Yusuf Omar: A Somali Refugee’s Mosaic*

Yusuf and Madé

“Madé, could you help teaching me the bibliography software we learned earlier, please?” Yusuf called me on a fine afternoon.

“Yes, sure, we’ll meet in the library, then, at the usual place,” I replied.

Shortly, I went down from my office to the library to meet Yusuf, a new good friend I got acquainted with during a recent activity.

Yusuf Omar is a Somali. He is a slim and tall, and quick-witted person in my eyes. Yusuf, as I call him, has a rather dark complexion. As you probably know, he is a Moslem speaking fluent Arabic and English.

Some people call me Madé. As the name suggests, I am from Bali, Indonesia. I am not as tall as Yusuf. As most Balinese, people might easily recognize me from a slightly different pronunciation of dental /t/. As Hindu is the primary religion in this place, unique religious activities blended with captivating arts, traditions, and cultures strongly immersed in its people’s life. Despite of religious view, tolerance to difference is my top priority.

“Hello,” I shook Yusuf’s hands and hugged him. “How are you, mate?”

“Not bad,” he replied.

We then worked on EndNote, bibliography software by Thomson Reuters. I also gave several ways to deal with long office documents. Done!

“Shall we grab something to drink?” Yusuf asked.

I smiled at his kind offer. “Sure, that would be lovely.”

Before that, he asked to go to the mosque as it was a praying time already. I agreed. I used to accompany many of my Moslem friends in this activity. To me, it’s interesting to know, it’s good to learn. We then walked down to the mosque. After washing his hands, face, arms and feet as in wudhu practice, Yusuf entered the mosque. I decided to wait for him in front of the mosque. After he finished, we went back to the coffee shop at the library and ordered hot chocolate, our favorite drinks.

From his stories, I knew that Yusuf came to Australia as a refugee. The country allows this system in some ways and sometimes grants them permanent residency through several requirements. And Yusuf is one of them. In his first years, life’s been so challenging for him and the rest of the community. Racism is one of them. As he came from the African country, he’s frequently racially treated. However, he always tries to do his best; to perform that he is an equally capable person.

Apart from some of Somali people whom I met earlier, I found Yusuf is different. He is a scholar, pursuing his Master’s degree in Malaysia previously. He then got another Master’s degree in Australia. He also used to be the President of the Somali Australian Friendship Association (SAFA) for a couple of years. Unlike me, Yusuf just finished his PhD quite recently. Pretty encouraging! He is now working in an Australian government institution on equity affairs. His wife, a Somali, just returned from her PhD in London. A great family combination. I am always proud of someone like this. To me he’s a man of action.

*Dedicated to Yusuf Sheikh Omar. Read one of his newspaper opinions “Can You Imagine Australia with a Black PM?” featured on The Age.

©mhsantosa (2012)
I am happy to share this. Please feel free to reblog or share the link, all with my accreditation. Thank you.


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