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Muslim at a Catholic school


Racist graffiti, Muslims Go HomeI do not like labelling people as racist. I do not like the use of the word 'racists' at all.

I am a Muslim and I attend a Catholic college. I have never been subject to any form of racism during my time in school although I have been subject to what I call a lack of understanding. In my earlier years I would often be asked 'If you're a Muslim why do you come here?'. My reply was always, 'My parents like Catholic education and there is no harm in learning about different races or religions is there?'

Sometimes it is easy to get offended. One thing I do not like is when people make uninformed comments.

Last year, in year ten, we had a subject called 'Religion and Society'. Here, we learnt about different world religions: Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam. During one of our lessons on Islam one of the girls in my class pronounced 'I hate Muslims, the world would be better without them.' Slightly offended I bit my lip, turned around and said 'I'm a Muslim,' to which she replied, with a slightly confused face, 'But you're nice.'

Clearly she didn't have much knowledge of world religions. Her view was that of the uninformed general public: she associated Islam simply with terrorists, bombs and burqas. With so many negative images surrounding Islam, it is important for students to know someone who can prove the stereotypes wrong and change their perception.

I've come across many people who are 'surprised' when they find out I am a Muslim. At school I am always willing to participate in religious activities and many people do not realise I am not Catholic until the subject comes up in a class. I appreciate the Catholic faith for its teaching to love one another and refrain from being self-centered.

I often try to be helpful in explaining aspects of my Islamic culture, including the celebration of Ramadan. To me, it is clear that when people have at least a basic understanding of diverse cultures and religions they tend to be more accepting. Does it really matter what religion you follow or which God you believe in if you are a good person, and treat everyone how you would like to be treated?

In a beautiful, diverse country such as ours it is important that we have fundamental knowledge of world religions in order to be accepting and tolerant towards others. We live in a day and age where we judge too easily.

Many people already have a fixed view on other members of our multicultural society. Their views may have been influenced by many factors: older family members, the media, even bad experiences. Although I cannot control what is seen on the telly or how the media portrays things I can do that little bit to make a difference, to educate people on their understanding and view of Muslims.

Over the years I have learnt that I am not always going to hear things I will like. I will get offended. I will be disappointed. But sometimes you have to learn to lift your head up high, be proud of who you are as a person and how you treat others. To describe these experiences I have come across in my life as racism would be wrong. Rather, I believe it is a lack of understanding. 


Nadine RabahNadine Rabah is an English student in year 11 at Mercy College in Coburg, Vic. She is also an umpire in the Essendon District Football League and aspires to be a journalist. She received Third Prize in the 2011 Margaret Dooley Award for this essay.

Topic tags: Nadine Rabah, Islam, Catholic education



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Existing comments

I have had many friendly contacts with many Muslims.It is Islam that I find difficulties with. As someone who values tolerance, freedom and respect for the human person, I struggle to find evidence of these in the Qu'ran, Sharia and Islamic texts such as the Bukhari the ahadith and The Reliance of the Traveller, all central texts explaining Islamic belief. I have come to the conclusion that the nice Muslims I meet are not truly Islamic, as they do not hold to the tenets of Shariah. If they did they would have to support the killing of those who convert out of Islam, the stoning of adulterers, the killing of homosexuals and the killing of the Jews. Across the schools of Islam, these are core views and I do not hold them, nor do the nice Muslims I meet hold them. The nice Muslims I meet have tolerance for the Jews, agreeing that Israel has a right to exist. They do not advocate death to anyone for transgression. This contradicts Islamic tenets and Islamic scholars have confirmed that this is so. So long may people like Nadine flourish and contradict the intolerance at the heart of Islam.

Skye | 16 November 2011  

In Australia's immigration history there is a ladder on which migrants climb from racist discrimination to equality.

When I was a child in the 50s European refugees copped it until the pressure was eased by Asian refugees and now it's the Muslim migrants and refugees who cop it - a campaign of hate and ignorance fueled cynically by the politics of oil.

There are two camps of victims of discrimination: those who go on to dish it out to those on lower rungs and those, like Nadine, who grow strong in empathy, justice and integrity. Sumoud Nadine.

Dr Vacy Vlazna | 16 November 2011  

St Mary MacKillop Catholic College here in Tuggeranong (ACT) elected a Muslim boy as school captain for 2011. Canberra Boys Grammar school did the same. Small things, signs of hope.

Frank | 16 November 2011  

Our school captain at Columba Catholic College in Charters Towers Qld is Muslim. He was elected by both staff and students, and has been exemplary in his approach, as has the community that's embraced him.

fr michael taylor | 16 November 2011  

"Does it really matter what religion you follow or which God you believe in if you are a good person, and treat everyone how you would like to be treated?"

Yes Nadine, it truly does matter. the Catholic Church is the one, true church and was founded by the Son of God upon the rock of St. Peter and we all must seek salvation through the Catholic Church. You cannot be saved by any other "religion". All other religions were created by man in disobedience to God.

Trent | 16 November 2011  

Islam, Judaism and Christianity all have ancient texts as well as traditions that can be interpreted, pulled and tugged one way or another to either oppress or liberate, depending on one's political/social/economic motivation. If your motivation is to discern the will of God, then there is no reason whatsover why people from differing religious traditions should be in conflict. Religious texts are not meant to be read as scientific texts to provide "evidence" (SKYE) of God's will.

AURELIUS | 16 November 2011  

"Does it really matter what religion you follow or which God you believe in if you are a good person, and treat everyone how you would like to be treated?" On the right track, though I believe religion has nothing to do with being a good person. My brother is a muslim, my mother is a catholic, my husband is a morman turned athiest and my father is an athiest. All unbelievebly honest, good and hard working people that treat and respect all people from all backgrounds. You don't need to believe in a God at all to be a good person. Treat people for who they are not who they pray to at night. I know plenty of dishonest horrible Catholics and am close friends with a catholic priest who is a wonderful person. Nothing to do with their religion, it's who they are within.

Morris | 16 November 2011  

Wow, Trent ... Your argument sure is convincing. I'm sure Nadine will have no choice but to pop out and convert as soon as she reads it.

Charles Boy | 16 November 2011  

Well, Trent, what happened to all those poor people who lived before Christ was born? Are they condemned to Hell because God timed things badly (for them)?

ErikH | 16 November 2011  

Dear Nadine
To judge by some of the comments so far there is a long way to go...
Please be assured that some of 'us' are walking it with you.
Peace and blessings to you in your journey.May God hold us all in the palm of his hand.
PS By the way Skye I have sometimes been assumed not to be Catholic (cf your comment about nice Muslims not being Islamic)...

margaret | 16 November 2011  

Trent – the statements you make are beliefs, not facts. All religions have their beliefs, and their adherents are fully entitled to them. However it is counter-productive to expect people to accept as established facts the beliefs of others simply because they were written into the scriptures of their faith. As Catholics are most unlikely to accept the claim that the Koran was dictated by God to Mohammed, neither should we expect Muslims to accept the claims of our scriptures (and our interpretations thereof) as indisputable facts.

Judith | 16 November 2011  

Dear Trent
Our popes since Vatican II have declared that the faith journeys of others in different belief systems have validity.

Gerard Tonks | 16 November 2011  

Trent:Catholicism is a major part of the Religious faith of humanity; but to claim that it is all, and always has been such seems a little one eyed, possible even misguided. Your adherence to your personal brand of faith is laudible, but loosen the blinkers a little : Our Father who art in heaven created humanity in many shades, in many flavours - and likewise he created our faith for Him in many colours and many flavours.

jOSH | 16 November 2011  

Thnk you Nadine for your wonderful article, sharing your experience and the examples of your wisdom. I am old now and had a lot of experience with the migration to Australia from 1945. My father brought people from the migrant camp to our home for the evning meal and always if we don't go our to meet these people how do they get to know us - this hs been the lesson of my life and I now have contact with recent arrivals margaret

margaret o'reilly | 16 November 2011  

Thank you, Nadine and congratulations. You write well and I admire you values.For nine years I worked closely with many young Muslim women and men at a Catholic university in Indonesia and I often talked with them about their religion.I found them all thoughtful, considerate, tolerant and compassionate, always ready to help others. I learnt much of what i know about Islam from them.

Maryrose Dennehy | 16 November 2011  

SKYE's comment is correct. There is a difference between nice Moslems and Islam.Individual Moslems can be very nice and also protective to Christians and Jews in Egypt. (maybe there are no longer Jews in Egypt) The followers of Islamic doctrines "Koran, Hadith, Shariah Law" are burning Churches and killing their own people who happen to be Christians (Copts) in Egypt.Christianity was the majority religion in the 4th to the 6th centuries in Egypt.

Ron Cini | 16 November 2011  

This is the second piece of writing which I have read from young Nadine and her insight and thought have not ceased to amaze me. For a person her aged I am gobsmacked at how much knowledge and understanding of the world she possesses. We need people like you to lead our country.

As a Catholic I do not stand by what people such as Trent have said and I think that you will have a very bright future ahead of you. Keep writing!

Jane | 16 November 2011  

Thank you Nadine - my Muslim friends despair at those who use the religion as an excuse for violence. Christians of any shade do well to to dip into history and see what their forbears did to the pagans who refused to bow to their tyranny. Fanaticism i once read, is what's left when people have forgotten what they were fighting for, and i would add, ego takes over from truth.

hilary | 16 November 2011  

Having known Nadine as a primary school student, I can testify to the positive influence she had as our School Captain in a Catholic school.How fortunate we are to have people such as Nadine to promote harmony and acceptance of diversity in our world.

Mary O'Donohue | 17 November 2011  

I can't not say this - I am 63 - for such a young age your sentiments mirror my own. Even when I was your age people's ignorance and intolerance irritated me. My opinions are still the same. I foster teenagers and the I find that the general population have a negative view of these 'throw away' children. Best of luck in your future.

Kath Garraway | 18 November 2011  

Its quite possible that the email I'm copying here is some kind of hoax, but the sentiments it expresses surely are not. I received this earlier this week - apologies for the length.
An Open Letter To The Taliban
Do you know what degree of shame, abomination, misery and wretchedness is being heaped on the innocent and peace-following Muslims all over the world because of this so-called and self styled Jihad of yours?
Do you know how many innocent, unsullied people are being daily butchered as result of this professed Jihad of yours? How many children are being orphaned and women being widowed precisely for the same reason.
And do you know, killing one faultless human being is like killing the entire humanity. You must definitely be knowing that you will surely be held accountable for this all bloodshed. Will you, then, be able to face your God? I challenge, no!
Then, why have you become agents of some hidden hands. Why are you taking the responsibility of the murder of entire humanity to yourselves on their behest.
Why are you dragging the Muslims down? Why are you demeaning Islam by presenting it as a terrorist religion? Acting like this, which religion are you rendering a great service to? Are you raising the standard of Islam high or you (if you reflect on it) are causing the heads of the followers of the path of the righteous bow down with shame in-front of the entire humanity.
Today most of the Muslims believe that you are not true Muslims but planted by the enemies to destroy the image of Islam.
For God's sake, take recourse to sense, and announce a CEASEFIRE at-once so the inhabitants of world may be introduced to that divine aspect of the Muslims at whose hands no soul suffer, whose words and actions bear no tinge of dichotomy, whose speech when uttered, conveys to others the message of love and protection, whose thoughts, when thought, are devoted to the well being of others. Herein lies the true success, and herein lies the victory of the true religion of Allah.
(Peace Activist)

DavidP | 18 November 2011  

Nadine, what a wonderful column. Thank you, from my heart. One of my senior staff, of operating rooms, was brought up a Roman Catholic. After marrying a Muslim Jordanian man, she became a devout Muslim herself. She was one of the nicest, kindest, caring women I ever knew. A dear, generous friend, she died at 50, of cancer. God bless you, Nadine.

LouW | 18 November 2011  

Skye refers to what s/he calls the 'intolerance at the heart of Islam'. Do the comments by Trent and Ron Cini therefore demonstrate an 'intolerance at the heart of Catholicism'? Or is it rather that all faith communities have their share of intolerant people?

Ginger Meggs | 18 November 2011  

I agree with your article, Nadine, especially your statement that anti-muslim comments are not rascist but merely ignorant and show a lack of understanding. Acts of terrorism are political acts and not religious acts. Comments on this website about "nice muslims" are patronising. Comments from people such as Trent that the Catholic Church is the one true religion are silly.

Mark Doyle | 19 November 2011  

LOL@ Trent & the Catholic Church being the original church.The older Coptic and Orthodox Christian Churches regard the Catholic Church as a new fangled church of heretics. Your views are so just because you were born in the Catholic religion.

Michael I Cerularius | 19 November 2011  

Gee Trent, your argument seems so strong now that everyone has commented on it. I believe Ms. Rabah deserves a lot of credit for the arguments she has now conjured. Well done!

Brett | 20 November 2011  

I wonder if any Moslem school would allow a practising Catholic to even enrol, let alone elect him as school captain.

Trent is correct. Nadine's implication that it doesn't really matter what religion you follow or which God you believe in if you are a good person, and treat everyone how you would like to be treated, is directly contrary to the doctrines of Islam as well as Catholicism. You can be sure that none of the Catholics of the first century went around saying to pagans "it doesn't matter that you believe in your gods and not in the one true God, because you'll be saved anyway if you're a good person".

Peter G | 24 November 2011  

Hi Nadine,
Thank you for your lovely view on attending a catholic school. I'm a catholic mum of two primary school kids. I was curious as to why some musliim parents send their kids to catholic schools. It's seems there is so much to learn about you faith. Thank you for sharing your experience. Best of luck in your future goals. Michele.

Michele | 03 December 2011  

Thanks Nadine for a terrific piece of writing. Marie.

Marie O'Connor sgs | 28 August 2013  

People always need someone to look down on. A scapegoat sometimes. My own family were Irish Immigrants who came to Glasgow during the potato famine. They were really discriminated against because they were Irish Catholics. Many of them became Protestants just to be accepted. I enjoyed reading this article and Nadine has a good out look on life. many people dont know any better and can say hurtful things re race or religion. Some times its just ignorance.

Eleanor Dahlstrom | 14 May 2017  

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