POSITIVE SESSION: An Islam awareness workshop in Bundaberg this week.
POSITIVE SESSION: An Islam awareness workshop in Bundaberg this week. Brad Marsellos, ABC

Islam awareness workshop breaking down barriers

"PEOPLE splash around words like jihad, sharia law and halal, and they don't even know what any of it means."

Heidi Seyrekbasan is passionate about dispelling myths associated with Islam and on Tuesday that is what she did at a workshop at Bundaberg and District Neighbourhood Centre.

The Islam awareness workshop was organised by the Bundaberg Community Action for a Multicultural Society program.

During the session, guest speaker Ms Seyrekbasan answered questions about the religion.

"We had a really positive session addressing common misconceptions, like that Muslim women are oppressed. I own a company. We had doctors and lawyers there," the Bundaberg contractor said.

She often wonders: "Why do I have to keep defending myself? We're an asset to the community."

Critics of Islam - such as senate candidate Bernard Gaynor, who launched a branch of his anti-Islam Australian Liberty Alliance party in Bundaberg this week - have likely never met a Muslim and don't intend to, Ms Seyrekbasan said.

"They preach to people who think the same way, and those people jump on the bandwagon."

Many Muslims are tired of being asked to defend their religion in a climate of fear surrounding ISIS.

"Everyday Muslims who are practicing proper Islam ... they do not represent us."

Ms Seyrekbasan was born in Australia and has lived in Bundaberg since the 1980s.

The Muslim community here is diverse, she said.

"You don't have to be from one certain country to be a Muslim," she said.

"I went to school here, my kids went to school here. I love Bundaberg.

"It's a beautiful community.

"You just get the odd bogan - people who shout profanities at you in the street - and they don't know what they're talking about.

"What gives them the right to terrorise me and my community?

"I know if they sat down and had a coffee with me, they wouldn't have a case."

The media had a responsiblity to report fairly, she said.

"It's really disappointing and frustrating - mostly, what the media says doesn't actually represent Islam."

CAMS will hold another workshop at Bundaberg and District Neighbourhood Centre on Tuesday April 19, "Introduction to the Refugee and Settlement Experience - The Impact of Trauma", to give understanding on the experiences of refugees.

For more information contact Edyta Gradowska on 4153 1614 or multicultural@ kenalwynbnc.org.au.

What does it mean: Jihad 

Jihad is an Arabic word that means "struggle" or "striving" (inwardly and outwardly) and is an important concept in Islam.

It can be understood as a spiritual struggle to become a better person, living through difficult times, struggling through personal dilemmas and in some contexts it can mean participating in war. 

However, it is commonly misused by Western media and extremist groups as a direct translation of 'religious war'. 

Islamic scripture distinguishes jihad of warfare from other types by calling it qital (fighting).

Declaring a war however is the responsibility of the state, governed by strict rules of engagement, and is not valid if declared by individuals or groups. Jihad does not mean 'holy war'.

A jihad of fighting is considered illegitimate if it violates the rules of engagement such as the killing of any innocent person or bystander.

Taken from reportingislam.org/about/islam-myths

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