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Some of those attending the event in June seemed to be there mainly to lend support. Colman said some Muslim clothing was a point of discomfort for her, particularly the full-body or face coverings like the burqa or the niqab, which she worries is uncomfortable and “cruel.” She compared the full covering to the heavy clothing of Orthodox Jews in Melbourne’s southeast, which she said she also found “extreme.”As the one-hour event kicked off, silver trays of powdered Turkish delight and squares of syrup-soaked basbousa appeared. A number of the conversations began with questions about Ramadan (“Do you just pig out? Then it drifted to the hijab (“Do you have beautiful, long hair under there?Others were sincere and candid about their concerns — including Maureen Colman, 64, who came to the event with her sister, Mary Dykes, 69. ”) and to whether the women had been coerced into wearing it.Last month Pauline Hanson, the leader of the right-wing One Nation Party, wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull calling for migrants and refugees on terrorist watch lists to be deported or interned. Assafiri, her staff and their female Muslim friends openly recount stories of abuse, of men trying to run them over in their cars, or of their adolescent daughters receiving death threats on the street. Assafiri believes these threats are largely directed at Muslim women rather than Muslim men, because, she said, they’re the “softer target.”Speed Date a Muslim is in many ways an effort to combat the dehumanization that lies at the core of these threats, she said.It is about highlighting the nuance of the individual, and female, Muslim experience. It was nearing the end of Ramadan, during which many of the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims — including some women here — were fasting during daylight hours.She “has no regard for how her discourse impacts the very women she’s claiming to want to empower,” Ms. “Somebody calls her a terrorist and says to her: ‘We saw which house you came out of.
By then, Hana couldn't speak a word of English, and for a year refused to speak at all at high school. All this time, the sexual abuse continued.] What happened when you turned 15? He took me out of school and when he returned me I was in a state. She realised I was behaving quite strangely, even for me. She was afraid about the humiliation and embarrassment to the families. It was 1980 and in Australia there were laws which enabled your guardian to give consent on your behalf. In a kind of speed-dating event, we bring people together — Muslims sitting across from non-Muslims — where people can ask any question they like about Islam. And to me this is an Islamic principle which takes you back to what is the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong. In many respects I was the emotional adult with her. It's important to call out abuse and not allow these things to define you.Assafiri said dryly, to knowing laughter in the room. Hirsi Ali’s planned speaking tour to Australia earlier this year. Saara Sabbagh, 45, for example, has been answering questions at Speed Date since its inception.The visit was canceled, although it’s unclear if that was because of the petition. She said she found the events “enriching,” but admitted they could be emotionally taxing.“There are times I’ve had to hold back tears, you know, when you constantly hear the stereotypes and the assumptions made about you,” Ms. Near the end of the session last month, a woman asked if negative media portrayals of Islam were genuinely felt by Muslim women in Australia. Sabbagh, wrapped in a purple head scarf, immediately spoke up, addressing the entire room.“My 10-year-old daughter gets harassed,” she said. Since revelations of sexual abuse and harassment have gone viral with the #Me Too movement, Hana Assafiri believes it's her turn to end the silence. I am the middle of five children, plus I have another sister 17 years older than me. We spoke Arabic at home because Mum didn't speak English.For the first time, she shares her personal story of abuse. She felt a sense of isolation and her entire existence was around the family and the home. My father travelled to find work and he left us in Lebanon for many years. He maintained the secrecy by saying "In our culture, if anyone found out, I would have to marry you". I want to encourage younger women to speak up — not just younger Muslim women, but across the board — to say it's unacceptable. There's nothing Islamic about condoning abuse and continuing the silence around it.