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Friday, February 20, 2009

Susan Meguid speech at the Sharing Common Values Interfaith Program Oct 03

Good evening Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Suzan Meguid. I am a born Muslim. I was born in Egypt. My family migrated to Australia when I was 1 year old. I grew up in the Hills District. I attended Castle Hill Primary School and then James Ruse High School. I am a pharmacy graduate of the University of Sydney. I currently own a pharmacy in Auburn. I am also a mother of three beautiful girls. As you can see I am an Australian girl who has done pretty much what most Australians do, study, work, get married and start a family. Sometimes people ask me ‘what nationality are you’ and I reply ‘Australian’. They say ‘ yes but what nationality are you’ and I repeat ‘Australian’. That is what I am. I have an Egyptian cultural background but I am an Australian. Australia is my country, my home. I sing the national anthem with pride just like every proud Australian.

I have lived in the Hills for over 25 years. I love the area and would never move anywhere else. I feel at home there. I always tell my Muslims friends how much I love living in the Hills. The people are so much like me, hardworking, well spoken, well mannered and polite. They help each other, chitchat, smile and are friendly. These are the type of people I love living around. I am pleased to say I have not experienced any alienation from my neighbours or my community. When I go down to the shops I truly feel like everyone else there. I may look different because I wear the scarf. But I am not different. And I don’t believe anyone else there sees me otherwise. Actually, I was grocery shopping one day and this lovely lady came up to me and said ‘ you are so beautiful. I love how you wear your headgear. You look angelic’.

I take my daughters to swimming lessons every Thursday morning at the Castle Hill RSL Club and I have made so many friends. The people are so friendly. In fact, I think some people go out of their way to be extra friendly just so they can show me that they are open minded and accepting. The older ladies that do the aqua aerobics class while I am there are so great. They wish me a happy Ramadan; they play with my girls and always ask how I am. Some people ask me things about my religion, which is fantastic. They often apologise and say ‘I hope I didn’t offend you by asking that’. No way! I think it’s wonderful that we all get to know each other’s customs and beliefs. How else are we going to understand each other and work together as a community?

It’s a real shame the media portrays the Anglo Saxon community as being xenophobic; because this is not the experience I have come across. I know the majority of my community are not narrow minded and certainly not bigots.

I moved to Glenhaven 1 year ago, which is right next door to Castle Hill. My neighbours came over to welcome my family and I. They look out for us and vice versa. That’s what neighbours do. We borrow eggs and sugar from each other, we talk over the fence, we discuss schools, local events and so on. I even went to cheer my neighbour on at the orange blossom festival recently. It was great. 2 days ago my neighbour approached me on my way to work and asked if my husband or I could mind her son after school for a couple of hours until she gets home from work. I was privileged, not only does she enjoy my company but she trusts me with her children, which as a mother I know is not easy to do.

After the events of September 11 and with the media attacking the Muslim community the way they did, I was for the first time in my life scared to go down to the shops. I wanted to cry out to everyone in my area ‘I am the same person you saw as a friend yesterday and I like you am appalled at this gross act of terror’. After a day of sitting at home, which is quite unlike me, I finally mustered the courage and ventured down to Castle Hill Shops. To my astonishment I did not even get a second look. People went about their business as per normal. The shop assistants were just as friendly; people still made chitchat with me while waiting in line and mothers still came up and adored my girls. I felt ashamed that I made the same mistake as the media. I committed the crime that I beg people not to commit. I prejudged. I prejudged that many would fall victim to the media hysteria when in fact my community proved to me what I have always known and experienced, that they are open minded, accepting, and caring people. They are Australians.

This probably all sounds quite normal to you, well it is normal. This is what I am trying to say. I am a normal Australian citizen like everybody else. I was at the Olympics cheering on Cathy Freeman and Thorpe. I regularly go to the gym, I listen to 2dayFM, I love sports, reading, laughing and socialising with my friends. As you can see the scarf over my hair does not make me any different to anybody else nor does it stop me from living a normal life and achieving my goals.

I am a pharmacist and I work in Auburn, which is highly populated with Muslims. I meet Lebanese, Iraqi, Somali, Afghani and Pakistani people everyday. They are just like us. Sure some of them may not have grown up here and maybe their English is not up to scratch but they still do the same things we do. They love, they laugh, they read, they go out and enjoy the same things we do.

I laugh when I turn on the radio or read in the paper about ‘Islamic terrorists’. It’s funny because Islam means peace. So this new phrase the media has coined really means peace terrorists. It’s an oxymoron. It just doesn’t make sense. I think it’s sad that our political leaders are inadvertently instilling fear in the Australian community. Why would you want your constituents to live in fear especially when there is no tangible or credible threat to Australia? It’s not healthy for a community. It’s not healthy for a multicultural community. It’s just not healthy for this country. Islam, like Christianity is a peaceful religion. The actions of individuals should never reflect on the religion. Humans are humans, you get the good and unfortunately there are some bad. The problem is though, once a Muslim does anything wrong, his religion is immediately aired on every TV channel in Australia. Which makes it just that little bit harder for us to prove that generally we are a peaceful community.

I would like to finish off by asking each and every one of you to open you hearts and minds to each other. Whether we are Muslims or Christians, we all share common values. Lets continue live side by side in peace and harmony. Lets learn about each other religions and cultures without prejudice. This, after all, is what makes life more interesting.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you.

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