Upcoming SBS documentary series, The Mosque Next Door offers unprecedented access to the community from the Holland Park Mosque, located in the heart of the suburbs of Brisbane. Through the three-part series debuting on 8 November on SBS, viewers can explore one of the many ways to be an Australian.
Imam Uzair is the 45-year-old Imam of Holland Park Mosque. He was born in England, studied in Pakistan from the age of 10, and arrived in Australia 21 years ago, becoming the country’s youngest Imam.
Now, all these years later he regards the Mosque community as his family. He conducts the five daily prayers, oversees weekly classes, performs all the weddings, and is the agony uncle for the various personal, social and familial issues of the community.
Imam grew up an avid cricket fan. Presiding over a community of more than 22 different cultural backgrounds he thought of one way to unite everyone after prayers; would be with a game of cricket. So he built the Mosque Cricket Ground, also known as the ‘other MCG'!
In the last few years, Imam has seen challenges multiply with the escalation of Islamophobia and extremism. This has required him to redefine his role and take a more public position beyond the Mosque.
34-year-old Ali Kadri is a Sunni Muslim from India, who arrived in Australia 14 years ago as a student. Sectarian violence and anti-Muslim riots in India had led to the death of his brother, so his father sent him to university in Brisbane for his safety.
Ali studied hard and now runs a string of successful businesses, but most of his time is spent advocating and helping the local Muslim community. He met Imam six years ago when he came to Holland Park Mosque for the first time. Since then the place has become a central part of his life, and Imam, one of his closest friends.
After witnessing the divisions and violence in his country of birth, Ali is determined to defeat Islamophobia, extremism and bigotry, and make Australia a safe and truly multicultural nation. This is his mission and he works 24/7 to achieve his goals.
But Ali’s mum Saiyeda has her own mission and is desperate to see Ali married. He still lives at home with mum in Brisbane and so the pressure is on for Ali to find a wife.
Galila lives in Brisbane with her husband Emad whom fell in love with when they were both university students in Egypt nearly 40 years ago. Their children are all grown up now and live locally with their own families.
Fiery, fun and forthright, Galila established the Islamic Women's Association 25 years ago, and is currently its CEO. She is a lifelong advocate for women’s rights, both inside and beyond the mosque. Her current mission is fighting for better facilities for the women who pray at Holland Park as well as a host of other community projects.
Galila also delights in spending her spare time matchmaking and has Ali Kadri next on her list. When she finds time Galila loves to go to the beach. She is known as the “selfie Queen” because of great love of selfies and social media. But Galila also has her struggles, especially as her beloved husband Emad is mortally ill with cancer.
Born in Australia, Robbie was brought up a Catholic and spent his childhood years in New Jersey. He became involved with drugs and crime, the bikie underworld and served time behind bars before he found Islam five years ago. Now a devout Muslim, Robbie prays at the Mosque on a regular basis and has even given up his addiction to tattoos, which are forbidden in Islam.
A few years ago Robbie was arrested in a counter terrorism raid but the charges were dropped. It was an incredibly stressful experience for Robbie and it fuelled a passion to support other Muslim brothers facing the same situation.
Robbie loves to help others, and aside from his job as a youth worker he also volunteers for a homeless charity handing out hot meals twice a week and with the support of the Islamic Council of Queensland has helped establish Islamic Prison Chaplaincy program.
Robbie spends his spare time at the gym, riding his motorbike across town or taking a break to Indonesia to visit his in-laws.
28-year-old Lamisse is the eldest of six children, from a cross-cultural family. Her mother converted to Islam after meeting her Egyptian-born husband 30 years ago.
Having abandoned Islam in her late teens, Lamisse is now trying to reconcile herself to her faith and identity. Her recent divorce has brought her closer to her immediate family and this has helped her return to Islam in her own way. Like many women, Lamisse doesn’t usually pray at the Mosque but will attend during special times throughout the year, such as Ramadan.
For the past few years Lamisse has been working with Robbie as a youth worker but now she’s embarking on a new chapter of life and has moved to Cairo to study, travel, write and reconnect with her Egyptian roots.
The Mosque Next Door starts Wednesday 8 November on SBS.