As members of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s ministry were sworn in one-by-one at Government House, Western Sydney Labor MP Ed Husic sat waiting for his turn with a sunset pink Quran in hand.
- The ministers are the first to hold a copy of the Islamic holy book Quran while taking their oath of office
- Swearing on the sacred scripture of Islam signifies a binding oath
- CEO of Muslim Women Association Maha Abdo said the moment represented a “moment of hope”
Placing his right hand on his heart, Australia’s first Muslim cabinet member took his oath of office to become Minister for Industry and Science before Governor-General David Hurley on Wednesday.
Mr Husic did so while holding a copy of the Islamic holy book gifted to him by community worker and CEO of Muslim Women Association Maha Abdo — and said he felt the weight of the moment.
“I’m not gonna [sic] lie, I was pretty nervous,” Mr Husic said.
He said he wanted to use the moment to acknowledge Ms Abdo’s advocacy and the work of other Muslim Australians who serve their communities.
“She does some really important work back in Sydney and is someone that I have huge respect for and admire,” Mr Husic said.
“Maha has been very important in helping families in crisis and has done a lot to bring communities together and I wanted to put a spotlight that Muslim Australians all over the country are doing their bit to help communities be better places to live.”
As the son of Bosnian migrants, Mr Husic said his appointment to cabinet “sends a signal to the broader community that people from different backgrounds, different faiths can have a role to play in building a better country”.
In 2004 he almost turned his back on politics after failing to win the western Sydney seat of Greenway during an election campaign, in which he said his faith was weaponized as “political tactic” against him.
He went on to win the neighboring seat of Chifley in 2010 before briefly serving as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister under Kevin Rudd in 2013.
His decision almost a decade ago to be sworn into Rudd’s ministry while holding a Quran belonging to his father was met with Islamophobic vitriol and abuse online.
“I think things have changed quite a bit and the country is a lot more understanding and accepting,” he said.
“There are a lot of Muslim Australians that still cop a lot of hate speech and have to contend with a lot of things that many other Australians aren’t forced to.”
Australia’s first woman Muslim cabinet member
Mr Husic said his “heart was bursting with pride” as he passed on the Quran to fellow frontbencher Anne Aly to be sworn into the ministry.
“We’re all just trying to make a little bit better for the ones that come after us,” he said.
Dr Aly — who was the first Muslim woman elected to federal parliament and worked as a counter terrorism expert before switching to politics — was awarded the early childhood and youth portfolio after Labor picked up an unexpected four seats in her home state of Western Australia.
“I think it’s a huge portfolio to be entrusted with and I’m really pleased about that,” Dr Aly said.
Labor’s $5.2 billion pledge to reform childcare was the party’s largest election commitment, and Dr Aly said she is “keen to give it everything that I have and to ensure that that trust has not been misplaced.”
As she traveled to the official swearing-in ceremony her father, who was born in Egypt, was on her mind.
“I kind of had a conversation in my head with my dad because baba passed away in 2015, one year before I was sworn in as the member for Cowan,” she said.
“For any young girl, who like me, had the dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin and the different cultural background and wasn’t quite sure if there was a place for her in this country, I hope this sends out a message to them that there is a place for you.
“You can participate fully in the political, social and economic life of Australia in whichever way you want.”
Dr Aly said she believes there had been a significant shift in the way in which Muslims have come to be viewed during her two terms in parliament.
“While we still have to deal with some of the legacies of the securitisation of Muslims post 9/11 there is a definite sense that is subsidizing, and Australia is a more welcoming place and indeed parliament is a much more welcoming place,” she said .
For Ms Abdo, watching Mr Husic and Dr Aly be sworn into the ministry represented a “moment of hope”.
She said the pink Quran, which was gifted to her ahead of the holy month of Ramadan by younger Muslim girls was “very befitting” for the occasion because the color “reminded me of sunrise and sunset”.
“This book is very relevant to Islamic faith, but it is beyond one particular faith, you know, it represents inclusivity,” she said.
Ms Abdo has spent decades advocating for migrants and refugees and said trips to Parliament House in years gone by left her feeling isolated and misunderstood.
“I’m sincerely humbled to see so many women in leadership, and then inclusive, diverse leadership,” she said.
“I never thought I’d actually witness that in my lifetime.”
Ms Abdo said she hoped the more diverse frontbench would deliver “authentic” leadership that will stand up for “what is right” regardless of “color or creed.”
“When you swear on the Quran, you’re swearing on representing the whole of creation.”
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