By Mehreen Faruqi
18 October 2017
I know that discussions about marriage equality can challenge people’s personal views. These are not easy conversations to have. Believe me, I’ve had many. I still do.
After being elected to the New South Wales upper house as the first female Muslim MP in any parliament in Australia, the media immediately focused on the question of how I would reconcile my faith with the Greens’ support for LGBTQI rights.
While this same question would rarely be asked of an MP who identifies as Christian or Jewish, I wasn’t surprised.
In Australia there is a negative attitude towards Muslims rife with stereotypes. I have never shied away from publicly supporting marriage equality, not then and not now.
As a Muslim, I grew up with values of compassion, justice and dignity. For me it’s a question of removing discrimination and providing hope and happiness to all loving couples regardless of their race, religion, sex, sexuality or gender identity. It matters to me that everyone has the same right to enjoy love, partnership and commitment that my husband and I do.
Who can better understand the trials and tribulations of being a minority community than a brown, migrant, Muslim woman? We know what it feels like to face prejudice.
I came to Australia as a migrant from Pakistan 25 years ago. This is where both my children have grown up and where I’ve studied and worked. We’ve had many great opportunities but also faced barriers for no other reason than simply being who we are.
Australian Muslims are bearing the brunt of the current wave of racism, division and Islamophobia. While we ask others to defend our rights to our culture and religion, surely it’s incumbent upon us to do the same for others being treated unfairly. Discrimination against anyone should be an affront to us all.
Because of my continued support for marriage equality, including co-sponsoring the cross-party marriage equality bill in NSW parliament in 2013 , I’ve been told by some friends and family that “western” thinking has got to me, that I’ve been brainwashed, that I’ve lost my way and that I’ll burn in the fires of hell for eternity.
Like people of any other faith, Muslims come in all shapes and sizes and we have a variety of political views and values.
There are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Muslims. Some of us will be vocal about our support for marriage equality, others will vote quietly. For those still on the fence, please consider this: marriage equality doesn’t mean anyone will be forced to do anything they don’t want to. It just means that other people will have the same rights as heterosexual people who are free to marry the person they love. Why would we deny this basic right to any other couple?
That’s why my husband, my children and I are voting yes , publicly and proudly. As a mother, I can’t fathom the idea that in 2017 there are Australians, particularly young people, whose very identity is being challenged in public debate.
Multicultural ethnic communities are not homogeneous conservative caricatures that the media makes us out to be. Groups like Muslims for Marriage Equality, the Australian Council of Hindu Clergy, the Asian Australian Alliance and the Arab Council support civil marriage because they know, perhaps better than most, that all Australians must be treated equally.
We want our LGBTIQ friends and loved ones to have the same rights we have. It’s that simple.
• Dr Mehreen Faruqi is a NSW Greens MP and the Greens spokeswoman on multiculturalism.