Ignorance can be a hard thing to overcome. Prejudice even more so. Hana Assafiri, chef and owner of Moroccan Soup Bar in Fitzroy North, and the new Moroccan Deli-cacy on Lygon Street, has decided to tackle the two. With speed dating.
For the past six months, Assafiri has hosted forums called Speed Date a Muslim. The events invite anyone who’s interested to come to the Brunswick East deli to enjoy some Moroccan-style treats and ask her and a group of like-minded Muslim women anything they’d like to know about the faith.
“The idea responds to a need for this divisive conversation,” says Assafiri, who believes that prejudice is often based on misconception.
“When a woman that I work with is bashed while filling her car up with petrol, or her hijab is pulled off while she does her daily shopping, I begin to notice and take some responsibility.
“I come from the belief that most people are decent, and when you humanise the thing they’re afraid of, they will ultimately do the right thing. If people understood this was the impact on women, they wouldn’t do it.”
From the ins and outs of wearing a hijab, to the relationship between feminism and the Islamic faith, there is no question too benign or too controversial. The only mandatory requirement is respect.
“Yes, we are progressive – but I will say this outright: anyone whose view it is to condone violence against women in an Islamic framework or otherwise, please do not attend.
“So far the conversations we’ve had have been absolutely positive and absolutely affirming,” she says. “It’s a credit to the sophisticated mindset of people, and the thinking that rejects the notion that these poor, downtrodden women need to be rescued and/or feared.”
Speed Date a Muslim runs every month at Moroccan Deli-Cacy at 313 Lygon Street, Brunswick East.
The next event is Sunday 17 July, at 3pm. Entry is free, but you’ll need to register for a spot via firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was updated on June 15, 2016.