Refugee success stories, Islam and so on…

Yesterday at Diggers a somewhat cantankerous friend got on one of his hobby-horses – well, more like three: people who won’t work and live on welfare, refugees who go straight onto welfare and/or steal our jobs, Muslims with heaps of wives on welfare etc… You know, standard talkback radio and Daily Telegraph-fed stuff. And some of it just lately emanating from or magnified by (not really ex-) former/in waiting Prime Minister Tony Abbott, I see in today’s news.

Yesterday I fought back a bit, just on the “and how many really do that?” line leading towards the possibility that the majority in whatever group one is hating for the moment probably don’t do whatever it is – like have lots of wives. Pointed also to one of our best-known local pharmacists whose shop is much frequented by mothers in hijabs, Said pharmacist is of Lebanese background. Happened my adversary was a customer and admirer of that pharmacy.  Some half hour later my adversary shook my hand and said “I was wrong. You were right.”  Nice when that happens.

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Seen in Wollongong

Interested in this today: We over-estimate the size of the Muslim population … and how fast it’s growing.

…The average guess in France is that almost a third of the population is Muslim, when it’s actually less than 8 per cent. Public perceptions in the US are also a long way from reality – people there think 17 per cent of the population is Muslim, when it’s actually just 1 per cent.

Attitudes in Australia aren’t quite so skewed, but we’re still way out. Our average guess is that Muslim’s make up 12 per cent of the population when the true figure is about 2.4 per cent.

People in most countries also wildly over-estimate the future growth of their Muslim populations. In Australia the average guess is that the Muslim population share will surge to 21 per cent by 2020 (up from the average guess for the current population of 12 per cent) while projections by professional demographers put that figure at around 3 per cent.

Ipsos analyst, David Elliott, said the organisation’s research shows perceptions are often most incorrect on topics that are widely discussed in the media and on issues that are of significant concern to us.

“The huge overestimation of current and future proportions of our population that are Muslims is a classic example of this,” he said.

Other items dealt with in that article by Matt Wade included the failure generally to predict the success of President-elect Donald Tweet.

…In Australia just 17 per cent saw the Trump victory coming. His win was least expected in South Korea (5 per cent) and Mexico (6 per cent).

The “Index of Ignorance”

Ipsos created an “Index of Ignorance” based on the survey results from 40 countries to identify which nations were the best and worst at identifying social realities. Australia was far from the worst, despite the big difference between public perception and reality on many issues.

Australia was ranked the sixth “most accurate” country by the index. The world’s three largest countries by population – China, India and the US – were all ranked among the five “least accurate.”

Another story from today’s press: HSC 2016: Hicham Jansis, a refugee from Homs, tops his HSC course.

At the age of 14 Hicham Jansis fled Homs, a city the Syrian civil war has turned to rubble; at 16 Hicham waited in a refugee camp thinking only of water and the food he could not eat.

On Wednesday, two years after he arrived on Australian shores, he came first in his HSC course…

A great story, and not for the first time. See from 2013 Refugees, migrants celebrate HSC results.

It’s a make or break moment for many, but students at Holroyd High School in Sydney’s western suburbs say the day means more than just a mark.

It’s been a stressful year, but all the hard work and dedication has finally paid off.

About 70,000 students across New South Wales have seen their final exam results and Holroyd students couldn’t be happier.

For many at Holroyd getting an education at all was unimaginable. About 60 per cent of the students at Holroyd come from a refugee background.

Elaf Khaleel fled Iraq three years ago and says she’s happy that her family and school are proud of her.

“It’s really wonderful,” Miss Khaleel says of how far she has come since she first arrived in Australia.

“When I came to Australia actually I was really shy to talk with people because my English…I couldn’t make a perfect sentence.”

Eric Xu migrated from China in 2010 with his parents and says language was his biggest barrier.

Now he’s one of the state’s highest achievers.

His teacher, Bhoopinder Maswan, has watched his progress over the years.

“Eric is one of those students who could not speak, even asking his name was becoming difficult,” he says.

Holroyd High School principal Dorothy Hoddinott has been at the school for 18 years and says on average about 40 per cent of students go on to university.

“That’s very high because the national average is just over 30 per cent for all students of all backgrounds.”

Mrs Hoddinott says the school’s academic expectations have had a ripple effect on the entire community.

“When one of their children complete school and goes on to university they take their entire family on that journey with them and the expectations rise with all the younger children,”

And for those students who didn’t achieve the results they wanted, Mrs Hoddinott says it’s not the end.

“Schools are a place of hope. They’re places of the future. What we do here is an investment in the future, it’s not just the present. You don’t have to be relegated to one place in society because you were born into a poor family, or because you come from a refugee background or because you don’t speak English or because you wear a hijab or whatever it happens to be. You can take on society.”

Lest we get too complacent though: Arif’s story of love and hate in Wollongong (2014):

Afghan refugee Arif Khan grew up in Wollongong dodging stones hurled at his home and verbal taunts at school.

He slept with either a baseball bat or knife because he never felt safe. His street was often targeted by robbers and his belongings were stolen on many occasions.

The break-ins sparked a recurring nightmare: “It was pitch black and there was someone banging at the door. They smashed into the house, kidnapped me and my family. I wasn’t big or strong enough to defend us.”

It was a difficult childhood, marked by his family’s struggle to resettle and a desire to find his place in Australian society. Khan’s experiences, though, have helped him empathise with other Illawarra youth.

He graduated on April 8 with a Masters in Social Work at the University of Wollongong and now works with Wollongong City Council as a youth worker. He received the national Cultural Understanding Award this month for his work with council and support of young refugees.

As a Shia Muslim refugee, the 25-year-old has struggled with his identity and watched many migrants either lose their faith trying to assimilate or struggle to find a place in Australia at all.

“I can fully appreciate and understand the resettlement needs of Afghan Shia refugees,” he says.

“Recently, I’ve been trying to connect them with a Shia mosque in Cringila.

“A lot of the Shia Muslims had to escape because of religious persecution from other so-called Muslims. I don’t like to call them Muslims, because they don’t represent any of the fundamental values of Islam: freedom of expression, gender equality, no racism.”

Many migrants also had to deal with past traumas…

At high school, he endured racist taunts and discrimination from teachers and students alike. The September 11 terrorist attacks took place when he was in year 7, creating another level of suspicion against him.

The boys’ toilets were covered with graffiti: “Die Afghans”, “Kill the Goat F- – -ers”, “F- – – Muslims”. Although he asked to have it removed, it would reappear and eventually the school gave up dealing with it, he says.

“I remember having to turn my back to that wall every time I got changed in the bathroom,” he says.

Then there were the teachers. While some defended Khan, there was an antagonistic teacher who called him the “Osama bin Laden of the high school,” he says.

“It was hell.”…

“As an imam once said, ‘People are either brothers in your faith or your equals in humanity’,” he says.

“That’s how I try to live my life.

“Everybody makes mistakes, we are not infallible, but if the core of your hearts and values is, from my own perspective, based on what God teaches you to be, things like community and social work come naturally.”

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