Hate not on the menu at the Ramadan dinner I attended
“We were not raised on hate.”
Speaking about his family and community, that’s what one Sydney Muslim, Ozan Amir, told The Punch late Friday afternoon.
We contacted Ozan to interview him about the violent protests gripping the Arab World, fuelled by a crude, hateful video. Sadly, at the weekend, the same violence arrived here in Australia. And that violence seemed to be perpetuated by those raised on hate.
We saw a wild battle on the streets of Sydney between a thousand Muslim protesters and police. Pieces of timber and bottles and rocks were thrown at officers. Most disturbingly, boys - even a toddler - were photographed wielding signs that read: “BEHEAD ALL THOSE WHO INSULT THE PROPHET”.
It was repugnant. No where is it acceptable to call for someone’s murder just because they hold questionable opinions. Violence certainly isn’t acceptable on our city streets.
But what we saw at the weekend was in not representative of the broader Australian Muslim community - who would never call for anyone’s beheading.
It was the expression of a hateful minority. A minority the filmmaker behind the video that started this mess hoped to provoke to overreact in the first place.
Earlier this month, The Punch was warmly welcomed into the new home of Ozan and Yonca Amir, for an Iftar dinner - the meal at the end of the day’s fast during Ramadan.
Far from calling for the beheading of infidels, Ozan fixes people’s feet. He’s a podiatric surgeon, a Western Suburbs boy made good. He and wife Yonca are raising a boy and a girl, aged 3 and 8, in their new home on Sydney’s North Shore.
The celebration was not overly different to one for a festival like Christmas. Guests gorged themselves on food, Turkish tea and laughter. The adults had dinner, there was occasionally an outbreak of squealing from the kids mucking around upstairs.
Muslims, Ozan and Yonca said, often open up their houses up to their neighbours. They talked of growing up in households where their parents would always be welcoming strangers.
There was also talk of sadness that the monthlong Ramadan fast was over. It’s a deeply spiritual experience for Muslims - one where they are encouraged to think less for themselves and more for others.
Ozan and Yonca follow Islamic principles that the violent extremists on the streets this weekend should’ve heeded.
As Muslim sociologist Susan Carland put it on Saturday: “What would Muhammad do? When his enemies cursed him and threw stones at him, he prayed for them.”
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