Geelong Advertiser - TV Guide

Leap of faith


Ali Kadri, CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane, tells Lauren Mitchell about The Swap, a daring new social experiment that aims to break down barriers between Australia’s cultural groups

SOMETHING of a trailblaze­r in Brisbane’s Islamic community, Ali Kadri is passionate about social cohesion and building bridges between cultures.

The CEO of the Islamic College of Brisbane (ICB), Queensland’s first and largest independen­t, co-educationa­l school for Muslim students, Kadri is putting his job on the line with a daring televised experiment that aims to tackle Islamophob­ia by giving six Muslim students, four Catholic students and two atheist students the chance to experience each others’ lives.

It’s no surprise that the idea wasn’t popular with the ICB community at first.

“Yes, there was a fair bit of resistance,” Kadri confesses.

“People thought that this wouldn’t be a good idea, it would just be tokenistic. We’re a 27-year-old Islamic school and 99.99 per cent of our students are Muslims. We have never stepped out of these four walls. So it was quite uncomforta­ble for them. And the students who came from another school have never met a Muslim before. For them to come and be immersed in our Islamic school was quite a challenge. So there’s a lot of anxieties and fears. It wasn’t easy at all.”

The year 9 and 10 students involved in The Swap spent six weeks learning together at ICB, before taking their designated buddies back to their own schools – Catholic boys’ school Padua College, Catholic girls’ college Mount Alvernia and the co-ed Ferny Hill State School. While there were no shortage of culture shocks for the students involved, they found a surprising amount of common ground and mutual respect.

“I find it fascinatin­g that young people, young students, young kids in particular, they’re very good at talking about difference­s, and yet remaining friendly with each other,” Kadri says.

“So it was quite pleasantly surprising that the students, despite their very different worldviews, were able to handle those discussion­s, which some of the time were quite complex, you know, hot-button topics. And they were able to have those discussion­s and remain friends.”

Kadri believes the 14- and 15-year-old students involved in The Swap are the perfect age for an experience like this.

“By the time we grow older, we are so ingrained in our own biases that it’s hard to get over them sometimes,” he explains.

“I believe that at this stage, at a young age, it’s much easier to overcome biases and build respect, despite difference­s.”

There’s a considerab­le amount resting on the success of The Swap, with Kadri keen to continue the program, and perhaps even expand its scope, in the years to come.

“I think it will – if we can expand it successful­ly across the country – help us build tolerance, understand­ing and respect to take our beautiful, multicultu­ral nation forward in the future.”

Q The Swap, Wednesday, 8.30pm, SBS and SBS On Demand

 ?? ?? Changing minds: Ali Kadri.
Changing minds: Ali Kadri.

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