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Australia: The campaign to be federal parliament’s first female Muslim MP

Wednesday 6 July 2016, by siawi3

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionandethicsreport/anne-aly-campaign-to-be-australian-parliaments-female-muslim-mp/7573550

Anne Aly: The campaign to be federal parliament’s first female Muslim MP

Wednesday 6 July 2016 3:49PM

Cowan Labor candidate Dr Anne Aly. Image: Anne Aly is Labor’s candidate for the WA seat of Cowan. (ABC News/ Robert Koenig-Luck)

Labor is increasingly confident its candidate for the WA seat of Cowan, international counter-terrorism expert Anne Aly, will be elected. That would make her the first female Muslim in Australia’s parliament. But as she tells the Religion and Ethics Report, she is far more than her religion.

Dr Anne Aly was preselected as the Labor candidate for Cowan, the federal seat covering suburbs in Perth, in January this year.

Aly had been working as an academic at Edith Cowan University, studying counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation programs.

Why is there such a dismal view of politics that people would think that somebody like me is too over qualified, or too good for politics?
Dr Anne Aly, counter-terrorism expert

She says she was surprised when she was first approached to run as a Labor candidate.

’I looked at them and I said: "You know who I am, right? You still want me to run, right?" And they said, "Yes, we do."’

’I think that it’s brave that a Labor party goes places to represent the diversity of our Australian community.’

However, Aly insists that she is far more than her religion.

’I can’t help how I’m going to be labelled,’ she says.

’A lot of the media referred to me as a Muslim academic or the Muslim candidate and that’s OK. That’s part of who I am. But I’m also so much more than that as well.’

Get the latest results: Details of the count in Cowan

Aly describes herself as a ’secular Muslim’, which she says is not meant to dilute her religious stance.

’My identity as a Muslim is as a secular Muslim,’ she says.

’I do believe in the separation of religion and politics and that’s what secular in any form of religion is.’

Personal reasons behind move into politics

Aly says her reasons for getting into politics are personal. Having struggled financially to raise two sons on her own, she says they were the kind of people that radical groups prey on.

’Those years that I spent struggling with my children when they were young, when I struggled to make ends meet, really have a huge bearing on my identity today and how I define myself,’ she says.

Now that her sons are older, she says it’s the ’sons of Australia’ she is most concerned about.

’Someone said to me: "Anne, why are you running for parliament? You’re too qualified to be a politician."

’Why is there such a dismal view of politics that people would think that somebody like me is too over qualified, or too good for politics?

’I certainly don’t believe that. I think politics needs to change and I think that we need to have more people with experience.’

Criticism from Liberals and conservative Muslims

During the campaign, Aly faced criticism from several high-profile Liberal MPs, including justice minister Michael Keenan, for a submission she made in the trial of radical Muslim preacher Junaid Thorne.

She had suggested he could be a candidate for her deradicalisation program, which is funded by the federal attorney-general’s department.

Aly also received criticism from conservative sections of the Muslim community for not wearing a headscarf. But she says she’s developed a thick skin.

Listen: Islam, democracy and creating compassion in our society

’I get criticism from everywhere ... I get it from the extreme right wing, who question, "Why aren’t you covering your face and head?"’ she says.

’I’m like, "Well, why don’t you go and have a picnic with the conservative right-wing Muslims? Because you all think the same way."

’I’m a big believer that’s a woman’s choice to wear what she wants to wear. I don’t think that in the year 2016 we should be talking about what women wear.’