our sense of iden­tity came from each other and there was a lot of mu­tual re­spect and un­der­stand­ing among young fam­i­lies who iden­ti­fied with a par­tic­u­lar set of cul­tural val­ues.

While there are many other fac­tors in­volved, Septem­ber 11 was def­i­nitely a cat­a­lyst through which the idea of be­ing a Mus­lim be­came ex­tremely politi­cised. All of a sud­den the cul­tural iden­tity of 1.8 bil­lion peo­ple be­came a cause of sus­pi­cion and hos­til­ity – we hadn’t changed but the world around us had.

Liv­ing in Aus­tralia it’s very dif­fi­cult to avoid the con­sis­tently neg­a­tive as­so­ci­a­tions that have been im­posed on Mus­lims by the me­dia, as well as very vo­cal an­tiMus­lim el­e­ments in the political land­scape. When I was a kid I felt that I could grow my own Mus­lim iden­tity but since Septem­ber 11 Mus­lim kids are be­ing told who they are by a di­vi­sive me­dia and the very main­stream neg­a­tive opin­ions around them from the be­gin­ning.

Par­tic­u­larly for young Mus­lims in their for­ma­tive years, it can be very tax­ing to con­stantly qual­ify your­self as a de­cent hu­man be­ing in the face of wide­spread neg­a­tive as­sump­tions.

I re­mem­ber watch­ing the events un­fold on tele­vi­sion and be­com­ing very aware in the fol­low­ing days that my name and my iden­tity would now be treated with sus­pi­cion. The hard­est thing to deal with was the way that my mother has been treated in the af­ter­math of Septem­ber 11.

As an Asian woman liv­ing in Aus­tralia since 1971 she has dealt with decades of open racism. But since 2001, as a woman who wears a head­scarf, she has been spat on, abused, had her scarf torn off and been ha­rassed by com­plete strangers. It seems that young men be­come very brave when faced with a lit­tle brown lady mind­ing her own busi­ness.

Th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences are very com­mon, es­pe­cially for Mus­lim women, and it creates a lot of re­sent­ment within the com­mu­nity.

More re­cent events around the global refugee crises have been ex­ploited by fear-based pol­i­tics and the Aus­tralian govern­ment has a com­pletely in­hu­mane record in its treat­ment of refugees. I don’t see the cur­rent state of affairs as be­ing a par­tic­u­larly Mus­lim is­sue, it’s a hu­man rights is­sue, and a ques­tion of moral obli­ga­tion to the fair treat­ment of any hu­man be­ing try­ing to deal with hor­rific cir­cum­stances that we can barely be­gin to un­der­stand from the com­fort of Aus­tralia.

We are the ones that look back from the abyss (2014) by Ab­dul­Rah­man Ab­dul­lah.

Ab­dul-Rah­man Ab­dul­lah .

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