Despite suggesting that Australia is “in danger of being swamped by Muslims, who bear a culture and ideology … incompatible with our own,” Pauline Hanson has been invited to share tea and baklava with Illawarra resident Nina Trad Azam.
Having received a number of racially-motivated threats derived from a lack of understanding, the Figtree mother said she is determined to help create more understanding through the art of conversation.
“Unfortunately … the connotation Muslim equals terrorist has been created and impregnated in people’s minds for the last 15 years, and we have to break that narrative,” Mrs Azam said.
Unfortunately … the connotation Muslim equals terrorist has been created and impregnated in people's minds for the last 15 years, and we have to break that narrative.
“What Pauline is doing is undermining social cohesion.
“But I understand she is coming out of a place of fear and the only way to reconcile that is through getting to know the other person.
“I am happy to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake or baklava with her, because I really don’t believe she has fully reflected on her own culture or what it means for [other] experiences.”
While Ms Hanson made a number of claims within her maiden speech, including that “many ... Australian Muslims have volunteered ... to fight for ISIS,” Mrs Azam said she is only interested in caring for others.
Since moving to Australia at the age of six, Mrs Azam became friends with a number of ladies in her local community and took it upon herself to help them.
“Between the ages of 12 to 17, I looked after three war widows: Dorothy, Adelaide and Berryl and they were my companions,” she said.
“I looked after them and would go and buy them their milk and bread after school and on occasion take them shopping, and that [was just] the neighbourly thing my mother encouraged.”
Since then, Mrs Azam has volunteered for a number of organisations including cancer support and peace groups, and has taken on the position of a director of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia.
Within this role, Mrs Azam hopes to continue breaking down barriers.