Friday, 14 February 2014

Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia - Book Launch

We had a wonderful night on Thursday 13 February for the launch for Coming of Age, a book about Growing up Muslim in Australia.

Three of the book's twelve contributors appeared on the night - psychiatrist Dr Tanveer Ahmed, former Miss World Australia, Miss World Asia Pacific and charity ambassador Sabrina Houssami and novelist Randa Abdel-Fattah.

There were many candid, funny and touching stories of young people growing up juggling two cultures, as they aimed to fit in to the Australian culture of schools and their non-Muslim friends, whilst still participating in the customs and cultural norms of family and Muslim communities. Each speaker related how the journey had been very individual, with their resulting level of observance to Muslim doctrine being ultimately a very personal decision, and so the panelists ranged from devout to agnostic. It is this broader understanding of the spectrum of belief that exists among Muslims that needs to be conveyed to the Australian non-Muslim community.

“Aiming to demystify Islam and challenge ‘Islamaphobia’, the contributors succeed brilliantly at highlighting the diversity of Muslim culture and identity.” says Meredith Lewin in her review of Coming of Age: Growing Up Muslim in Australia, for Books+Publishing Magazine.

This is the nub of this book, and it is also summed up nicely by the heading of Sabrina Houssami’s contribution titled ‘Mishmash Muslim’. Admitting that her own beliefs and practice of her religion are less than strict or orthodox, she makes the striking observation that in the media we only hear about one kind of Muslim – the fundamentalist. Yet when considering other faiths, especially Christianity, we readily accept that followers come in various shades and hues across a spectrum ranging from lapsed to fanatical. The power of this book will be in teaching young minds that faith, of any kind, isn’t black or white.

Special thanks to Andrew Morello for his excellent MC contribution and to photographer Riz Rehman from Rizzography.

A special note of thanks also goes to Warringah Councillor Vincent De Luca OAM and to ABC Radio's Dr Rachael Kohn for attending the evening, and also to the book's publisher Allen & Unwin for working with us on the evening.

About the evening's Speakers

Dr Tanveer Ahmed is a Bangladeshi–Australian doctor (Psychiatry) and City of Canada Bay councillor who also sits on several Boards including The Australian Multicultural Council and the National Committee of the Australian Republican movement. His migration memoir is The Exotic Rissole.

Sabrina Houssami, Australian-born of Indian and Lebanese parents, is a former Miss World Australia and Miss World Asia Pacific, and was a runner-up in the Miss World 2006 competition. A member of Mensa, Sabrina is very active as a charity ambassador, having helped to raise over $5 million for charities across the world.

Randa Abdel-Fattah is an Australian-Muslim writer of Palestinian and Egyptian parentage. Her debut novel, Does My Head Look Big in This?, was published in 2005 and was the winner of Australian Book of the year for Older Children at the Australian Book Industry Awards 2006. Her most recent novel is No Sex in the City.

Andrew Morello was our moderator for the evening, a man with more than a little of the gift of the gab who, following his start as an auctioneer and real estate agent, became the winner of the first season of The Apprentice television competition show in 2009. As a result he joined Mark Bouris' Yellow Brick Road operation where he is Head of Business Development.

(note: the photos of the audience below are our own snaps)

Andrew Morello at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Book launch at Abbey's Bookshop 131 York Street, Sydney

Buy these books at Abbey's (131 York Street Sydney) ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers

Abbey's ~ An Aladdin's cave for readers