In her first speech to the Senate, and as Australia’s first female Muslim senator, Mehreen Faruqi said, ‘Assalamoalikum,’ which is a traditional Arabic greeting of peace. She spoke of her commitment to acknowledging Australia’s colonial history and fighting for the rights of First Nations peoples.
Senator Faruqi went on to describe her experiences as a migrant, arriving in Australia in the early 1990s and her work, ‘in regional New South Wales and in Sydney in the public and private sectors as an engineer, consultant, teacher and academic.’ She explained why she left Pakistan, unable to ‘reconcile an entrenched class divide between the rich and the poor, the women and the men, and the elite and the workers.’ She described Australia as ‘an egalitarian society where ordinary people tended to be treated with dignity and respect’ but acknowledged that racism is still a problem in Australia and that her ‘presence in the Senate is an affront to some. They are offended that people of colour, and Muslims, have the audacity to not only exist but to open our mouths and join the public debate.’
In closing, Senator Faruqi declared, ‘We cannot fiddle around the edges and somehow hope that the tide will turn. We can build a future for each and every one of us, no matter where we come from and no matter the colour of our skin, our religion, our gender or sexuality, our bank balance or our postcode. I hope I can make you proud.’