Australian Muslims celebrate a year of high achievement
A gathering of the finest of Australia’s Muslims community witnessed a celebration of remarkable accomplishments and success at the Australian Muslim Achievement Awards (AMAA) 2012 held in Melbourne on the weekend. The awards, organised by Mission of Hope and now in their seventh year, are more than just a celebration of the ‘who’s who’ in the Australian Muslim Community.
The Awards celebrate the important role that Australian Muslims have played in Australian society. The AMAAs also recognise the efforts of non-Muslims who have helped foster mutual respect and understanding by awarding a Australian non-Muslim the prestigious Abyssinian Award.
Amongst the 16 celebrated award categories announced at the ceremony, the most anticipated categories included the ‘AMAA Woman of the Year’, the ‘AMAA Man of the Year’ and the ‘Australian Muslim Lifetime Achievement Award.’. This years awards attracted over 150 nominations from all around Australia.
Held at the glamorous Showtime Events Centre on the Yarra River, those attending the ceremony got to enjoy a delicious three course meal and entertainment from upcoming comedian Khaled Khallafallah and spoken word artists Nour Abouzeid and Kamal Saleh. For Kamal Saleh it was a particularly memorable afternoon with him making a return to the stage on a further two occasions when he won awards for Creative Artist of the Year for his YouTube videos – his “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus | Muslim Version” has had close to 1.5million views – and in the newly introduced category for 2012 of People’s Choice.
Another memorable winner was Haj Mohamed Hassan OAM, the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award winner, who was honoured for his over 45 years community service to the Australian Muslim community. Haj Mohamed in accepting his award reminisced about his days a student at the University of New South Wales in the 1960s. At the time he could not find a single other Muslim student and told the audience how he used to go to the local markets with a small group of fellow Muslims to buy live chickens and hand slaughter them in order to eat Halal meat. His stories were not only a reflection of his remarkable achievements in service the community, but also a reflection of how the Australian Muslim community has rapidly established itself over the last 50 years.
The Women of the Year Award went to Amina ElShafei for her remarkable impact as a contestant on one of the Australia’s most popular television programs of the year, the reality cooking show Master Chef. Despite not winning the show, Amina was clearly one of the most popular contestants with her genuine and charming personality winning the hearts of Australians from all walks of life.
Her efforts on the show was watched by millions of everyday Australians on a weekly basis. Many in the Australian Muslim community have concluded that, although unplanned, the positive public reaction to her appearance on the show was perhaps to date the single most effective initiative in the ongoing challenge of depicting Muslims as everyday normal people to the wider Australian community. Her award was thus well deserved and was due to Amina being….well just Amina.
Another crowd favourite was the winner of the Abyssinian Award John Cornwall. The award, named after the the people of Abyssinia who provided shelter from prosecution to the first Muslims over 1400 years ago, was humbly received by John Cornwall for his outstanding efforts as President of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency (HARDA). HARDA provides support and acts as advocates for the successful settlement and integration of refugees and humanitarian entrants from the Horn of Africa countries.
The AMAAs were judged by a panel of 25 (a full list of the judges is available the end of the article) that comprised Australian Muslim community representatives nationwide who are all prominent and active Australian Muslims in their own right. The selection process involved a thorough and detailed examination of each and every nomination, with the judges encouraged to do their own research through independent sources. To make the process more transparent, at no stage were the judges able to consult one another, nor did they know who the other judges were.
This years awards ceremony was once again a spotlight on the amazing talent in the Australian Muslim community. It was not just a celebration of the winners and those nominated for their remarkable achievements over the last year, but one that exemplified the often unheralded success story of the Muslim community’s contribution to all areas of Australian society. The calibre of the award winners in 2012 and their accomplishments are clear evidence of this success. The AMAA’s Man of Year Award recipient Waleed Aly described it best when he said in his acceptance speech that the awards reflected that 2012 was “the year that Muslims had finally arrived”.
The Awards, sponsored this year by the Islamic Museum of Australia and Human Appeal International, continue to grow in prestige year after year and could well become the key national calendar event for the Australian Muslim community in years to come. The President of Mission of Hope, Hanan Dover’s opening remarks reflected the sentiment felt by many of those present on the day.
“They celebrate the exceptional and remarkable contributions made by Muslim individuals and organisations to both the Australian Muslim community and the mainstream community. These remarkable people make us proud to be Australian Muslims, inspiring us all to strive harder and live better” she said.
With Australian Muslims often having their collective identity held hostage to the negative actions of a very tiny minority of the community, in shifting the spotlight to recognise the marvellous accomplishments of the community’s high achievers, the AMAA’s can play a significant role in helping correct this false perception.
Australian Muslim Achievement Awards 2012 – Winners
Media Outlet of the Year – MuslimVillage.com
In 2012 MuslimVillage.com continued on it’s successful path of growth of the last few years by increasing it’s audience by 84% to reach an amazing 2,005,536 visitors from Oct 1 2011 till Sept 30 2012.
Although MuslimVillage.com now enjoys a global audience, Australian Muslims still account for the largest number of visitors making up 32% of their visitors. Although they are growing internationally at avery rapid rate, after 10 years MuslimVillage.com still managed to grow their Australian audience in 2012.
For Australian Muslims, Muslimvillage.com has thus continued to dominate the Australian Muslim media market in terms of reach, influence and audience; and continues to be, in terms of visitor numbers, the most widely read and influential media outlet for the Australian Muslim community.
Business of the Year – Pharmacy 4 Less
Assad Karem is founder, owner and managing director of the Pharmacy 4 Less Group. Originally from Palestinian decent, born and raised in Sydney in a middle class family, Assad has grown to be a renowned figure in the Sydney pharmaceutical health and beauty sector.
Graduating with a Pharmacy Degree from Sydney University in 1993, Assad quickly took on retail pharmacy as a proprietor at the age of 22. As well as pharmacy, Assad has followed his true passion in business and retailing and now heads up several associated businesses including Medical Centres, Halal Cafe’s, Pharmaceutical Warehousing and a Halal Vitamin Range. Assad now runs his various business interests under one umbrella as Managing Director of a Business and Marketing Management Group with a team of 15 middle management personnel, 20 pharmacies, 80 pharmacists, over 400 staff and several business partners. He has a passion for mentoring and assisting people to develop and grow their business aspirations and takes pride in assisting Muslims grow their dreams in a Halal environment.
Event of the Year – Faith, Fashion, Fusion – Powerhouse Museum
Australian Muslim women dress in diverse styles and are increasingly choosing to engage with global fashion trends while also expressing their faith. Faith, fashion, fusion explores Sydney’s emerging modest fashion market and the work of a new generation of fashion designers, retailers and bloggers offering stylish clothing and fashion advice to Muslim women.
Faith, fashion and Muslim identity are further explored through the experiences and achievements of a group of Australian Muslim women. Their stories reflect on the diversity of the Muslim community and the importance of the Muslim faith in all aspects of their lives.
Best new community Initiative/Project of the Year – Silence is Betrayal
Silence Is Betrayal is a movement which was established in May 2012 by 10 Sydney youth who wanted to see change in the world. The dynamic team set itself a very clear goal and a vision from the outset, their aim is to create a world where no injustice goes unnoticed.
Rather than duplicate the countless existing initiatives, this team identified the gap in advocacy and thought of an effective strategy to bring about awareness. Their first project was to bring awareness and real change to the plight of those in Syria. They set up and skillfully executed their first flash mob in Sydney. This was a ground breaking event with 80 volunteers participating in the flash mob. It took place in Darling Harbour. After the excellent coverage and real demand for innovative awareness about the plight of Syrians, the team received requests from Perth, Kuala Luampar, Cairo and the Netherlands to duplicate the event.
The team had their second flash mob in Sydney “Houla is where the heart is” and again, over 110 volunteers participated and the video was shared widely- The community’s reception of the initiatives of the Silence is Betrayal team has been tremendous. Recently they held and event entitled “Postcards from Syria” and hosted 8 poetic performances, including a contributing artist from the US. The event was attended by over 150 people.
As a practical extension of the project, the team organized for 140 volunteers to help pack 568 medical packs in September to be sent to Syria. This initiative not only aimed to help the predicament of those in Syria but also primarily to engage the youth in the community and ensure their active involvement in world affairs
Community Organisation of the Year – Islamic Council of Victoria
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) is the peak body for Muslim organisations in Victoria. The ICV represents Victoria’s more than 90,000 Muslims, through its 37 member organisations located throughout metropolitan Melbourne and rural Victoria. The Islamic Council of Victoria has been providing representation for its member organisations and societies in the state of Victoria for many years.
As part of our services we also run the following services and projects: Arts Portfolio, Community Integration Support Program (CISP),Environmental Portfolio, External prayer facilities, government advocacy, hall and facilities hire, hospital chaplaincy, interfaith and inter-religious dialogue, media representation, Past Disaster Management Strategy (MEMO), Indonesia Exchange Program (MEP), Muslim Leadership Program (MLP), Mosque tours and school presentations, multicultural and ethnic community engagement, Muslim Connect (post release rehabilitation program), No Interest Loan Scheme (NILS), Office for Women (OW), partnerships and sponsorships of community events, refugee and asylum seeker support, short-term grant projects, youth engagement and various special-need social services.
ICV’s vision is to build a better community for all Australians through the empowerment of Muslims in Victoria.
Creative Artist of the Year & Peoples Choice 2012- Kamal Salah
Kamal Saleh is 21 years old. Grew up in Punchbowl NSW. Studied B. Media and Law at Macquarie Uni. He has always been someone who has loved to express himself through Art. He is known for his Spoken Word talents on YouTube. He has used his talent of spoken word in order to project the religion of Islam in a positive light.
He has educated millions about Jesus as through his poem “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” (1.4 Million views). His poem “Love Marriage & Fairytales” (400,000 views) addresses the sexualisation of society. His latest poem “#Muhammad INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS SPOKEN WORD” which is his response to Sam Bacile’s film denigrating our beloved Prophet Muhmmad (sws) educates the world about the true character of SWS (1 million views). Yasmin Mogahed in reference to this video said: “This will leave you in tears. So powerful. May the peace and blessings of God be on Muhammad and may Allah reward the artist who made this.”
He has shown the Muslim community at large, just how powerful our talents can be in the path of Islam. He has introduced art in the field of Islam. Proved that you don’t need a degree in Islamic Studies to spread the message of Islam. He has inspired and touched both Muslim and Non-Muslims in there millions and has achieved a milestone for the Muslims on You Tube.
Abyssinian Award – John Cornwall
John Cornwall has been the president of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency (HARDA) for 3 years and has been a member of the executive for over six years. Through his involvement with HARDA he has been extremely supportive of the Muslim community in Australia, especially the Somali community. He understands the barriers Muslims face in the wider Australian community and has developed projects to assist newly arrived migrants and refugee settlement easier. Several projects were developed by John including the “The Pot Project” an opportunity for Somalian women to meet women from the wider Australian community. John also developed various mentoring and sporting programs for Somalian boys.
John has also worked extensively with Muslim charity organisations like Muslim Aid Australia, Human Appeal International Australia and Islamic Relief Australia in order to develop aid projects in the horn of Africa. Through his dedication HARDA has been able to fundraise for the recent famine in East Africa. Furthermore he also assisted in the establishment of an eye care clinic in rural Kenya with the partnership of Muslim Aid Australia.
Sportsperson of the Year – Assmaah Helal
Assmaah has been a football fan and player since childhood. She has completed a Bachelor’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science. With extensive experience in a sports for social development context, Assmaah is currently the Community Coordinator for Football United, promoting social harmony and assisting youth from diverse backgrounds through football, education and leadership development opportunities.
She currently plays football in the NSW Super League with the Eastern UNSW Lions and captained her team to victory in the minor premiership and Grand Final.
Assmaah has dedicated a significant part of her life to the empowerment of women through sporting activities, particularly in the field of football (soccer). Assmaah has used her success to lobby for the inclusion of the hijab as a recognised article of uniform at FIFA events. This in itself is a phenomenal achievement and will open many opportunities for Muslim girls and women wanting to enter the professional football arena.
Youth of the Year – Abdi Malik Osman
Abdi Malik Osman is only 22 years of age, a final year law/commerce student at UWS, the Somali podcast Coordinator for the CRC, an award winning short film documentary maker and runs his design business (Flashpoint). He is a member of The NSW Government’s Muslim Reference group and is an executive member of HARDA (Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency).
Malik is a refugee who fled the war in Somalia and has since returned to Somalia and Kenya on behalf of HARDA, working to provide humanitaran aid and to document the suffering in the Horn. Last year, Malik helped raise $200 000 at the outbreak of the famine in Somalia.
His company Flashpoint graphics has sponsored community events, produced graphic, photographic and film work for the community, designed and printed marketing campaigns for political parties and designed the Auburn City Council Facebook page to name a few.
His short film about Refugees called Tilted Scales (which he filmed and edited) won the Elephant in the Room competition, a Human Rights Commission Award. Malik also recently filmed a short video for the CRC called My Muslim Mates, in the wake of the Sydney Riots. He conceptualised the idea (pitched it to the Chairman), filmed it and edited it to great success.
Though he’s more of a behind-the-scenes man, he’s quite well known amongst the leaders and the change makers in the Muslim Community and is seen as an invaluable asset.
Role Model of the Year – Mehmet Ozalp
Mehmet Ozalp is an author, academic and community activist. He has been involved in social, cultural and religious work since 1991 in various mosque and community organisations. Mehmet has studied traditional Islamic sciences with Imam Salih Yucel from 1992 to 1996 and studied Islamic theology with Dr Ibrahim Sel.
Mehmet has helped establish a Muslim youth organization at Redfern Mosque in 1992. He was one of the founding directors of Feza Foundation from 1994 to 1998 which has established five colleges in NSW. From 1998 to 2000, he has managed a community newspaper, Zaman, as well as writing a weekly column.
Mehmet has been focusing on the intercultural and interfaith field from 2000. He is one of the founders of Affinity Intercultural Foundation. He served as the founding president of Affinity for six years from 2001 to 2007 and as Chief Executive Officer from 2007 to 2009.
Mehmet was a member of the Community Harmony Reference Group with the Community Relations Commission in Sydney Australia established by the Premier of NSW during the Iraq war of 2003. He is currently a member of the Muslim Community Reference Group established by the O’Farrell government in NSW.
Mehmet is a prolific speaker on Islam and Muslims in Australia. He has done hundreds of talks in churches, schools, public events and conferences. Amongst other media interviews and appearances, he has appeared in Compass and ABC Radio’s Spirit of Things.
In 2009, Mehmet has founded ISRA, Islamic Sciences and Research Academy of Australia, an educational and research organization and collaborated with Charles Sturt University to establish Islamic Studies courses which have been launched in 2011.
Mehmet also serves as the Muslim Chaplain in the University of Sydney and Macquarie University. He is a PhD Candidate in Islamic Theology at the University of Sydney.
Volunteer of the Year – Mazen Fahme
Bachelor of Economics from University of Sydney, majoring in Economics, Management and Marketing, a former General Manager of Alpha Omega Education and currently a Director at White Flame Strategy. Not-For-Profit engagement include:
Board member/Director at the LMA
Assistant Coordinator of the NSW Islamic Scripture Program, 2003-2009, a program that reaches over 20,000 Muslim students every week.
NSW Islamic Scripture Coordinator for the last 2 years, overseeing 20000 students, 500 plus teachers, 870 classes per week.
Member of the Directors Generals Consultative Committee for the NSW Department of Education, advising on religious education in Government schools.
Co-founder and current manager of Alfirdaus Quran College, 5 centres in Sydney. 5. Organiser of a very large annual camp for the last 10 years
Co-founder of Islamic Event – a not-for-profit organisation that produces quality Islamic events such as the “When the World Changed” series, “The Final Destination” event and many others.
Co-managed several world famous international shaykhs/recitors Australian tours including Shaykh Muhammad Alluhaidan and Shaykh Abu Bakr Alshatri.
Managed over 25 large fundraising dinners, ceremonies, Quran competitions and events for Muslim organisations in NSW.
Managed successful Mosque open days in Sydney and Adelaide. A regular MC, guest speaker, Auctioneer, for many events.
Professional of the Year – Talal Yassine OAM
Talal Yassine is the founder of Crescent Wealth – Australia’s first Sharia Compliant investment management/Superannuation fund along with a plethora of other initiatives both in the political and business realms. Just to name a few of Talal’s achievements:
From his early days, Yassine played a leading role in many community groups and associations and, as a human rights lawyer, was an activist against the Howard Government’s anti-terrorism laws.
Talal is also the founder of The Crescent Club, “The Crescent Club is a non-partisan and non-sectarian group dedicated to expanding business and social opportunities in the Australian Muslim business community and beyond. The Crescent Club is active in helping to develop business and networking contacts for our members and networks. Such an initiative has been paramount for the Muslim Professional/Business community.
Talal also served on the Australian Governments Multicultural Council Board.
Yassine began his career as a lawyer with the national law firm, Dunhill Madden Butler later joining PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as a Director and Strategist. After nearly a decade at PwC, having advised some of Australia’s leading corporations, Yassine joined investment firm, Babcock & Brown as a Director in the Corporate Finance Group and later in the Technical Real Estate Division. Yassine is a strong advocate of the electric car revolution and in his capacity as Chief Commercial Officer at Better Place Australia, he is responsible for all aspects of Better Place Australia’s business development and strategic partnerships.
Yassine chairs national hearing services chain, Platinum Hearing Pty Limited; chairs Islamic Finance and Investment firm, Crescent Investments Australasia Pty Limited and has served as a Councillor on the Macquarie University Council. He also currently serves on the Board of Australia Post, Sydney Ports Corporation and the Whitlam Institute amongst others.
In mentioning all of the above, Talal is also very much a family man. The mystery remains as to where he finds the time for it all.
Man of the Year – Waleed Aly
Waleed Aly is a broadcaster, academic and author. He hosts the daily Drive program on ABC Radio National and Big Ideas on ABC television. Waleed is also a lecturer in politics at Monash University where he works within the Global Terrorism Research Centre, and is an opinion columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. His work has also appeared in various newspapers and publications. In addition to this, Waleed appears weekly on The Project on Channel Ten, where he is also a regular guest host. Waleed was previously a writer and host of the SBS comedy show Salam Cafe, which led later to his own program, The Late Session, on the same network. He regularly appears elsewhere in broadcast media, including as a political commentator on News Breakfast and The Drum, and has made feature appearances on several television shows, including QanDa.
He also provides political commentary for international media outlets such as BBC World. Waleed was on the board of the Islamic Council of Victoria for over four years between 2003 and 2007, where he led the Council’s public affairs operations, and prior to that was the President of the Melbourne University Islamic Society between 2000 and 2002. Waleed was also the Victorian State Co-ordinator of the Train the Trainers Course in Da`wah and Dialogue for several years. He has been named as one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World *ever since that list’s inception.
Waleed is the author, most recently, of What’s Right? The Future of Conservatism in Australia (Quarterly Essay 37). His debut book, People Like Us: How arrogance is dividing Islam and the West (Picador, 2007), was shortlisted for several awards including the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and for Best Newcomer at the 2008 Australian Book Industry Awards. He has been commended at both the Walkley Awards and the Quill Awards for his commentary, and has been shortlisted twice for the Alfred Deakin Essay Prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards twice.
In 2005, he was made a White Ribbon Day Ambassador for the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. He was also an invited participant to the Prime Minister’s 2020 Summit in 2008. Since 2010 he has been listed in Who’s Who in the World. In 2011, Waleed was named Victoria’s Local Hero as part of the Australian of the Year Awards. Waleed is married with two children.
Woman of the Year – Amina Elshafei
Amina was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to Australia in the late 1980s. As a child, family life was centred on food and weekend trips to the produce markets. Her mum cooked through the week and father at the weekends – both bringing old family recipes and techniques to the table. Amina remembers the pickling her mum used to do and the fridge being full of jars and fresh vegetables. As well as cooking, her childhood and teenage years were very focused on education and with degrees themselves, it was important to Amina’s parents that their children did well in their studies. Amina is now a paediatric nurse.
Amina was a finalist on MasterChef 2012. Amina has also contributed to various Muslim organization and services, including the coordinator the Blood Drive, which encouraged Muslims to donate blood.
Lifetime Achievement – Mohamed Hassan OAM
Born on 3 August 1931 in Alexandria, Egypt, Mohamed Hassan studied Electrical Engineering at Alexandria University, where he graduated in 1957.
Mohamed joined the Muslim Students Association at Leeds Uni, organising Ramadan and Eid celebrations and dialogue meetings with members of Christian student bodies.
He quickly became involved in community life. He joined the Islamic student’s society of New South Wales University and then became second President of the Islamic Council of NSW based at Surry Hills. He helped organise Sunday school and Ramadan dinners for the fledgling community.
Mohammad then moved to Bendigo, Victoria. However, living in a remote country town did not prevent Mohamed from community engagement. In 1976 he hosted the first Christian-Muslim Interfaith Conference in Bendigo with international speakers. He became an active member of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) and was AFIC Vice-president from 1978-1979. During this time he helped organize the annual AFIC Muslim youth camps which began in Sydney in 1976. He was chief organiser of the 1978 AFIC youth camp in Adelaide.
Importantly, he also had the foresight in his Portfolio of Youth & Education to foresee the need and sow the seeds for Islamic Education in Australia. Little did he know that this passion for the education and service of his community would come to fruition in a very practical way 14 years later.
He was a founder member of Elsedeaq Egyptian Islamic Society in Heidelberg and of the Islamic Society of Melbourne Eastern Region (ISOMER) mosque in Lysterfield. He co-authored the book The Egyptians in Australia with Gaby Kabbas. He was also convenor of ISOMER’s first International Islamic Conference, held at Monash University in 1986.
In this period, he also saw the need for Islamic financial institutions, and established the Islamic Investment Company in 1989. He was a member of the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and also pioneered and promoted a project named the Egyptian Village.
The first Islamic School in Victoria, King Khaled Islamic College, was established in Coburg in 1983. Mohamed Hassan was invited to serve on its board and remained an active and committed member, later becoming Chairman of the Board for a number of years up to 1991
In 1992 he took the brave step of retiring from his lecturing job and volunteering full time to establish the Islamic College of Noble Park, which would later become Minaret College. He served as administrator for over a year till the college stood on its feet. Starting with only 20 students and one class teacher in 1992, Minaret now has 1300 students over two campuses and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.
Along with other Islamic School Founders from Sydney, Perth and Melbourne, Mr Hassan was a founder of ACIES (the Australian Council for Islamic Education in Schools), an umbrella body for Australian Islamic schools.
Mr Hassan’s service to Islamic Education was recognised by the wider community when the College’s local M.P nominated him and he was awarded The Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) at the 2007 Queens Birthday awards at Government House in Melbourne
Mr Mohamed Hassan OAM’s constant community service throughout his adult life makes him a true pioneer of Australia’s Muslim Community, which he has served sincerely for 45 years in the fields of youth development, interfaith dialogue and Islamic Education. He is the founder and current director of Minaret College in South-East Melbourne.
Judges Panel AMAA’s 2012
Dr Mohammed Baba
Rebecca de Caen
Dr Yaser Mohammad Al Nawashi