I am sitting in the passenger seat of my mothers car as we drive around the streets of Darwin, northern territory discussing random topics in a typical mother daughter relationship. Its early and there are plenty of people enjoying the cooler morning air as they jog along the sidewalks. We pass one man he is wearing only running shorts which is typical to see in the tropical climate, his body is well sculptured I admit my eyes linger a little longer on him.
“He needs to put on a shirt” my mother’s face shows signs of disapproval. I smile and nod although I don’t agree with her comments I understand her opinions. My mother is not traditional or reserved we have always had an open relationship where we can discuss anything drugs, sex, religion. She was born in Victoria to a strict Italian father and her Australian mother died when she was only 20 years old. She was raised catholic though married my father quite young who was a serious atheist. My sisters and I were raised to make our own choices. She is quite typically Australian very social enjoying life as it comes. Hardworking and generous with an open attitude towards people from all cultures & religions.
Despite her relaxed attitude towards sex and life she has an issue with men jogging shirtless. To me it seems insignificant in the grand scheme of things in fact I would be all for more fit shirtless guys jogging down my street but that is how she feels and I don’t judge her because of it.
Yet as I visited her for lunch one Sunday afternoon we were discussing refugee integrating into Australian life and the topic arises about how they try to change our culture with their own. In muslim culture women are to be covered and I hear time and time again how they disrespect Australians because the women show too much. The problem with this is my mother has never met any muslims, in Darwin they keep a lower profile yet she continues to tell me how they want to force all women to dress according to their customs. As far as tolerance and acceptance go my mother rates highly in my eyes yet still that seed of ignorance is festering below. How many people have actually been in contact with muslims who tried to force their customs on them? How many women have been spat on because they are thought to be disrespecting by showing their skin in Australia? I have never found my way of life threatened significantly by other peoples opinions. Personally I would love to see the religious sanctimony of marriage be abolished and a universal partnership involving gay & straight couples to be recognised through-out the world. But does that make me a terrorist because I don’t believe in marriage and would like to see it struck from everyday living? I don’t sit there and mock people because they get married despite what I think and my mother’s opinion that men should jog with tshirts on does not impact the man whose choice it was to jog shirtless.
The beauty of Australia in my eyes is that we embrace cultures from all around the world and create a harmonious way of living with understanding. Despite our disagreements we should be able to see the personalities of the people we accept and appreciate that each of us are different in some way. To chastise an entire clan of people because of an extremist minority is far from acceptable and we need to open our eyes and see the people inside. Because my mother disapproves of shirtless joggers does that mean that all typical Italian/Australians should be ostracized from everyday living? Fact is I am not going to agree with everything you say and I do believe some change is good. Nativity scenes are welcome to remain in public places but therefore so are muslim’s allowed to wear burqas around the streets. Gay couples shouldn’t be scared to show affection publicly whilst Mormons continue to door knock and ride in the intense heat if they so wish. This is Australia and everyone and every opinion is welcome.
I spent another enjoyable few hours at the detention centre the past Sunday where I was educated on the practices of “bad muslims” The conversation came to light when I was conversing with a couple of my new found Iraqi friends regarding consumption of alcohol and contact with females who are not their wives or family. They informed me that they were muslim but were “bad muslims” because they would still drink. I asked them if it was ok to hug females they are not married too since I enjoy hugging my friends hello & goodbye and it begins to feel more personal than the handshake. I was to discover much to my delight that hugging was ok to them and I got to give them both a friendly hug as we said goodbye that day. Already my original perception of muslims has been shattered I always thought following the religion meant extreme practices thanks to media & mass opinions yet here I am meeting two amazing guys who consider themselves muslims but don’t follow it to the letter. So similar to devout catholics or Christians where there seems to be blurred lines between sex before marriage, visiting church, using the gods name in vain. It really stresses my opinion that each individual is different and practices their beliefs how they desire and to me that is important to realise.
I must admit I quite like the “bad muslims” ;)