One of my earliest memories of seeing my parents looking utterly confused by my behaviour was back when I was about 8 or 9.  It was on a sunny Sunday and here they both were, all tarted up and trying to tolerate each other for the next couple of hours as I dragged them off to church.

With not a religious bone between them, I can still remember requesting their presence at the Uniting Church as I was going to be reading a verse from the bible in front of the congregation.

“How on earth did we end up with this religious kid?” Ironically it was the first thing they’d actually ever united on.

I started to lose the religious vibe by about the time I was 14.  After a series of questions to my Religious Instructions teacher about how God ended with him lobbing a pair of scissors at my head thus finishing the interrogation, and pretty much my affiliation to his brand of God.

No awards for why the title Religious Instructions was the name of the class, as instructions, not discussions were clearly the curriculum.

The fact of the matter is that I am still interested in all sorts of religions and although I have am very strong in my particular beliefs, but I would never claim to know the whole truth, and would never heckle anyone on their interpretation of the meaning of life.

So I had a rather exhilarating and interesting little moment last weekend at

The Mind Body Spirit expo as I came across a stall that really stood out.

Two ladies in burqa’s standing there, my eyes initially landing on the lady that only had her eyes showing, and I admit there was an instant spark inside me that was almost like a nervous bell going off.

I then I looked at the lady standing to her right, but this lady had her face on show.  She looked at me and gave me a huge warm grin.

I realised how sad it was that we humans seem so programmed to fear what we don’t know.  And in this case, all the unknown was was the face behind one of the burqa’s.  Yet, in actuality all there probably was was just another smiling lady like the one she stood beside.

And then I came across the four men also behind the stall, all with thick beards, shaved heads and wearing long shirt dresses.  One of the men mentioned that everything they had on offer was absolutely free.

I stopped and asked what the free CDs were all about and this very polite and obliging Muslim man went through the range of topics designed to explain Islam.

And then another older Muslim gentleman sitting in the corner asked if I’d like my name written in Arabic script which I thought was rather fun.

I took away about 10 different CDs, a couple I’ve already watched.  Of course I didn’t stop because I’m in the market for a new religion, I stopped because here they were, this religious group, who let’s face it, don’t always receive fair PR.  Yet how many of us have ever taken the time to really find out what their beliefs are about?

I was actually really touched by what this group seemed to be about.  A great strategy through presence at The Mind Body Spirit festival and clearly wanting to offer a chance to de-mystify what they believe in, and what is the Quran.

What I think so far of the information I’ve learnt from what I’ve watched so far is really not important, but I will say that there is a line in the Quran that reads that Allah says, “I created tribes so that you could get to know each other.”

There’s wisdom we could all take from that line.  Just taking the time to see what’s behind the unknown of another may ease the fear, which so often turns to really unnecessary hate.


  1. Isn’t that what we are all here to do? Get to know Eachother? The world would be a sad and lonely place if we all didn’t step outside our comfort zone to meet and understand different people. I am a big believer of the phrase ‘Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover’ and this can incorporate race, sex, clothes, 12 children hanging off two arms.. It’s all about exploring eachothers beliefs and being excepting of who we are. Unfortunately most of the people who make another group of people look bad are in the extreme catagory and ruin it for the possible friendships that could have formed but where to scared too.
    I admit I know nothing about being a Muslim, but if there was a opportunity to learn I wouldn’t close my mind off and I’m glad you didn’t either Amber!

    • Well exactly Lauren, I only took the time to get to know them really because they were there in my face, but I was so grateful to them for that. And it also doesn’t mean that all of what their videos said completely resonated with me but parts of it did and parts didn’t. No different at all to how I feel about Catholicism or Christianity. Yet the crimes committed by the Catholic church are so widespread but it doesn’t lead us to judge or fear all Catholics, or to not make an effort to get to know them in society, does it? I also think there’s certain religious preachers that present ‘their god’ story in a good way, and others that ram it down your throat too aggressively. I’ve seen this from all the major religions. thanks for commenting Lauren.x

  2. Message Body:
    A woman in a full Burka and a Bikini clad woman,
    both detract from the spirit of being a human being. All expressions of culture are at times limiting of human growth. Both these expressions of the female form focus on the beauty myth, one hides it, the other flaunts it. Neither are good for society. Don’t be an apologist for Islam without looking au your own culture.

  3. amber petty
    11:18 AM (5 hours ago)

    to Marcus
    I couldn’t agree more Marcus. I saw a cartoon recently that expressed that so well. How many western women are just nervous wrecks or have low self asteem because they’re so busy trying to get the wrong attention from men and really denegrating themselves in the process.

  4. I grew up with Islam. ALL four schools of Sunni jurisprudence agree on the death penalty for apostasy (one who leaves Islam). I remember my parents used to quote the Prophet (as recorded by Bukhari) “…The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'” You don’t hear these words at dawah stands; instead this comes later on when you are indoctrinated into the religion.

    I think it’s commendable, Amber, that you are trying to understand Islam. Muslims have made great contributions to this nation. However, it’s a huge mistake to whitewash Islam. You quoted the Quran “I created tribes so that you could get to know each other.” My favourite Qur’an quotes are: the terrifying Verse of the Sword from surah 9 “Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them and capture them and beseige them” and “Muhammad is God’s apostle. Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another” Quran 48:29 – I think they speak wonderfully of the true Islam that, thankfully, most Muslims choose to ignore.

  5. Thanks Nathaniel. Very interesting. I don’t claim to know enough about Islam by any means but I do think we owe it to ourselves to be a little more educated on others beliefs. I did pick up on a tone and some words that didn’t sit well with me on the audio CDs I heard, but the Australian Muslim preacher guy sounded like he was on an ego trip. I would hope perhaps he wasn’t a good example of the essence of Islan. Or maybe he is. I’ll be doing some more researching. I have to admit I’m a bit stumped of what to say right now. But I thank you for taking the time to comment. I really do

  6. A great and insightful piece, thanks Amber – really well thought through. If only we could all open our minds and not be so fearful of what we do not know and try to take time to learn and understand.

  7. Alarm bells goin off with what Nathaniel believes,
    Mohhamad didn’t say this at all, man changed what was written in the quran
    And Islam is running with it.
    So to Christianity has been changed to suit man,
    Amber if you want to know god, and his will, the bible is his words,
    You began life on the right track, it’s sad that you fell away, so many do
    May the holy spirit convict you again,
    Ps there is only one religion where there is salvation ,(god with man)
    All the other religions ( man searching for god)

    • there are alarm bells yes as if this was what he was taught then how many other people are out there being taught that layer that he explains? I do hope though that the essence of Islam doesn’t go to that extreme, but then Andrew I will say that you are now doing what some say Islam does and that is force your ‘this is the right god’ and ‘this is the right religion’ on me and that just doesn’t wash with me. have you ever imagined that someone can think so deeply and be so in touch with their spiritual self that they don’t need someone to tell them what is god or how to live? I don’t need a bible or another person to tell me what god it and what god means to me. If you do, then that’s good as that’s what you believe and what you need to give your belief structure. I don’t. I wish everyone and their version of God and the Universe well. I also wish they would allow another human the right to make their minds up about what feels right to them. Thank you for taking the time to read and reply Andrew.

  8. A couple of points… Firstly to Nathaniel, you are very misinformed. I question why your parents would quote that particular point about killing those who discard Islam. It seems to me you are being selective as a pose to reading and understanding the whole message. This is dangerous… It leads to further misunderstanding of Islam. But you are not alone.. I have seen this happen by all people concerning all faiths. Secondly to Andrew.. The Quran is the one book that has NEVER ever been changed. Not a single word. Not a single letter. I challenge you to prove me wrong. Finally.. Amber, may I ask who the speaker is on the DVD’s you are watching? Unfortunately these days, anyone can make a DVD or write a book and say what they like. Any credible speaker, regardless of topic or subject, will always report the source of what they are saying, plus explain the different interpretations that scholars have made.

    • I will report back on who the guy was on the CD. He didn’t sit well against the people I met or the other very interesting DVDs and Muslim speakers I watched. Will get back to
      You. In Sydney though till Sunday evening just so you don’t think I’ve forgotten

  9. Everything I said is backed up by Islamic texts – the Qur’an and canonical hadith, Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. In ALL schools of Sunni jurisprudence the punishment for apostasy is death; anyone who says otherwise is either lying or ignorant. The same punishment exists for those who insult (blaspheme) Muhammad. Ali Taha, you are the one being selective.

    These slick car salesmen with their polished DVDs. They cherry pick Quranic verses to make the religion more palatable.

  10. Amber.. I have tweeted you a link which proves Irshad Manji has no credibility. She is biased and being funded to write and say what she does, by a pro-Israel islamophobic organisation. Don’t waste your time.

  11. Dear Ms Petty

    We would like to thank you for your article “Behind the burqa lives compelling Islam spirit” – http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/opinion/behind-the-burqa-lives-compelling-islam-spirit/story-e6freajc-1226393498972. As you rightly stated, Islam and Muslims often unfairly receive bad press. It was thus refreshing to read your piece which called for reason and better judgment to prevail.

    Indeed human nature is afraid of the unknown, however it won’t hurt anyone to get to know more about “the other”. Your ability to acknowledge the difficulty faced by this minority and your willingness to accept a readily available offer to be informed gives hope that the genuine goodness in humanity will help pave the way for a prosperous society for all Australians to enjoy.

    Thank you.

    Yours sincerely

    Dr Zachariah Matthews
    Executive Director

  12. IREA, IISNA, ASWJ & PRESTON Masjid presents
    World Renowned Speaker: Br.Imran
    Topic: Jihad & Terrorism – are they the same?
    Guest speaker: Professor Greg Barton, Monash University
    Date: Sunday 24th of June Time: 6pm.
    Venue: Sidney Myer Asia Centre, Parkville Univesity of Melbourne.
    Muslims and non Muslims are all invited. Free entry.

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