“I was just hoping people will be respectful and interested,” says Tuna.
' Speed Date A Muslim' is not a romantic or social event.
It's a meetup with a difference, designed to provide a safe space for non-Muslims to meet Muslims, ask questions and smash racial boundaries.
The non-romantic meet-up that results is ‘Speed Date A Muslim’ and it just occurred in Shepparton, Victoria, a town located in the federal seat of Murray belonging to Pauline Hanson's One Nation party.
Speed Date A Muslim is the brainchild of Hana Assafiri, who launched the event in 2016 from the upstairs dining room of her Brunswick cafe, the Moroccan Deli-cacy.
Born in Australia but raised in Morocco and Lebanon, Assafiri adopted the ‘speed dating’ format to provide a safe and respectful space for local non-Muslim to meet and ask Muslims all the curly questions they were otherwise too shy to.
The overall aim is to provide people who want to explore, challenge or better understand their racial and religious perceptions with an opportunity to do just that.
Under colourful umbrellas on local bar The Deck, Hana’s cheery crew of Melbourne Muslims fanned out among the crowd, each woman pairing off with a handful of Shepparton locals.
Of note was the heartwarming scene of interfaith couples pairing off - an older Shepparton woman in a floral frock and neatly applied makeup sitting happily by a woman dressed in the full niqab, chatting about the heat.
Those attending, it appeared, had come to learn about Islam and Muslim 'others', with a proverbial olive branch in hand.
SBS was at the event, along with 50 others in attendance.
I’ve heard comments, usually from older white males, who say things like ‘Go back to where you came from’ directed to women wearing scarves, who are a representation of our religion.” However, Coskun says, she also believes that the ‘racist’ tag on her local town is unfounded.