This iteration of Practical Inclusion – a series of conversations with leading Diversity and Inclusion practitioners working to create change – is an important one for me. When GWS Giants player Haneen Zreika decided not to wear the club’s Pride jumper, meaning she would sit out round four of the AFLW, there was a lot of debate around inclusion. Zreika released a statement that shared her experience of consulting with the club and her teammates.
In the Guardian, Rana Hussein wrote:
To me, inclusion is respect. Not always agreement, but a functional respect for one another. By all accounts that is what GWS has achieved, and this moment has provided the perfect litmus test. Had the team not cultivated an environment of inclusivity, understanding and respect, Zreika would not have been able to have this very complex conversation with her teammates. Her teammates would not have accepted her difference.
I couldn’t agree more! When it happened, I shared my thoughts on social media about my discomfort around forcing people to participate in inclusion initiatives. This is something we see a lot of in the workplace – if staff don’t wear a rainbow lanyard or go to LGBTQIA+ training, they receive negative feedback. However, what I failed to do was centre the voices of queer Muslim people – the people that this affected most acutely. And I was called out – or, rather called in – on it.
I get things wrong and I’m constantly learning.
Budi Sudarto was one of the people who generously called me in, and I’m grateful to them for accepting my invitation to appear in Practical Inclusion conversation for a second time. A director, trainer and consultant at Ananda Training & Consultancy, Budi has been an active member of Melbourne’s LGBTQIA+ community since arriving in Australia in 1998. In this conversation, we speak about the complexities of faith intersecting with marginalised identities and how to encourage people with differing beliefs to connect and coexist with one another.
Budi Sudarto speaks about queer Muslim representation
Conversations around intersecting identities are complex, and Budi invites us to reflect on them by reframing them away from the binary of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They say, “We get things wrong. I get things wrong – same as you. Everyday I will say something or do something and people will call me out for it and say, ‘Have you considered it from this lens?’ Quite often when we’re framing it as being ‘wrong’, some people can get really defensive. So I encourage people to approach it from a different angle… I always tell people this work is not about getting things wrong or right because those dualities are not conducive to the conversation.”
“We know that when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion, when it comes to intersectionality, the grey area is where we live. [In thinking about] the conversation about Haneen, for me as a queer Muslim, and having conversations with other queer Muslims, we can see the grey area. We live in the grey area,” Budi said.
They continue: “When I speak to other queer Muslims we understand it because we are living in that grey area. It doesn’t mean we completely support it, but we understand the situation. And for us, it was the Islamophobia that we were very attuned to.”
When the article about Zreika’s decision was published, it was largely defined in the mainstream media by headlines “that basically said: Muslim AFLW player doesn’t want to wear a Pride jumper,” Budi said. The danger of a media pile-on, where no effort has been made to establish dialogue, is that the incident becomes weaponised, “[creating] an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality.”
“For many of us, this reignites Islamophobia, which is something I’ve experienced since I moved to Australia. There was very little conversation around the dialogue that was happening within the club, within the AFLW, that Haneen actually approached this topic with respect.”
They emphasise the importance of engaging with members of the Muslim and LGBTQIA+ communities to cultivate mutual respect and understanding. Budi says, “[It’s] about inviting you to have a conversation with us, so all of us can understand each other, and all of us can work towards creating a bridge between the two worlds that are seemingly different but which have people living in those two worlds, including me.”
Budi explains that a lot of faith communities believe in compassion, so it’s crucial to bring people together for conversations around the intersection of diversity and faith throughout the year – rather than just at times of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives. Doing so seeks to challenge another duality that has been inadvertently created in Diversity and Inclusion work: the ‘if you’re not with us, you’re against us’ mentality.
Budi says, “ [Get] people to understand that supporting the rights of LGBTQIA+ don’t necessarily mean changing peoples’ beliefs when it comes to their faith. If their faith has really strong views on the LGBTQIA+ community – and most of those views are negative – then the task is to invite them to sit with us and to understand that embracing human rights doesn’t impinge on each other’s rights. Embracing human rights is about creating that space where we can coexist. And for us to exist, we need to have a relationship with each other; we need to be able to respect and understand each other.”
“Social change happens when we connect with each other.”
If your organisation needs support in working towards cultural inclusion with an intersectional approach, get in touch with Budi and their colleagues at Ananda Training & Consultancy.
For more information about Practical Inclusion, follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates. You can also revisit past conversations on my Practical Inclusion playlist on YouTube.
18 September 2020
25 February 2021
04 February 2022