Skip to main content

What it's like to be an Italian born Muslim in Australia

Rose provides counselling for children in Minaret College, Melbourne.
Rose Bogarts provides counselling for children in Minaret College, Melbourne.

ABC News: Erwin Renaldi

Rose Bogarts was born in Italy and came to Australia when she was two years old, so considers herself more as an Aussie than an Italian.

She and her German husband converted to Islam after meeting some Muslims and hearing about the religion in a new light.

As a Student and Family Welfare Coordinator at Minaret College in Melbourne she faces many challenges, and explains to Australia Plus' Erwin Renaldi what it is like to be a Muslim in Australia.

When you were younger did you ever think you would convert to Islam?

I think growing up as adolescent in the 80s, it was just about fun, having fun, and faith was not a major thing in our household. We went to church, we celebrated Christmas and Easter but it wasn’t major thing. But we still had guidelines growing up in an Italian family.

Why did you become interested in studying Islam?

Islam talks about human rights, Islam talks about the way that we are interact with one and another as humans. It talks about... how we follow the laws of the land, how we treat our bodies etc. Researching more and more, got me thinking 'Oh wow, it’s just makes a lot of sense for me.' It gave me guidelines.

Rose says she is being grateful for the simple things in life.
Rose says she is being grateful for the simple things in life.

ABC News: Erwin Renaldi

You are active in many social activities introducing Islam to non-Muslims. Do you get tired of explaining that Islam is not a religion that teaches crime?

I do, I do get really tired. But the amount of people that I've met along the way say the same thing to me: 'What do you feel that you need to justify? It’s not you who’s doing it!' I usually say I understand, but I feel that wherever there’s a person that even has inclination of just wanting some understanding, and if there’s no people out there to do that, then how they are going to know?

We have some wonderful people out there who are doing some wonderful work, travelling around the countryside in education. What better way to have better understanding than to actually meet Muslims and talk to them. You know, you don’t go to a doctor to have your tooth pulled out, you go to a dentist.

Do you wish crime would stop in the name of Islam?

Every single time I hear something negative in the media, I keep thinking 'Oh my God, please don’t let it be Muslims'. But sure enough, it is. It’s so just disheartening and you are thinking that’s not my faith and how dare you represent, or how dare you to say the name of God. Why you are saying Allahu Akbar? Do you even understand the meaning of it? Do you even know what you are doing? Do you even know that to kill one person, you are killing the whole of humanity?

What do you say to students at your school who become stressed when they hear about their religion used in the name of terror in the news?

We have a lot of students come up and say, 'Listen, I’m getting sick and tired about what the media said, but what can we do as students to show that we are not like that?'

So we have some great student initiatives. They've gone out for Harmony Day and talked to people. In the city of greater Dandenong, they did a workshop where young girls would say 'Ask us about Islam', and they had a little stall where they had pamphlets saying something like 'We believe in one God, we believe in peace, Gods love beauty'. It intrigues people and they start questioning what do you mean by that, so it creates dialogue.

Rose feels proud that students at her school come up with community initiative to promote the positive side of the Islamic faith.
Rose feels proud that students at her school come up with community initiative to promote the positive side of the Islamic faith.

ABC News: Erwin Renaldi

What do you say when people think the values of Islam are incompatible with Australia?

It’s ironic, because every Islamic value is the Australian value. There is no contradiction. The only thing that we don’t do it is we don’t drink [alcohol].

For me growing up here, I don’t see anything different. You know I pay my taxes and I endeavour to help the poor.

What are you grateful for in life?

I think for me being grateful is just waking up and having the life that I have, because I look around and people don’t have what I have. God has given me this beauty of a wonderful husband, great kids and, when I do have some challenges in my life I turn to God.

This article originally appeared in Indonesian here.

For more stories like this, join the Australia Plus community on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Instagram.