I was raised by strict Catholic parents and one of seven children in a small NSW town. The largest building was the convent followed by the hotel. The small house we rented was owned by the convent.
Each Sunday we were dressed in our Sunday best and marched off to church. Religion was drilled into us at school and eventually I became an altar boy. I was a bit of a rebel, much to the disgust of my father – I knew where all the orchards and vegetable patches were and helped myself to the bounty. My only means of transport was my bike and if this failed I had to appropriate spare parts from surrounding neighbours.
As punishment for my indiscretions, I was sent off to Mass at the convent early every morning. Religion became a punishment, not a support.
As a teenager, I questioned the Catholic beliefs. I didn’t understand the trinity, nor could anyone fully explain it to me. Whilst I researched the matter, I was unable to find scientific or theological material to satisfactorily answer any of my questions. Over the years I moved away from religion and although I looked at other Christian beliefs I was not at peace within myself. My family did not support my decision, but I was old enough to make my own life choices.
During my police service I witnessed many horrific sights which made me question if there was in fact a God or Supreme Being overlooking the world. How a god could let this happen was beyond my comprehension.
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I eventually succumbed to post traumatic stress disorder which gave me the opportunity to take stock of my life; I needed an outlet completely remote to the police service.
I was stationed in a community with a large Muslim population. I researched the customs and beliefs of this community and decided to learn more about the religion. Many of my Aussie mates both male and female in town were married to the Muslim partners and I sought their advice.
My friends informally advised that Islam has an emphasis on the importance of family life. They also said that social values are one of the keys that attract converts from various cultural backgrounds who are serious about traditional family values and moral teachings.
It wasn’t until I met my present wife in the late 80s that I began to question my religious values. I was besotted with this young woman from Christmas Island who was a devout Muslim.
After a long courtship, I converted to Islam in 1990. We later married in 1996 with a Muslim and State wedding. I now have an extended family and follow the teachings of Islam.
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I have found inner peace and I am spiritually relaxed. It is a wonderful feeling to be in an extended family, we look after our brothers and sisters, providing labour and material to complete unfinished projects where illness has beset the family. Maintaining the family unit is paramount. I am amazed how young couples care for their elderly parents unconditionally. There is no consideration to placing them in aged care.
I am lost for words.
I am not here to preach religion or attempt to convert any person. We all have personal choices. Islam means “peace”; the religion is about peace, harmony and love for your fellow man.
I can assure you that there is nothing in Islamic scripture that can give justification for the perverse actions of barbaric criminals slaughtering people under the flag of the Islam State.
Thank you again to Barry for sharing your story with us about being an Australian Muslim.
What do you think of Barry’s story? Does it change your perspective on what it is to be an Australian Muslim? Do you know anyone who is Muslim? Share your thoughts in the comments.