At a time where Indigenous Australians represent less than three per cent of the population and the proportion of the population practising Islam is 2.6 per cent, there’s little surprise why Jamal Idris’ father, Jerry, wanted to support his son, instead of victimise him.
“When my father was questioned by others about why he didn’t raise me to be a devout Muslim he had a very clear and simple reason,” Jamal said, putting on his best Nigerian accent he impersonated his dad’s comments word for word.
“He is half African in Australia at a time in the 90’s when there weren’t many black kids. He is half Aboriginal in Australia when they don’t even accept their own people. He is already a minority and you want me to add to that by forcing him to tell the world that he is a Muslim? He’s a kid I’ve got to protect him I’m his father and that’s my job.”
"People use religion for their own agendas.”
Unfortunately being a black, Aboriginal, Muslim 6.4 foot sports star, Jamal says there was no hiding from his identity.
The 27-year-old wasn’t brought up in religious, his father Jerry was a Nigerian Muslim man and as a result Jamal says he was born a Muslim and will die one too, but that didn’t necessarily mean he went down the ‘stereotypical’ pathway of automatically practising Islam.
By the age of 11, Jerry told his son he was "old enough to know the difference between right and wrong or what religion to be" but Jamal said he didn’t "believe you needed religion to be a good person".
“That’s probably the smartest thing I’ve said in my entire life and I was only a kid,” Jamal laughed.
While Muslims make up less than three per cent of the Australian population they still manage to dominate the news headlines and are often misunderstood or negatively stereotyped. Jamal says it’s disappointing that when people hear the word Muslim or think of Islam they associate it with elements such as terrorism, sexism and extremism.
Jamal drinks alcohol, has sex before marriage, doesn’t pray much, will eat bacon sometimes and celebrates non-Islamic traditions like Christmas, but says he was born a Muslim and will die a Muslim.
Which is exactly why he decided to get involved with ‘Muslims like us’ - a television show about a mix of Australian Muslim people living together, to explore more about what it really means to be Muslim.
There are certain subjects that are widely known for triggering public conversations and one of them has always been religion. For people like Jamal, who has had religious influences in his life but no personal connection to faith, he believes a lot of the time people’s interpretation is swayed by their own thought process.
“If they believe something is true and it doesn’t exist in the faith, they’ll use Islam to say ‘this backs me up because it says this here’ this is the same in all religions. People use religion for their own agendas.”
"Get out of this shop you black c*** I know what you’re doing, you’re f***ing stealing."
Growing up the 27-year-old said there was so much racism, but that the worst thing was people who didn’t even know they were being racist.
“People ask ‘what are you?’ and when we say Aboriginal the comments are like ‘but you can’t be, you’re so pretty’. They don’t think they’re being racist because they’re giving a compliment,” he explained.
“I’ve been in shops when I was a kid and when I walked in they’d say ’get out of this shop you black c*** I know what you’re doing, you’re f***ing stealing’. That happened one time in the western suburbs. I was only eight-years-old but I snapped and told my mum. As soon as I did she turned the car around, went back into the shop, called for every single manager and blew up.”
For all the people who claim ‘there’s no racism in Australia’ Jamal challenges you.
“There are so many people who have been to university and because they have their degrees they say ‘well I’ve studied this for so many years’ and I look at them and say I’m 27 years old, I’ve studied being African and Aboriginal for 27 years.You don’t know what I know more than me. You don’t have a degree in my life.”