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Uncovering Islam’s Hidden Beauties

15 December 2011 4 Comments

Siti Satyawati

By Siti Satyawati
Australia

“During the past ten years, I have learned as an individual the value of remaining patient in the face of calamity, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to promoting the message of multiculturalism.”

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Editor’s note: Siti Satyawati is an Indonesian Muslim woman from Australia.  She is a mother of five and a student who works and volunteers at the Muslim Women’s Support Centre based in Perth, Western Australia.

As an Indonesian Muslim woman living in Australia, religion has played an important role in my life experience. Although I was born into a Muslim family, this did not automatically make me a practising Muslim. As I navigated my identity during my teenage years, I had many questions, ranging from “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” to “What is the purpose and meaning of life?” and “Does Almighty God really exist?” I went through a period of searching within myself and learning about different religions until I reached a sound conviction and certainty about Islam as my way of life.

I moved to Australia with my family in 1986. At the age of 17 I graduated from high school, and by 19 I was married to an Australian Muslim convert. I am now a single mum with five children between the ages of 8 and 18 years. In 2010, after having been away from formal education systems for almost 18 years, I went back to school as a full-time student to pursue a Diploma of Community Services and Works at Polytechnic West in Thornlie, Western Australia. One of the requirements of my program is the completion of a Supervised Field Placement, and my college generously facilitated my placement at the Muslim Women’s Support Centre (MWSC), a nonprofit organisation that provides a variety of social support and advocacy services for Muslim women of all backgrounds, as well as cross-cultural trainings to promote cultural sensitivity and inclusion.

Graduates of the Muslim Women Support Centre's youth leadership training program

At 38 years old, I did not have any formal work experience prior to my placement at MWSC. As a Muslim, I believe my faith encourages me to be an active citizen of this country and contribute to the betterment of society. My studies and my work and volunteer experience at MWSC have made it possible for me to contribute to society in new ways; I am now in a position to encourage women who have been away from work and study for a long period of time because of their commitment to motherhood, a most honoured position in Islam, to study and work in other areas that they are passionate about, and to learn new ways to support the advancement of their communities and society as a whole.

We have opportunities for increasing understanding across cultures and faiths all around us. While at work, I recently overheard my supervisor having a conversation with a non-Muslim visitor to the agency. It nearly brought me to tears listening to my supervisor explaining Islam patiently and with gentleness to the curious visitor. Indeed, Islam is such a beautiful religion, and often that beauty is hidden. I strongly believe it is my responsibility to uncover hidden beauties across cultural and religious boundaries by building positive relationships and creating a space for shared learning.

This work has become more important than ever in the context of a tense relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia, particularly after the tragedy of 9/11. The impact of the mass media in particular has contributed to a demonization of Islam and Muslims, contributing to the spread of Islamophobia. I have seen Muslim women, especially those wearing hijab, targeted because of the visibility of their faith.

Despite the emotional challenges of dealing with judgments and misconceptions about my way of life as a Muslim woman, there has been positive growth both for Muslim communities in Australia and for me personally. Muslim communities in Australia, like others around the world, continue to condemn terror in all its forms and actively engage with others in their societies to clarify and share the true message of Islam. During the past ten years, I have learned as an individual the value of remaining patient in the face of calamity, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to promoting the message of multiculturalism. With this value in mind I also commit myself to life-long education, through which I am certain I will continue to be empowered, and in turn help to empower others.

Find out more about our Connection Point initiative on http://www.peacexpeace.org/connection-point.

The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

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4 Comments to “Uncovering Islam’s Hidden Beauties”
  1. Endang Sar says:

    Subhanallah, very inspiring. Really touch my heart.

  2. Ahmad Reedow says:

    Keep the gud work sis..

  3. Calisha says:

    A beautiful article Siti. thank you for your inspiring heartfelt words!

  4. Kaushal says:

    Actual men (as opposed to thaoerticel psychological male constructs) have so many actual problems they can and should solve that to worry about these statistical anomalies proves to be somewhat uncompelling.Unlike women, when men are, as a group, ‘under attack’, they don’t care much – we don’t have the same socialization-instincts as women. Now, if you attack a principal or an ideal, you’ve put yourself in for a fight, and a good man will go to his grave defending a great principal (freedom, say) just as quickly as if he were defending his family – because, ultimately, a good man realizes the two are the same.In fact, it’s only in the context of the assault on the idea of ‘maleness’ that I find enough impetus to even respond to your post.Simply put, I am less disturbed at the idea that there are no “men’s shelters” than that there may exist men who feel they need a shelter (whether, objectively, they do or not). If they feel they need one, something is terribly wrong in their psyche and self-evaluation: it implies that they aren’t really men, and have been effeminized, which is vastly far more disturbing to me to contemplate.Oh, certainly, there may be cases where some person stricken with a marginal IQ, or wheelchair-bound, or whatnot might need the protection of society, but I see what would be classified as people of ‘normal’ IQ and healthy body behaving like, pardon the crass, if apt, euphamism, wusses. And that should not be condoned or sanctioned.Say what you want – but women need physical protection from an agressive male by other males (or the structures of society), perhaps disabled males need some level of protection, but otherwise uncompromised men do not and should not need such protection from an individual female – and to afford them that goes against everything that makes them ‘male’. This has less to do about physical size or capacity of a given men vs a given woman than about intellect and self-reliance: a man should happily go down fighting using his best efforts, instead of shying away from the fight in cowardice.

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