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“The first thing mum asked me was about female genital mutilation!” “In Shepparton, I’ve seen racism and I’ve experienced it.Born in Australia but raised in Morocco and Lebanon, Assafiri adopted the ‘speed dating’ format to provide a safe and respectful space for local non-Muslim to meet and ask Muslims all the curly questions they were otherwise too shy to.The overall aim is to provide people who want to explore, challenge or better understand their racial and religious perceptions with an opportunity to do just that."It also takes a lot for a student to tell a teacher ‘Mum won’t let me study’, or ‘Mum won’t let me work so I can look after my husband’ - and if there’s an eye roll, a step back, or a look of dislike on your face, they will retreat back into their shell again.” Ross nodded and took notes, hanging on the young law student’s every word.
According to a metropolitan Melbourne restaurateur and human-rights activist, you pack 22 Muslim women on a bus, send them to the location in question, and ask the locals out on a date.
Assafiri and Tuna tell SBS they were understandably anxious on the day as they waited for guests to arrive.
Tuna had been battling a swarm of aggressive Facebook trolls in the weeks leading up for the event, while Hana was unsure what to expect outside of her stomping ground in Melbourne’s Brunswick.
Under colourful umbrellas on local bar The Deck, Hana’s cheery crew of Melbourne Muslims fanned out among the crowd, each woman pairing off with a handful of Shepparton locals.
Of note was the heartwarming scene of interfaith couples pairing off - an older Shepparton woman in a floral frock and neatly applied makeup sitting happily by a woman dressed in the full niqab, chatting about the heat.
But, given the post-truth world in which we live - where anti-Islamic sentiment is becoming increasingly prevalent in mainstream media - Assafiri felt it was time to get her dating event on the road.