NARRATORThere was a time when Hana didnt speak English. HANA ASSIFIRII really wasnt sure what the place would become. I would not set up such an event in a really hostile environment. But it is the converted that will form coalitions and will drag the rest of Australia kicking and screaming to a place that is more humane.
NARRATORHana takes every opportunity to spread the word about upcoming projects close to her heart. It could be a space for women to sell spices, or sew.
HANA ASSIFIRII was always asking why why are things the way they are? Um, you know, they found me a husband and I was barely 15. And thats the misconception people make this assumption that if a womans wearing a scarf, shes definitely more religious than me. And my answer was that, Look, whatever they represent and the words that they use and the way they treat women and children and men is..not align at all with what Ive been raised to know as my religion. WOMAN 2Do you guys find yourself having to defend that quite often? really close non-Muslim friends was one of concern, genuine concern, but I got a lot of questions, like, Oh, congratulations. NARRATORThe first time Manal came to a speed-dating event, shed been invited by an old friend. Maybe youve got a bomb hidden under your burqa or something. (CHUCKLES)HANA ASSIFIRIThese two things became a symbol of what could potentially be, um...a disaster. So, thank you all for coming and lets look forward to next speed date. KATEIve never really met a very devout, hair-covering Muslim.
NARRATORWhen the family moved back to Australia, a teenage Hana didnt fit in at school or at home, where the rules for girls were strict. NARRATORThe word spread that here was a place where Muslim women were welcomed. Lebanese, Iraqi, Somali, Eritrean, Russian, Indian. You dont have to travel just come to the Moroccan Soup Bar and work here! (SPEAKS ARABIC)NARRATORAs a child, Hanas favourite room was the kitchen. Your daughters need to marry and need to have children and thats the only thing, and what do you mean, No? (LAUGHS) A lot of the questions that I get asked, Well, you wear your hair out, this big Diana Ross hairdo, I cant believe you are actually a Muslim. And a few did say, Weve never heard a woman in a face veil talk! What do you think their agenda is and do you think anything they say aligns with Islam? And when I wore it, the reaction that I got from my non-Muslim... When I was growing up, there wasnt this tension in the air. MANAL SHEHABI later spoke to Hana, she said, Well, I didnt know what you might say. So lets hope that these conversations continue to inspire us in the hope that we enable women, for a change, to begin to talk and illuminate some of these dark patches that are going on and, yes, we can interpret the Koran in many different ways and lets interpret it from a womens perspective, where welfare is compassion.
LAYALLE EL NAJIBOnce it starts, its hectic, its full on. Were constantly managing this chaotic crisis with its own weird rhythm.
And somehow it works and every night ends and a new one begins. These events are about an experience where we both walk away a little bit changed. Order coffee, tea, and thanks to the community of Brunswick, East Brunswick.
It didnt matter the embarrassment and its where I felt free and its where I felt, um... People have come from all over Melbourne for the non-dating speed dating. Anyway, I soon found out it had nothing to do with it. HANA ASSIFIRIIm just thinking, how do you manage these two potentially extremely different points of view in an environment where theres 50 other people and youre inviting people into your space to say, We are beyond the stereotype. MANAL SHEHABHana came up and she had a piece of paper and shes just doodling on this paper very slowly and she says, Hows everything going here? HANA ASSIFIRIAnd I said So, have you chatted about ISIS yet? MANAL SHEHABAnd she said, uh, Manal, what do you have to say about that?
NARRATORYoung and vulnerable, Hana couldnt see a way out. HANA ASSIFIRIThe kids were 14 and 15 and I sat there in class and I felt like the oldest person, but it was so important for me, um..be in a classroom with other kids... We deliberately called it speed date because it conjures up positive attitudes. But when I say, Get to know a Muslim, you go, Really? NARRATORToday, a suburb away from the Soup Bar, the Moroccan Deli is filling up. HUSNA PASHAWhen my friend actually told me it was called Speed Date a Muslim, I actually felt like saying to her, Well, I cant go because Im married. WOMAN 1You cant tell a Muslim male you wont be able to identify him. MANAL SHEHABEveryones talking loud and theres food going and coming and I really felt out of place. MANAL SHEHABHes wearing a full-on Australian hat like Molly Meldrum with the little corks!
NARRATORIn the heart of Melbournes cafe suburb of Fitzroy, the Moroccan Soup Bar is a restaurant with a difference.
These are some of the women who make up the Moroccan Soup Bar tonight on a Wednesday night. LAYALLE EL NAJIBI had heard about the Moroccan Soup Bar. You tell them, you say, As long as youre respectful of one another I dont care if youre scarved, I dont care if youve got long hair, black hair, blonde, if youre black, white doesnt matter what you are as long as youre respectful of one another.
HANA ASSIFIRI(SINGS IN ARABIC)Its positive discrimination. You need to establish an environment that you know speaks to and engages and is relevant to Muslim women. HANA ASSIFIRISo, you know, customers would say to me things like, Whys that woman got that thing on her head? And this happened and the guy then said, The only thing its symbolic of is beheadings and honour killings.
HANA ASSIFIRIVery quickly, I stopped any expression that showed my difference, to the point that I stopped speaking altogether, uh..an entire year.(SPEAKS ARABIC) Tiny bit on cumin. NARRATORHana was born into a Muslim family in Australia. When she was four, her father moved the family to Lebanon. Women were trained to cook and trained to cook in almost an innate way, like a language. WOMAN 1I think having these conversations with others. HANA ASSIFIRISo, you know, people then say, Oh, youre preaching to the converted, and na-na-na. So, you were getting to a place where you accepted it?
At the age of 13, she only spoke Arabic and struggled at her Australian school. But then food, to me, was the major connector across cultures. MAN 2What do you think, um...er, white boys can do to help things? WOMAN 2Could you describe to me what it means that you were on a journey to wearing it?