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Life as a Muslim in a Catholic school

SHARING BELIEFS: Abdul Malik has been helping people on the Coast understand Islam since he arrived in 2008.
SHARING BELIEFS: Abdul Malik has been helping people on the Coast understand Islam since he arrived in 2008. Warren Lynam

IF ANYBODY worried Abdul Malik was going to be a fish out of water in a Catholic school, they would be sorely mistaken.

Mr Malik was born in Afghanistan and raised as a Muslim, a faith he carried with him to Australia when his brother sponsored his education at Sienna Catholic College in 2008.

At the time, he was only 14 years old and found himself peppered with questions at school about what it meant to be Muslim.

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"At first it was a bit scary but as soon as I got to know the students and teachers, and they came to know me, it became normal," he said.

"The more questions they asked me, the more I became energised."

Mr Malik explained one of the core practices of Muslim worship is the five daily prayers; one for dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening time, but this was no problem for him at school.

"Though I was in a Catholic school, they allowed me to do my prayers and follow my religion," he said.

"But sometimes I would forget because I would be playing soccer or something at lunchtimes.

"My friends would run up to me and ask 'Have you done your prayer?' and I would have to say 'No, thanks for reminding me'.

"All of the teachers and the students, to me they are like family now."

While navigating the difficulties of teenage life, Mr Malik was also dedicating time to exploring and explaining his religion.

He has given talks and conducted question-and-answer sessions both at school and into his university career with the goal of helping others understand Islam.

"Before, they say they hate Muslims and Islam is evil, but once I've talked to them and explained what Islam actually teaches us, then they become more comfortable," he said.

"For example, (people question) about jihad.

"I have never had experience with jihad, so I had to start looking into that deeper to find answers for (people asking) and myself.

"These extremists come from a lack of knowledge, they have been learning from the internet and not from a place which teaches Islam."

In between his talks and public initiatives with the Muslim Organisation of the Sunshine Coast, Mr Malik studies civil engineering at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Though he's now long graduated from Sienna, he said he continued to have a strong connection with the teachers who fostered his love of learning.

"Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I still meet (my maths teacher) who tutors me," he said.

Topics:  islam muslim religion spirituality


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