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100MB Comments Hana Assafiri is a woman on a mission. At a time when Islamophobia is on the rise she runs regular Speed Dating sessions where people come and ask Muslim women any questions they like about Islam. A Muslim woman said to me, You know, I never thought Id sit opposite a bikie and feel safe. It didnt matter the embarrassment and its where I felt free and its where I felt, um... People have come from all over Melbourne for the non-dating speed dating. Anyway, I soon found out it had nothing to do with it. HANA ASSIFIRIIm just thinking, how do you manage these two potentially extremely different points of view in an environment where theres 50 other people and youre inviting people into your space to say, We are beyond the stereotype. MANAL SHEHABHana came up and she had a piece of paper and shes just doodling on this paper very slowly and she says, Hows everything going here? HANA ASSIFIRIAnd I said So, have you chatted about ISIS yet? MANAL SHEHABAnd she said, uh, Manal, what do you have to say about that?

And I need to feel passionate and committed to what I do, otherwise conventions just dont cut it for me. In Fitzroy, the Soup Bar is about to open and its a new evening of conversations. Compass would also like to clarify that Hana does not only employ Muslim women. She does however offer a safe working space for all who come to her employment including Muslim women.

I believe in empowerment rather than charity, not only through monetary employment but being in an environment which is validating. You dont understand what the dynamics are in a society youre simply hungry and you wanna eat. HANA ASSIFIRIDo you know much about what we do at all? NARRATORHanas bold idea evolved into a restaurant where women in crisis could use their skills to gain employment in a safe environment. It was not only run by women but it didnt conform to any of the conventional business model standards there was no written menu, there was..was vegetarian, there was no alcohol. I never knew existed, cultures where Id just go, Where is Kazakhstan, man? LAYALLE EL NAJIBMany, many nationalities work here and its lovely. With all the adoration and love and respect for my mother, I guess she was dictated largely by the small community. I think some nearly fall off their chair when I start to speak English. ANAM JAVEDI knew two years prior that I wanted to wear my headscarf, I just didnt have the courage to carry it off in the wider Australian society. MANAL SHEHABThese are all values weve grown up with cause weve worked together and lived together. And its almost always, just when you begin to relax into it, we kind of go, Uh-uh sorry, finished.

HANA ASSIFIRIAnd he was constantly seeking the betterment for the family, so he was constantly on the move, moving to Turkey, trying to find employment, going back to Morocco, trying to find employment, going to Germany, and all the while they left us in Lebanon in circumstances that were extraordinarily unsafe, and unsafe not only in terms of the environment and wars, but even basic, um...things like food, shelter all of a sudden became high stakes and, as a kid, you had to fend for the family. This will be a space where all those frustrations can shape whatever it becomes and all those women that we cant service and cant support, therell be, rather than just intellectual and theoretical options, these will be practical. And it became such a cultural mix of women, women that I never thought... MANAL SHEHABDid your husband force you to wear that? Can you tell me a bit about that, what that means for you? So, they were almost going through the checklist of, But who made you wear it?

She is on a mission to combat rising Islamophobia by bringing people together to build understanding. I always command such attention and every time it floors me. MANAL SHEHAB, SPEED DATEREveryone turned around and sort of stared at me.

HANA ASSIFIRI, RESTAURATEUR & ACTIVISTUsually an empowered woman, for me, is an empowered society. NARRATORTheir weapons are compassion and conversation. When I first put it to some of them, they went, Yep, were on. But theres no dating theres no chicks at the end of it.

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