In­ci­dent in­spires show of com­pas­sion

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Jes­sica War­riner

WHEN big­otry con­fronted Aus­tralian Is­lamic Col­lege stu­dents in Perth, the com­mu­nity ral­lied to turn the in­ci­dent around.

In­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian Rabia Sid­dique was shocked when she heard about the ex­pe­ri­ence of Kewdale stu­dents at a ca­reers expo in the city.

“The news ar­ti­cle I read via so­cial me­dia told of a very sad sit­u­a­tion where some stu­dents from the col­lege were asked to move on when they were sit­ting and eat­ing their lunch,” Ms Sid­dique said.

“It was re­ported that they were asked to move on be­cause they made some other peo­ple that were at­tend­ing the expo and were work­ing at the expo un­com­fort­able... This hap­pened not long af­ter the Manch­ester at­tacks in the UK.

“I im­me­di­ately put my­self in the place of those stu­dents and thought about how hu­mil­i­ated they must have felt.

“I went online and had a look at all the re­ac­tions. What was en­cour­ag­ing was this over­whelm­ing re­sponse of dis­ap­point­ment and peo­ple say­ing ‘that’s not our Aus­tralia’ and feel­ing sorry for the chil­dren.”

The Ca­reers, The Fu­ture, and Other Life Choices expo was born af­ter Ms Sid­dique reached out to the col­lege, with the South Perth lo­cal putting out a re­quest on so­cial me­dia for vol­un­teer speak­ers to de­liver their wis­dom in TED-style pre­sen­ta­tions.

She said she was over­whelmed with the re­sponse, gath­er­ing speak­ers from a va­ri­ety of in­dus­tries and back­grounds.

“What started as a seed, as an idea about turn­ing some­thing neg­a­tive into a pos­i­tive and do­ing some­thing for the kids that would help them feel not only a sense of be­long­ing but that they had the world at their feet and had op­tions and choices, turned into some­thing much more,” Ms Sid­dique said.

Tooba Nabeel (16) said the day showed her it was OK to take time to fig­ure things out.

“It helped me re­alise that our sub­jects, all our de­ci­sions right now, our fu­ture life isn’t go­ing to be de­pen­dent on them. We can al­ways change, we can al­ways go for what we want to do,” she said.

Be­naldy Merdi (16) said the speak­ers were in­for­ma­tive and funny, and ex­panded his view of pos­si­ble oc­cu­pa­tions.

“Be­fore the expo, I only had one ca­reer path in my mind, engi­neer­ing or some­thing. But af­ter the ca­reer expo it opened my mind to a few more op­tions. Maybe an­other field of sci­ence, like chem­istry or medicine,” he said.

The im­pact of the event was clear to col­lege deputy prin­ci­pal Rana al-Bagh­dadi.

“To see that oth­ers made time for the stu­dents shows them that they too are im­por­tant, and what they per­haps read in terms of neg­a­tive com­ments is not ex­actly ev­ery­one’s opin­ion,” Ms al-Bagh­dadi said.

“You can see how speak­ing out brings pos­i­tiv­ity back and how much sup­port you can get. They saw that. They felt that. That will hope­fully teach them that that hap­pened to us and so much pos­i­tiv­ity came from it, and I hope they do that as well.”

Ms Sid­dique said stu­dents who had been at the Perth ca­reers expo came up to her af­ter­wards and said they would not have changed a thing.

“That made me quite emo­tional. Be­cause they said if that hadn’t hap­pened, we would not have had to­day and not met every­body who showed us so much love,” she said.

Pic­ture: Matt Jelonek

Aus­tralian Is­lamic Col­lege stu­dents Be­naldy Merdi, Ziyanevite Agh­ni­afasyanada, Raisa An­war and Hala Salih with Rabia Sid­dique. d472497

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