Australia Day: What it means to be Australian? For me it is “freedom of Expression”

Source: brisbanetimes.com.au

Waqas Ahmed, 30, from Claremont Meadows. Arrived from Pakistan in 1995

Australia is for 'freedom of Expression': An Australian Ahmadi Muslim

Australia is for ‘freedom of Expression’: An Australian Ahmadi Muslim

There are laws in Pakistan that make the lives of Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan difficult. The older you get, the harder it gets. You live a life of always finding shelter, being very careful about how you choose your words, how you show emotion. We can’t openly defend ourselves. We cannot call ourselves Muslims over there, if we do, we can potentially go to jail. We believe in the same Prophet, we say the same five prayers, we declare the same kalima. But, while there are a lot of good people there as well, we have to live a secret life.

My grandfather was martyred in front of our house in Nawabshah two years ago. He was 70, he was Australian and was visiting his hometown, he was a businessman and a strong supporter of the Ahmadiyya community. He was gunned down. My cousin was hit by the same bullet, but he survived.

I was 10 when I came to Australia. I still remember the day we landed, there were stairs out of the plane and as we stepped down onto tarmac, I turned to my father and said ‘goodbye Pakistan, hello Australia.’

I entered year 6 in Penrith Primary School. The biggest change is the cultural change, it was challenging at a young age. I remember the citizenship ceremony very well, it was 1997 or 1998, we had the ceremony in Penrith Council Chambers.

In primary school at Penrith, we went to a camp, this was my first excursion as a muslim child in this country and my teacher asked my parents what my dietary requirements were. My teacher would be there at every meal, he would make sure I knew which meat I was eating, he would make sure I was comfortable doing prayers five time a day. I was accepted straight away.

On Australia Day, when we fly the flag, it just means home. It reminds you of the freedom you have, of all the good things you have. There’s freedom of speech, education, expression.Love of one’s country is part of our faith, a direct learning from the Prophet Mohammed. We highlight that and reiterate that.

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