Hana Assafiri: fighting hostility through social justice

Hana Assafiri, founder of Speed Date a Muslim, is building bridges through social justice platforms.

Speed Date a Muslim is Hana Assafiri’s way of responding to the hostility of social injustice. Her platforms and forums are built on the “principle of social justice and practical application, enabling, employing and empowering women,” she says.

Hana Assafiri was born in Melbourne and relocated to Morocco when she was four. She then went to Lebanon, her mother’s home country.

“Are you of Moroccan background?” I ask her.

“I am somebody who dances around categories,” she responds.

Assafiri doesn’t appreciate it when people “put you in a box. I am mindful and aware [however] I reject all categories.”

“My heritage is Moroccan,” she eventually says, explaining that her mum is a mix of Lebanese and Syrian heritage.

“We are a hybrid.”

At the age of 12, she came back to Melbourne with her family. Leaving Lebanon for Australia in her teenage years was difficult, but it was unavoidable due to the outbreak of the civil war.

When asked how it was growing up with an ethnic back ground, she replies, “I felt the difference [growing up], it can be cruel.”

“[Getting] made fun of [as a kid] and what makes you different became something you get teased about.”

Assafiri had difficulty speaking English as a teenager so she stopped speaking at school.

“My teacher thought I was mute,” she says with a smile.

Not wanting to be made fun of and be targeted by other kids at school, Assafiri would go home and practice English in the mirror.

“When we learn English like that [it is easy] to impersonate,” she expresses.

Assafiri explains that the hostility or racism coming from children is almost innocent and “now fast forward, that hostility is inside the system,” she says poking fun at the differences.

“[We have a] Prime Minister speaking about multi-culture diversely,” she says.

Her forum, Speed Date a Muslim is a way of responding to the hostility.

“This is a social justice platform.”

Assafiri’s day is busy left, right and centre, filled with work at two places all week. In addition to releasing a cookbook, she is the owner of the Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy and the Moroccan Deli-Cacy in Brunswick.

Photo: Zathia Bazeer

Speed Date a Muslim has been operating for the past year and allows Muslims and non-Muslims to have a chat with each other and break down barriers.

Assafiri stresses the importance of being aware of what is going on in the community, whether it’s social or political hostility.

“We became aware of the hostility and plurality [and so] our strategy is unconventional. Offering an opportunity to engage with [Muslims at] Speed Date a Muslim.”

Assafiri explains that the platform is not a chance for people to speak on Islamophobia, but instead a space for conversation, to talk out our differences and learn about each other. Speed Date a Muslim allows people of a community to be humanised when it has been separated and made to feel scared by the media or government.

“Women find empowerment inside Islam,” she says and this is a chance for everyone to speak on common ground. Speed Date a Muslim is a place where women can feel safe – and strong.

Assafiri has found purpose and meaning based in her platforms and events of social justice.

“Each person has something to do, some discover [their purpose] earlier. For me, my thing is social justice, [that is where] I find life’s meaning.”

When asked why that was her answer, “the why is … is [because] it is inevitable [but it’s] where I find passion and meaning,” she responds.

Written by Zathia Bazeer.

Playing the field: should our politicians be able to bat for two teams?

Our constitution, in Section 44, says that those holding dual citizenship are ineligible to run for office in the Australian Government. With more and more politicians holding dual citizenship and falling on their sword, the stability of the Australian Parliament is being threatened. But does it really matter if our politicians hold dual citizenship? The Yarra Reporter took to the streets to find out if you think where you come from is more important than what you do while you’re here.


Johnny, 28, Carlton, works at Her Majesty’s Theatre

“I don’t think it’s an issue at all. I think we project this idea that Australia is a multicultural mixing pot and it seems really strange that politicians can turn around and say ‘we have to be Australian’. It’s a new country and we don’t have the long cultural history that other countries do, so it seems strange to pretend that we have to stick to this tradition that we don’t really have.”

Kylie, 22, Brunswick, Student

“I think losing elected senators is bad for our political system. The people elect their members and it’s not fair that they should resign over something so petty. As long as the senators are Australian, which they all are, I see no reason they can’t hold dual citizenship.”


Luke, 21, Caulfield, Actor

“Politicians should be able to be dual citizens. All the senators who have resigned in the last fortnight haven’t been acting with Australia’s best interests second. Their dual citizenship might enrich our nation.”


Albert, 22, Fitzroy, Student

“I don’t think it’s a problem – I think the main idea is that they’re willing to serve Australia and the community; I think that’s the number one priority. I think it’s important for politicians to know their history, not so much in terms of whether it would have an impact, but just in terms of having a knowledge, I think it’s important.”


Luisa, 27, Carlton, Nurse

“I don’t think it’s relevant at all. I think that’s the least important thing when it comes to them doing their job well. The fact that it’s stopping politicians from doing their job – it just shouldn’t be an issue.”


Vincent, 26, Fairfield, Finance

“I can see why politicians can’t be dual citizens. At the same time, a person’s citizenship can have a big role in how they identify. A senator resigning is probably not necessary; revoking their dual citizenship would be enough.”

Written by Nicholas Nakos and Alice Wilson

A night of laughs with a serious message set to hit the City of Yarra

Timed to coincide with the controversial Australia Day holiday, a comedy gala is being held to raise awareness of what the date means to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on 26 January, and will feature a number of comedy greats in the line-up.

Expected to run for around three hours, all of the funds from the show will go towards the City of Yarra’s Stolen Generations Marker Project.

According to Yarra City Council, the Marker Project aims to “honour the struggles of the Stolen Generations as well as acknowledge the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, communities, clans and groups who seek to heal from the past.” 

Aimed to be completed in November, the project will invite 5 artists to contribute design ideas intended to remind people of the impacts inflicted by past racist government actions on the Indigenous Australian people.

Malthouse Theatre Associate Producer Jason Tamiru said that “the Reconciliation Gala will feature a selection of Australia’s most prominent comedians, and promote recognition of Australia’s Stolen Generation.”

The bill will feature Australian comedy and music greats including MCs Uncle Jack Charles and Judith Lucy, along with Wil Anderson, Tom Ballard, Anne Edmonds, Hannah Gadsby, Tom Gleeson, Shiralee Hood, Kevin Kropinyeri, Bunna Lawrie, Perfect Tripod (Eddie Perfect and Tripod), Dane Simpson, Nelly Thomas, and The Koori Youth Will Shake Spears dance group.

In the comedy business for seven years, Australia’s Number One Female Aboriginal Comedian Shiralee Hood says it’s time to deepen the conversation surrounding Australia Day, and invite others to listen to the struggles experienced by the Stolen Generations.

As we begin to see a growing number of Australians recognising the sadness behind Australia Day, Ms Hood agrees that now is the perfect time to educate. Ms Hood said comedy has helped to establish a platform where people can discuss global and political issues light-heartedly.

“Comedy is a great form of observing the world and then expressing what we see in society,” she said.

Ms Hood has hope that we can all come together and acknowledge those families affected by the Stolen Generations.

“I feel privileged to be able to represent the Indigenous community and have a great platform to do so,” she said.

Ms Hood is looking forward to the gala, and invites everyone to get along to the Malthouse Theatre for a laugh and to listen to the show’s message.

The Reconciliation Comedy Gala will be held at the Malthouse Theatre on January 26 from 2:30 pm.

Check out the Malthouse Theatre website for further details on ticket sales and prices.

Written by Grace Evans