A Year Of Ups And Downs
When the bushfire season which wreaked havoc throughout New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia during late 2019 and early 2020 finally subsided in the early months of last year, we thought that things could only get better.
Little did we know!!
When news first filtered through in late January 2020 of this scary, new virus which reportedly had its roots in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 but which the Chinese government allegedly kept a secret from the World Health Organisation for several weeks, many people greeted the suggestion that COVID-19 (the 2019 strain of the Coronavirus) would prove to be a pandemic with skepticism.
Indeed, I put my hand up to being one of those people (see my article in March 2020 headlined “CORONAVIRUS Covid19! Don’t Panic!”)
I don’t have a problem admitting that I was wrong, and the millions of people around the world who have been infected with COVID-19 (and the hundreds of thousands of others who have sadly died from it) are proof that the Coronavirus is real, and that it IS a pandemic.
However, I still hold the view that in many countries, the figures have been grossly inflated by Governments and health officials to paint a worse scenario than what is actually the case.
Why they are doing this, I will leave it for you to ponder, but I will say that it is wrong for them to do this as it creates additional panic to what is already an awful situation.
A situation which saw over 900 Australians lose their lives from COVID-19 between February and December 2020.
Which saw our borders slammed shut both internally and externally and saw unemployment figures skyrocket.
The year when most office workers were forced to do their jobs from home (and hundreds of thousands are still doing so!) and when debate raged as to whether schools should remain open or not.
We saw restrictions imposed on pubs and clubs, restaurants turned into take away outlets for several months and theatres, gyms, beauty parlours and places of religious worship ordered to close their doors.
It was the year that face masks pretty much became the norm on public transport (they are currently compulsory in Greater Sydney), the year when the NRL and AFL competitions were suspended, when Wimbledon was cancelled, when the Olympic Games were postponed for 12 months and when the Melbourne Cup was run in front of an empty grandstand.
We had the farcical situation of our supermarket shelves being emptied due to panic buying and the unforgettable footage on social media and the TV News of grown women physically fighting in the aisles at Woolworths over that last roll of toilet paper!
MUSLIMS HARD HIT
The Muslim community has been harder hit than most, with masjids basically shut down for the best part of four months, including the entirety of Ramadan.
The cancellation of the Hajj due to COVID-19 has obviously led to much grief among those planning to make the pilgrimage last year and as the Coronavirus is still wreaking havoc worldwide, there is no certainty that 2021 will be any different.
Also on the subject of overseas travel, my heart goes out to all those who had to planned to fly out for any reason, particularly those who were hoping to visit relatives in their home countries…..as well as Australian based charitable organisations who have had to cancel missions to various trouble spots around the world.
On a personal note, the cancellation of the International Eid Festival was very disappointing because as many of you know, this is a project that I hold very close to my heart, and I am hoping and praying that this year’s event will be able to proceed, although only time will tell of course.
The continued support of my many followers on social media, however, has been extremely gratifying and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me on my various platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok, as well as the OnePath Network, with which I am also heavily involved.
This website stevedabliz.com has now been operational for over 18 months and during 2020 alone, we were able to bring you some stories about some truly amazing people.
If you’re still on holidays and looking for some reading material to fill in some time, why not peruse some of the stories I’ve written over the past year about some very well known and much admired figures in our community including UMA founder and current ANIC chairman Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, AMAA Man of the Year Osman Karolia, AusRelief president Tom Zreika OAM and inspirational and influential businesswomen Ramia Abdo Sultan and and Dalya Ayoub.
One of the stories I really enjoyed writing was a report on Victoria’s Preston Mosque and the amazing efforts of the current board of directors and building sub-committee to restore this iconic masjid to its former ‘glory days’.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CHARITY
Our beloved Prophet Muhammed PBUH said: “Every single Muslim must give charity every single day.” When asked who would be capable of doing such a thing, he replied, “your removal of an obstacle in the road is a charitable act; your guiding someone is a charitable act; your visit to the sick is a charitable act; your enjoinment of good to others is a charitable act; your forbidding of others from wrongdoing is a charitable and your returning the greeting of peace is a charitable act.” (Biharul Anwar: Volume 75, Page 50).
And you would have noticed that I have devoted specific articles over the past 12 months to a number of Australian-based charities including Sadaqa Welfare Fund, Tenfold, MATW Project and Sydney Muslim Cyclists.
It was with immense pride that I joined my good friend Ahmed Bassal to co-host the MATW’s “My Ummah” live fundraising podcast in early November, where thanks to the generosity of Muslims – not only in Australia but around the world – more than $150,000 was raised in just three hours.
Another charity very close to my heart is the Sadaqa Welfare Fund, whom I assist with various fundraisers including podcasts and with whom I travelled on a mission in late 2017 to assist the Rohingyan people, who have flooded into Bangladesh in their hundreds of thousands in recent years to escape the oppression in their homeland.
As Muslims, we do what we do for charity because it is our duty. Not for any public recognition, gratification or publicity and indeed our Prophet PBUH also said: “A man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity.”
“A man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity.”Prophet Muhammad saws
So it’s hard for me to describe my feelings of late last year when the brothers from Sadaqa Welfare Fund showed me the photos of a water well in the village of Ghola in the Satkhira region of Bangladesh: photos of a water well built next to the local masjid….not only beautifully painted but named after my family and myself!
This act came as a complete shock to me – I was surprised, I was humbled and I was reduced to tears.
Another amazing charity is Tenfold, who in addition to teaching more than 250,000 Muslims how to pray over the years with their wonderful prayer packs and other products, last year announced that they have co-ordinated June 15, 2021 to be the world’s first International Mosque Open Day.
BACK ON THEIR BIKES THIS WEEKEND
Sydney Muslim Cyclists may lack the international profile of some of Australia’s other Muslim charities, but this group of brothers headed by their inspirational president Dr Tarek Sari have for many years been doing magnificent fundraising work which benefits those in need both locally and overseas.
These brothers raised in excess of $10,000 to assist the poor of Lebanon in their recent cycle from Sydney to Wollongong and they are now gearing up (pun intended) for one of their major fundraisers: the Tumut Cycle Classic.
This year’s Classic will be held this coming Sunday January 10 and everything points to the day being a huge success.
The Tumut District Hospital has been the major beneficiary from this event over the years and despite the cancellation of the ‘ride’ in 2020 due to the bushfires, sponsorship monies and some registrations were utilised to buy urology equipment for the hospital as well as a $10,000 donation made to the Tumut Royal Fire Service.
Also the President of the Tumut Cycle Classic, Tarek Sari explained that the organising team has worked overtime to ensure that all the boxes are ticked to make Sunday’s event fully COVID-compliant.
“We will have COVID-safe marshalls to ensure that people are social distancing and we will also have sanitiser stations,” Dr Sari pointed out.
“By its nature, cycling is one of the more COVID-safe sports, but we won’t be taking any chances and riders taking on the different distances (there are five distances ranging from 100km down to 20km) will be spaced out to leave at different times.”
The Classic has raised almost $150,000 for the local hospital since its inception and here’s hoping for perfect weather and another successful fundraiser this weekend.
Dr Sari paid tribute to the sponsors of the Tumut Cycle Classic and also the NSW Government when I caught up with him recently.
“We thank the State Government and NSW Health for their hard work in keeping us safe.
“And we would also like to thank all of our sponsors because without them, we wouldn’t be able to reach our fundraising targets and support the hospital.”