Yassmin Abdel-Magied

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Yassmin Abdel-Magied
-5 - Yassmin Abdel-Magied.jpg
Abdel-Magied in 2016
Born (1991-03-03) 3 March 1991 (age 27)
Khartoum, Sudan
Nationality Sudanese Australian (Dual)[1]
Education Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours)
Alma mater University of Queensland
Occupation Mechanical engineer

Yassmin Abdel-Magied (born 3 March 1991, Khartoum) is a Sudanese-Australian[2] mechanical engineer,[3] social media blogger and memoirist. In late 2017, Abdel-Magied relocated to London, England, to partake in what she called the "Aussie rite of passage".[4][5]

Early life[edit]

Abdel-Magied was born in Khartoum, Sudan. Her parents moved to Brisbane, Australia, as skilled migrants when she was 18 months old in late 1992[6][7] after an Islamic military coup toppled the democratically elected government.[8][9][10] Abdel-Magied's father, Midhat Abdel-Magied,[11] completed a PhD in electrical engineering at Imperial College, London[6] and subsequently studied information technology in Australia. Yassmin's mother, Faiza El-Higzi,[11] was a qualified architect in Sudan,[12][13] who now holds postgraduate degrees across various disciplines.[14] Yassmin has a younger brother.[10]

Education[edit]

According to her memoir, Abdel-Magied attended primary school at the Islamic College of Brisbane[15] and the independent Christian high school John Paul College, at which there was no policy against wearing a hijab.[16]. She went on to study mechanical engineering at the University of Queensland.

Youth Without Borders[edit]

As high school students in 2007, Abdel-Magied and two others founded "Youth Without Borders" in Australia.[17] She was subsequently named 2007 Young Australian Muslim of the Year[18] and continued as chairperson of Youth Without Borders until 2016.[19][17] In the intervening years, Abdel-Magied participated in various youth groups and committees. She was named 2010 Young Queenslander of the Year[20] and 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year.[21] "Youth Without Borders" is not to be confused with its namesake, a social project formed by Chilean students in 2003.

Mechanical engineering[edit]

In 2011, Abdel-Magied graduated with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering with First-Class Honours from the University of Queensland.[22] From 2012 until 2016, she worked for multinational engineering companies based in Australia.[23][24][25] In 2013, Abdel-Magied wrote a journal article about working "On the rigs" in the Griffith Review.[26]

Headscarf[edit]

In 2014, Abdel-Magied presented a 14-minute TED talk What does my headscarf mean to you?[18][27] Four years later, she presented six six-minute episodes of an Islamic headwear fashion program on ABC iview.[28]

Controversies[edit]

After Abdel-Magied was named 2015 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop appointed her to the Council for Australian-Arab Relations.[29] In 2016, Abdel-Magied published her memoir Yassmin's Story: Who Do You Think I Am? (Penguin Random House, Australia) ISBN 978-0857986153[30]. In due course, she was invited to speak on Australian radio and television programs. In late 2017, Abdel-Magied relocated to the United Kingdom.[31]

Sharia law[edit]

In June 2016 on the ABC TV program The Drum, Abdel-Magied said that Sharia law "allows for multiple interpretations... it's about mercy, it's about kindness".[32][33] In February 2017, Abdel-Magied was a panelist on the ABC Q&A program where she was challenged about her views on Sharia law. She said "Islam to me is the most feminist religion. We got equal rights well before the Europeans. We don't take our husbands' last names because we ain't their property."[34] On the same program, Abdel-Magied stated in response to another panelist, Jacqui Lambie, that Sharia law is as simple as "me praying five times day," and that it says in Islam, "you follow the law of the land on which you are on".[34] The comments about feminism and Sharia law caused outrage in some quarters.[35][36]

ANZAC Day[edit]

In 2015, Abdel-Magied contributed as a member of the Federal ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Youth Working Group.[37] Two years later, on ANZAC Day 25 April 2017, Abdel-Magied posted "LEST.WE.FORGET. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine...)" on her personal Facebook page. The phrase "Lest we forget" is commonly used in war remembrance services and commemorative occasions in English-speaking countries, in particular Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day.[38] It is used to remember fallen military personnel as a mark of respect. Abdel-Magied's words in parentheses referenced refugees held in detention on Manus Island and Nauru, and injustices against Palestinians. The comment was criticised by many on social media as well as Minister for Immigration Peter Dutton. Abdel-Magied deleted the part in parentheses soon after posting it, commenting: "It was brought to my attention that my last post was disrespectful, and for that, I apologise unreservedly."[39] Australian Muslim leaders expressed varying views on the controversy, from support to denouncing her remarks as not reflective of the views of all Muslims.[40][41][42]

The following day, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce suggested the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) should take action against Abdel-Magied.[43] The ABC argued that Abdel-Magied's personal opinions did not represent those of the national broadcaster.[44] One month later, on 24 May 2017, the Saturday morning ABC News human interest television program that Abdel-Magied hosted, Australia Wide,[45] was cancelled as part of a sweeping restructure at the ABC. As well as programming changes, as many as two hundred jobs were reportedly being slashed in order to reinvest $50 million a year back into regional and online content.[46]

In April 2017, Senator Eric Abetz formally asked Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to exercise her powers to sack Abdel-Magied from her position on the board of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but Bishop declined.[47] In July, Abdel-Magied announced that she would be relocating to London.[48]

Council for Australian-Arab Relations[edit]

After Abdel-Magied was named Queensland Young Australian of the Year in 2015, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop appointed her to the Council for Australian-Arab Relations (CAAR).[49] In late 2016, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia) (DFAT) sent Abdel-Magied, as a CAAR board member, to the Middle East to promote Australia. Abdel-Magied visited Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Kuwait, Jordan, Ramallah, Cairo and Sudan. Attorney-General of Australia George Brandis explained the purpose, rationale and cost of the tour, upon being grilled by One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts: "Yassmin Abdel-Magied visited a number of countries in the Middle East to promote Australia as an open, innovative, democratic and diverse nation. She met youth representatives, scientists, entrepreneurs, women's groups and others. The visit also promoted female participation in male dominated industries such as the oil and gas sector, and featured targeted engagements with young women considering careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths."[50] In July 2017, Abdel-Magied announced that she would be relocating to London to partake in what she called the "Aussie rite of passage".[51] On 9 August 2017, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced that Abdel-Magied had been replaced on the board of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations.[52]

Human rights complaint[edit]

In February 2018, Abdel-Magied claimed that a racial hatred complaint against her under the Racial Discrimination Act had been dismissed by the Australian Human Rights Commission.[53] A spokesperson for Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane declined to comment.[54]

Denied entry into the USA[edit]

On 11 April 2018, Abdel-Magied was denied entry into the United States at Minneapolis airport en-route to a paid speaking engagement in New York. The US Customs and Border Protection stated that Abdel-Magied did not have an appropriate paid employment visa for her visit and, as a matter of course, denied her entry under a Visa Waiver Program B1 business visa. She was eligible to apply for a visa for any future visits to the USA.[55][56][57]

Media appearances[edit]

In November 2017, Abdel-Magied compared Australia to an "abusive boyfriend" in her first appearance on Australian television since moving to London.[58] Other media activities in Australia include: Radio Triple J[59] / Radio National[60], ABC TV Australia Wide[61] / Hard Chat (2016–2017)[62] Podcast : F1 Racing (2016)[63], and SBS TV The Truth About Racism (2017)[64]

Hijab fashion[edit]

In April 2018, Abdel-Magied announced that she was scheduled to present six six-minute episodes of an Islamic headwear fashion program Hijabistas! with Yassmin Abdel-Magied on ABC iview from 1 May. NSW Liberals state executive member Alex Dore and Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi criticised the ABC for its choice of host, while Liberal senator Eric Abetz argued that this form of headwear is a compulsory symbol of oppression.[28]

Acting career[edit]

In April 2018, Abdel-Magied made her acting debut in the SBS TV series Homecoming Queens in her Australian hometown of Brisbane.[65] The Sydney Morning Herald described Abdel-Magied's onscreen character as "a conceited social media lifestyle guru".[66]:para 10

References[edit]

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  10. ^ a b "Yassmin's family in early 1995 after arriving as one of first Sudanese families in Brisbane three years earlier. (L-R) Faiza el-Higzi, brother Yasseen Abdel-Magied, Midhat Abdel-Magied and Yassmin Abdel-Magied". ABC News. 11 February 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2018. 
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