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Posted by / 12-Mar-2020 18:09

Determined to offer Muslim women a safe space to work Hana started Fitzroy's renowned Moroccan Soup Bar 18 years ago. Its about creating a connection through conversation with Muslim women. And I thought, OK, we can do this and hopefully some people will come, and I dont know how many will come, but well see.

Story producer: Tracey Spring Story researcher: Louise Heywood Editor: Danielle Akayan Executive producer: Jessica Douglas-Henry To enquire about obtaining a copy of this program please contact ABC Program Sales 1300 650 587 or [email protected] KUMI TAGUCHIHello, Im Kumi Taguchi, and welcome to speed dating. You sit across from someone youve never met, and you ask questions in the hope of finding a romantic partner. STORY: SPEED DATE A MUSLIMNARRATORHana Assifiri is the founder of Melbournes renowned Moroccan Soup Bar. NARRATORThis unique event is a chance to meet Muslim women and ask any question youve ever wanted to.

NARRATORThere was a time when Hana didnt speak English. HANA ASSIFIRII really wasnt sure what the place would become. I would not set up such an event in a really hostile environment. But it is the converted that will form coalitions and will drag the rest of Australia kicking and screaming to a place that is more humane.

NARRATORHana takes every opportunity to spread the word about upcoming projects close to her heart. It could be a space for women to sell spices, or sew.

HANA ASSIFIRIWe have a place filled for an hour Sunday afternoon, where we offer up complimentary coffee, tea and sweets and engagement with one another. You can ask anything, provided its an inquiry, not a judgement. I dont know where theyre from, but theyre definitely not Muslim. HANA ASSIFIRII mean, internally, I was a bit worried.

HANA ASSIFIRITheres not a day that a woman walks through the door where she needs a job and I dont give her a job, even when I dont need workers, like, I dont. So, I decided to go along because I heard it was a woman called Hana who owned the Moroccan Soup Bar, and I love the Moroccan Soup Bar. And I said, Well, ISIS definitely doesnt represent Islam.

HANA ASSIFIRII was always asking why why are things the way they are? Um, you know, they found me a husband and I was barely 15. And thats the misconception people make this assumption that if a womans wearing a scarf, shes definitely more religious than me. And my answer was that, Look, whatever they represent and the words that they use and the way they treat women and children and men is..not align at all with what Ive been raised to know as my religion. WOMAN 2Do you guys find yourself having to defend that quite often? really close non-Muslim friends was one of concern, genuine concern, but I got a lot of questions, like, Oh, congratulations. NARRATORThe first time Manal came to a speed-dating event, shed been invited by an old friend. Maybe youve got a bomb hidden under your burqa or something. (CHUCKLES)HANA ASSIFIRIThese two things became a symbol of what could potentially be, um...a disaster. So, thank you all for coming and lets look forward to next speed date. KATEIve never really met a very devout, hair-covering Muslim.

Theyre praying, you respect their space and thats it. SFX: SPOON TINGS ON GLASSHANA ASSIFIRIGood afternoon, and I know weve got a couple of minutes to go but I thought we may get started because it seems this group already has.

So, what we are offering up is an alternative to that. The occasion here is not to speak to peoples Islamophobia and I think thats important to understand.

HANA ASSIFIRIThey say, Im going to pray, they go pray, halfway through a shift, halfway through a meal, halfway through the chaos. HANA ASSIFIRISome women will pray five times a day, some will accumulate them all until they go home, some need to pray haldeh, which means right now, at the time that prayers called. So from there, I thought, How do we, as women, begin to speak to the male-dominated versions of Islam that seem to be on offer as well as respond to the hostilities?

NARRATORThese women are in a fight for survival, to reclaim their identity in increasingly uncertain times. HUSNA PASHER, SPEED DATERI thought, What is going on?

NARRATORIn the heart of Melbournes cafe suburb of Fitzroy, the Moroccan Soup Bar is a restaurant with a difference.

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