Great Achievers, One & All.

The 13th annual Mission Of Hope Australian Muslim Achievement Awards (AMAA) were held at a gala function at the magnificent Westella Renaissance centre in Lidcombe last Saturday afternoon.

The awards are the brainchild of well known community identity Hanan Dover, who has co-ordinated them since their inception.

Full credit must go to Hanan and her hard-working team for organising such a fantastic and well run event every year.

Nasreen Hanifi, president of  Mission of Hope (a not-for-profit, community organisation with a focus on health and community development), is another driving force behind the success of the AMAA.

“The Australian Muslim Achievement Awards highlight the remarkable achievements of Australian Muslim individuals and organisations nationally,” says Hanan.

The Australian Muslim Achievement Awards highlight the remarkable achievements of Australian Muslim individuals and organisations nationally.


“It’s our aim is to recognise the dedicated individuals and organisations who have excelled in various areas within the Australian society.


“Our Muslim community is doing some amazing things around Australia and this is what we showcase on this special day.

“We commend the work that our brothers and sisters are undertaking to create a better and safer space for us around the country.”

All in all, there were 16 award categories, with all awards much sought after.

The format of the AMAA sees the finalists named in the various categories a few weeks prior to the Awards ceremony, and the calibre of all of the candidates every year is second to none.

Most of those nominated for awards are well known to me personally, including a number of very good friends.

But I am so proud of each and every winner and finalist as well – as such is the amazing quality of the fine men and women we are speaking about here, there certainly are no losers among them!

Before taking a look at last Saturday’s Honour Roll, I would firstly like to pay tribute to the event’s platinum sponsor The Culinary School.

The Culinary School is an initiative which is off to a spectacular start since its recent launch under the watchful eye of its founder, prominent and popular restaurateur and dedicated humanitarian Bashar Krayem.

“I’ve learned from my 15 years in the hospitality industry that every recipe has a story, a past, an identity tied to a tradition,” Bashar told me.

“Coming from Lebanese parents who migrated here after the war, the connection between culture and cuisine was deeply embedded into my identity from a young age.

“I have studied traditions and how the political histories of certain foods influenced their very birth. Everything can be tied back to culture, and the richness of culture reflects the history of the food.

“Without proper knowledge of its origins, we are denying a part of our identity.

“This is why The Culinary School focuses on teaching the foods of the past the way they were first taught; only when we truly understand their origins can we innovate tradition.

“It’s out of my deep respect for culinary history and the generations that pioneered them that we strive to maintain a cultural tie, keeping the link alive for our youth and those after them.

“The aim of The Culinary School is to inspire a culinary revolution – a journey that transcends borders and generations to reignite a passion for the culinary arts.

“Tradition meets innovation in every recipe, class and cuisine uniquely tailored to awaken your inner chef.”

(I will be running a special feature on The Culinary School on this website in the near future.)

Tender Loving Care Disability Services (TLC)  is another fine organisation which puts its support behind the AMAA.

TLC is committed to providing people who have disabilities with reasonable, individualised support services to facilitate access and the successful achievement of their life goals and they were the Gold sponsor of this year’s AMAA.


Last Saturday was certainly a day to remember for arguably Australia’s highest profile Muslim sportsman, dual AFL Grand Final hero Bachar Houli.

Bashar claimed two awards, being named both the AMAA Man of the Year and also the AMAA Sportsperson of the Year.

A full list of winners and just some of their many exceptional achievements appear below:

WOMAN OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Hala Ramadan (finalists Noori Ahmad; Dr Zuleyha Keskin)

Hala is currently the Principal of Belmore Boys High School in Sydney, where she encourages her love of learning among the school’s many students.

She has built numerous strong community networks and had made the school a very welcoming place.

Hala has a vision to educate and involve students outside the traditional classroom setting, and as an example of this, she has facilitated a unique and successful cultural exchange program between her school and an indigenous school in the far west of New South Wales.

Hala’s involvement in various community and non-community projects have highlighted her vision for the future of her school as well as education in general.

MAN OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Bachar Houli (finalists Osman Karolia, Tom Zreika)

Richmond Tigers midfield star Bachar Houli was the first Muslim to win an AFL premiership in 2017 and  just two seasons later he has become the first Muslim to win ‘the flag’ twice.

This exceptional footballer is just as much a champion, if not more, off the playing field.

He serves our community in many ways, one of which was the foundation of the Bachar Houli academy, a high performance football talent program for emerging junior players.

This is an extension of the Bachar Houli Cup, which allows Islamic schools across the country to complete in AFL against one another in a friendly, fun and safe environment.

The progam focuses on strengthening player’ leadership qualities, building their brotherhood and providing a unique football development opportunity for young Muslim men.

Bachar also founded the Bachar Houli girls’ leadership program which is in its second year, inspiring young Muslim women to become role models.

YOUTH OF THE YEAR

Winner: Nadia Saeed (finalists Bassam Maaliki; Abdul Warsame)

Nadia Saeed is an aspiring young leader who volunteers for many community events and programs.

She is passionate and committed to the Muslim community, organising a number of youth events for the Brisbane community and being invited to speak in Parliament House on Harmony Day.

Nadia has volunteered for many worthwhile charitable causes including Human Appeal and Islamic Relief and her involvement in the community is her way of advocating for youth and providing them with a platform to speak about the issues which affect them.

PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Zaahir Edries (finalists Nadia El-Mouelhy, Hayley Kelloway)

Zaahir is an inspirational role model for the Muslim community through his leadership and commitment to the advancement of Muslim relations through the wider Australian community, especially through his work with the Muslim Legal Network and its focus on civil liberties.

In 2009, he co-founded the Muslim Legal Network, which quickly became the peak professional association representing Australian Muslim legal practitioners.

Zaahir is passionate about civil liberties and addressing law reform issues which affect not only Muslims but any marginalised group.

He is a strong advocate for women and encourages them to lead projects, actively recognising their contributions.

Notwithstanding his many professional achievements, Zaahir is more of a ‘silent’ contributor who has dedicated his life for the betterment of the Muslim community.

ROLE MODEL OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Ramia Abdo Sultan (finalists Zaahir Edries, Dean Mousad)

Ramia is a solicitor who currently runs her own practice. She studied for a Bachelor of Law at UTS and graduated with Distinction in a Master of Islamic Studies at CSU.

She is currently serving on the executive committee of the Gaza Childrens’ Fund Inc, a non-profit humanitarian organisation which seeks to help and empower women and children in Gaza.

Ramia was recently appointed Community Relations Advisor to the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), an organisation comprising Muslim Imams, Clerics and Scholars and is the first woman appointed by the Council.

She sits on various committees seeking to impart positive change including an advisory committee with the Australian Human Rights Commission for the project: “Sharing the stories of Australian Muslims: National Consultations on hate, racism, Islamophobia and Social Cohesion.”

CREATIVE ARTIST OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Nazeem Hussain (finalists Maryam Popal Zahid, Beray Uzanbay)

Nazeem is Australia’s most successful Muslim comedian, one of Australian comedy’s biggest stars and a much loved TV and radio personality, performing nationally and internationally with sold-out shows and with successful TV programs both locally and abroad.

His Netflix special: “Nazeem Hussain: Public Frenemy”, filmed in Montreal at the Just For Laughs festival, started streaming globally in 2019, introducing Nazeem to a new legion of fans and critical acclaim.

2019 saw Nazeem tour nationally for the fifth consecutive time, performing his show “Basic Idiot” in front of huge audiences in every major Australian city. He also supported Aziz Ansari on his 2019 Australian tour.

Despite all of the recognition, accolades and acclaim, both within Australia and internationally, Nazeem is known for his ability to break down stereotypes within the Australian community.

SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Bachar Houli (finalists Payne Haas; Bilal Akkawy)

Richmond Tigers midfield star Bachar Houli was the first Muslim to win an AFL premiership in 2017 and  just two seasons later he has become the first Muslim to win ‘the flag’ twice.

This exceptional footballer is just as much a champion, if not more, off the playing field.

He serves our community in many ways, one of which was the foundation of the Bachar Houli academy, a high performance football talent program for emerging junior players.

This is an extension of the Bachar Houli Cup, which allows Islamic schools across the country to complete in AFL against one another in a friendly, fun and safe environment.

The progam focuses on strengthening player’ leadership qualities, building their brotherhood and providing a unique football development opportunity for young Muslim men.

Bachar also founded the Bachar Houli girls’ leadership program which is in its second year, inspiring young Muslim women to become role models.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR:

Eman Rahim (finalists Ashraf Abdelbaky, Natasha Hill, Mona Mohamed)

Eman runs Heart and Soul Food Assistance, supplying free food to people in need. She feeds around 3,000 needy people in five different locations around Adelaide every week, allowing disadvantaged people in the community access to healthy, fresh food.

Many would go hungry without Eman’s great work and support and unlike some higher profile charities, she does not limit the number of times people can reach out for help.

Eman’s not-for-profit organisation now has three trucks on the road and she works for up to 15 hours a day on a voluntary basis as the chair and chief executive….

COMMUNITY ORGANISATION OF THE YEAR:

Winner: National Zakat Foundation (finalists House of Saqada, Sisters’ Cancer Support Group)

The National Zakat Foundation  is a ground breaking initiative which aims to use Zakat funds and voluntary donations collected in Australia for the benefits of local, deserving recipients.

Those receiving assistance include some of the most vulnerable members of our community including widows, orphans, refugees, the aged and the homeless.

Recently, the National Zakat Foundation announced the opening of Zikkies, its Australian store selling affordable goods, both new and used, so that the Muslim community in Australia can both contribute and benefit.

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Fettayleh Smallgoods (finalists MCCA Islamic Finance & Investments – Australia, Hala Certification Authority)

Fettayleh Smallgoods  is a family run business which has been providing premium high quality meats to the Australian Muslim community for over 20 years.  

They provide premium quality and competitively priced halal meat for the Australian food industry including Coles supermarkets, airline caterers, restaurant suppliers and prominent restaurants. They currently have 223 lines of halal meat products.

Fettayleh Smallgoods adhere to the very high standards of meat production expected by the Australian Muslim community and by Halal certification. With the health of their customers in mind, they ensure that all animals used in their meat production are treated humanely with the care and respect they deserve and as warranted by halal certification.

BEST NEW COMMUNITY PROJECT OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Muslim Film Festival, (finalists Boys In The Cave, Tenfold International)

The Muslim Film Festival was a two day event, showcasing independent short films made by Muslims or about Muslims from all over the world.

The first Muslim Film Festival was limited to short films from local and international entrants. Their iconic venues, the Backlot theatres in Perth and the cultural hub of Southbank in Melbourne, are both popular hosts of independent film festivals.

The Festival achieved its aim to promote inclusion, tolerance and friendship and to introduce Muslim society, culture and stories to as wide an audience as possible.

It was founded to support and promote Muslim filmmakers and content creators from across the globe and to promote and provide exposure to these films in two fun, morally-valued and culturally diverse evenings of independent cinema.

EVENT OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Stand Up For Christchurch (finalists Eid Show, My Religion Confronting Modern Challenges)

The live show Stand Up For Christchurch was quickly sold out and performed on April 13, 2019 to a packed audience as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Nazeem Hussain, this year’s AMAA Creative Artist of the Year and one of the driving forces behind Stand Up For Christchurch, stated that the event raised over $70,000 in ticket sales alone and over $100,00 in total.

MEDIA OF THE YEAR:

Winner: “Before 1770” (finalists Waleed Aly, Nour Haydar)

Before 1770 is a beautiful film exploring the journey of Australian Muslims to their earliest connections with Indigenous Australian people through the Macassan traders.

Delivered in an evocative and explorative way, Before 1770, unearthed song line,language and storytelling connections through interviews with Elders from Arnhem Land and academics.

This powerful film tackled both the issue of identity formation young Australian Muslims contend with, as well as the powerful truth that overwhelms the senses when you are truly welcomed to a country.

This film educates Muslims and people of all backgrounds about the presence of Islam in Australia that outdates European presence by centuries.

Before 1770 looks set to redeem identities positively for Australian Muslims

constantly tested on their right to belong here. 

Shaykh Wesam Charkawi produced this short film and has travelled across Australia to screen it in major cinemas.

The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) endorsed the project as it serves a benefit to the entire Australian community. 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE OF THE YEAR:

Winner: Dr Zuleyha Keskin (finalists Abdulah Hamimi, Umm Jamaal Ud-Din (Mouna Parkin), Sara M. Sal

Her passion for teaching Islam inspired Zuleyha for many years to conduct classes at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque

She is a representative of Affinity, a successful intercultural and interfaith organisation.

Zuleyha  later cofounded ISRA Australia with the vision to establish university level Islamic study courses to meet the needs of Australian Muslims while helping them gain a University qualification in Islamic studies.

She relocated to Melbourne where she was the driving force behind the establishment of the Centre of Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University CSU).

She has been the course director at CSU for the many Islamic courses that she facilitated the development of and lectures on Islamic Spirituality, Akhlaq and Adab literature and Islam in the Modern World.

Zuleyha’s career achievements have been commendable with respect to her development of many projects such as ISRA.

Her passion for teaching has provided her with the opportunity to write a number of chapters, articles and co-edit books on various topics and her academic focus has enabled her to continue to collaborate and initiate in projects that benefit the community.

ABYSSINIAN AWARD:

Winner: Maria Dimopoulos

Maria is nationally and internationally recognised as an expert, with over 25 years of experience in cultural diversity. gender equity. justice and human rights.

She has had extensive experience in policy formulation for the Government sector, research for social planning and in community education.

In her various role over the last 20 years, Maria has empowered and supported various Muslim organisations and individuals, displaying leadership and a

commitment and devotion to Australian multiculturalism and support for culturally and linguistically diverse women.

Maria has placed significant efforts in empowering Muslim women and the most marginalised among the community.

LIMETIME ACHIEVER AWARD:

Winner: Sultan Deen

From a proud Indian background, Sultan Deen is a fifth generation Australian who has been involved in the family business ‘Deen Bros’ since leaving primary school in 1962.

He has been a committee member of the Islamic Society of Holland Park for over 40 years, serving in all executive roles and carrying on a family tradition of serving their local Muslim mosque communities.

There has continuously been a member of his family on the Holland Park

Mosque management committee since its inception in 1908 until today.

Sultan has also been a member of the Islamic Council of Queensland, since its beginning in 1984, serving as President for three separate four year terms and in other executive roles.

He is also a delegate to the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils for over 28 years, representing the State Islamic Council and the individual Society’s original sponsor of the Islamic Women’s Association of Queensland from its inception.

He was also a longstanding board member of Brisbane’s first Islamic school, the Islamic College of Brisbane as well as assisting in the building of the second and third Islamic schools in Brisbane.

Sultan was the former chairman of the Brisvaani Aid Foundation which assists patients from Fiji and Pacific Islands to come to Australia for major medical treatment and also sponsoring the Fred Hollows 2020 Vision project in Fiji.

In addition to these many roles, he has also been the Chairman and Co-ordinator of numerous Flood/Drought / Earthquake victims’ relief programmes for Australia, Fiji, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and many other parts of the world.

Sultan has also been a committee member of Rotary Club of Archerfield for 31 years. He has never missed a board meeting in all that time and was

honoured with a Paul Harris Fellowship Award for services to Rotary and the

community.

He has been honoured with a Multicultural Services Award by the Premier of

Queensland, and a Volunteer’s Award in 2002, for more than 25 years of service to the community.

Sultan is the co-founder of the Pakistan Australia Cultural Association and over many years has been a major sponsor of numerous sporting clubs, teams and events including the Islamic Rugby League, the Brisbane Islamic Soccer League and the Australian ”Mean Machine” Olympic gold medal swimming team.

Sultan assisted with the Griffith University’s taskforce to build the Multifaith Centre and was on the Advisory Council and has been a major contributor to every mosque in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and other parts of Queensland.

He has participated as a member of the Muslim-Catholic Interfaith Group since 1992, was a founding member of the Forum for Jews, Christians and Muslims Interfaith Group, a member of the organising Committee of Eidfest and Eidfest Community Services, assisting people in domestic violence situations and was the co-ordinator of the Janazah services in Brisbane for over 30 years.

Sultan was also a member for the Hay Run for drought stricken farmers in 2018 and has been part of the Muslim Aid Australia / Deen Family Drought

Relief Project since 2018, delivering four tankers per week containing 24,000 litres of water to drought stricken farmers in the Stanthorpe District.

With a resume such as this you can see, what a great man Sultan has been, not just for the Muslim community, but the community in general.

What a worthy winner of the AMAA’s Lifetime Achiever award!