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Struggles of being a Muslim student in Australia

Ali Kadri (first from left) and the characters from The Mosque Next Door. Source: Twitter/@SBSOnDemand

SBS’ new three-part documentary series, The Mosque Next Door, will take viewers into an Australian mosque, the first time television cameras had ever been allowed to do so.

Among the colourful characters in the show is 34-year-old Ali Kadri. Ali, a Sunni Muslim from India, arrived in Brisbane 14 years ago as an international student. His father had sent him there for safety after sectarian violence and anti-Muslim riots in India killed his brother.

Speaking to SBS Hindi, Ali said it is hard for others to integrate with Muslims because there is a “fear of the unknown” – both Muslims and Australians play a part in this difficult relationship.

“It is difficult for a Muslims to integrate as there are prejudices in the society. People are apprehensive because they don’t know. This fear of unknown makes things complicated,” Ali explained.

“If we encounter any untowardly incidents we perceive that it is due to our color or community or ethnicity but that is not necessarily the case,” the businessman added.

He believes the documentaries like The Mosque Next Door – which will air for free via SBS On Demand from Nov 8 – can improve this situation.

According to the 2011 Australian Census, there were 476,290 Muslims in Australia, of whom about 40 percent were Australian-born while the rest came from 183 countries.

Other Muslim students report similar feelings of misconceptions by locals as Ali did. In a 2016 report by Fairfax Media, a student from Malaysia said she felt segregated in class due to her outward appearance (she wore a hijab) and have even had a stranger (which she suspects was probably a participant at a Reclaim Australia rally earlier) spit on her shoe.

For 30-year-old Pakistani Sami Ullah, however, he has never been discriminated for his religion or been pointed out by strangers ever since arriving in Australia as a student in 2006. While people sometimes stare when something bad happens back in his home country, Sami said he would still rather be in Australia than anywhere else in the world.

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