Who is Fatima Payman, Australia’s first hijab-wearing senator – Times of India

Fatima Payman, Australia’s first hijab-wearing Senator, has resigned from the ruling Labor Party. Payman faced severe intimidation and bullying from her colleagues following her vote to recognize Palestinian statehood, putting her at odds with the Labor government’s official stance.
Driving the news
Last week, pro-Palestinian protesters breached security at Australia’s Parliament House to unfurl banners from the roof as Payman quit the government over its direction on the Gaza war.
The incident occurred on the final sitting day before a five-week break, highlighting the ongoing tensions over Israel’s war against Hamas.
The four protesters managed to gain access to the roof of Parliament House and draped banners with the words “war crimes” and “genocide” over the building’s façade, known as the Great Verandah. They also displayed the Palestinian rallying cry, “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which remained visible for more than an hour before the protesters were arrested.
Why it matters
This incident comes amidst growing concerns and debates surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with many individuals and organizations worldwide expressing their support for the Palestinian cause. The protesters’ actions serve as a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle and the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the long-standing conflict.
Payman’s departure underscores the pervasive Islamophobia in Australian politics.
Her principled stance on Palestinian sovereignty and the subsequent backlash reveal the challenges faced by Muslim politicians. This incident highlights broader issues of religious discrimination and the marginalization of Muslim voices in the political arena.
Who is Fatima Payman?
Fatima Payman was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1995. Her family fled the Taliban and moved to Pakistan before migrating to Australia in 2003.
Payman’s father arrived in Australia in 1999 via boat and worked various jobs to support his family. The family settled in Perth, Australia, where Payman attended the Australian Islamic College.
Payman graduated from the Australian Islamic College and later obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology and a Graduate Diploma of Pharmaceutical Science from the University of Western Australia.
She served as president of Young Labor WA and worked as an organizer for the United Workers Union before becoming an electorate officer for Pierre Yang.
In the 2022 Australian federal election, Payman was elected to the Australian Senate as a senator for Western Australia. She became the third youngest senator in Australian history.
Payman is the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab in the Australian Parliament.
Her political priorities include increasing political participation from diverse backgrounds, improving early childhood education, and addressing climate change.
In 2022, Payman was awarded “Australian Muslim Role Model of the Year.”
What they’re saying
“My family did not flee from a war-torn country to come here as refugees for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” Payman told reporters.
Fatima Payman: “When I told my colleagues that I would be praying and seeking guidance from God, that was in confidence and I did not expect that they would go around telling people almost in a condescending, ridiculing way.”
Nora Amath, Executive Director, Islamophobia Register of Australia: “The scornful and alarmist tone of the comments referencing God can be seen as mocking an Australian Muslim woman’s faith and seem particularly pointed at her Islamic religion, given parliament begins each day of sitting with the Lord’s Prayer.”
Media watch: The media criticism program denounced the remarks of Payman’s former colleagues as blatant “dog whistling” to anti-Muslim sentiment.
Between the lines
The backlash against Payman included being ostracized by her colleagues and portrayed as an extremist.
Right-wing politicians issued warnings about the potential rise of a “Muslim political party” threatening Australia’s social cohesion. This incident has exposed the deep-rooted Islamophobia within Australian politics, with Payman’s treatment reflecting broader societal attitudes towards Muslims.
What’s next
Payman will continue her role in the Senate as an independent.
The Australian government has recently appointed a special envoy to combat antisemitism and plans to appoint an envoy to tackle Islamophobia shortly.
However, opposition leader Peter Dutton and his colleagues have expressed concerns about Muslim political representation, revealing a double standard in the treatment of religious minorities in politics.
(With inputs from agencies)

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