“I’m not going to let people who don’t think I belong in Australia get away with it.”
This is what Senator Mehreen Faruqi tells Tarla Lambert in the latest episode of The Women’s Agenda Podcast.
As the first Muslin woman elected to federal parliament, Faruqi knows a thing or two about facing vilification in the public eye, something she elaborates on in her new memoir Too Migrant, Too Muslim, Too Loud. The book details her life in Pakistan, the decision to move to Australia with her family, and her career as both an engineer and politician.
“The stories of so many migrants are just not told at all and I thought it was important to tell this story because it’s not just my story, it’s the story of so many migrants of colour who have come to this country,” Faruqi shares.
Since leaving her successful career in engineering and entering public life as a politician, Farqui says these identifiers – being Muslim, and a migrant of colour – have been used to denigrate her, almost every single day.
“It seems unbelievable in a place like Australia – which I thought when I was growing up in Pakistan, was a country that had reached equality in every sense of the way,” she said.
“I had a different expectation of Australia. It was a bit of shock that from day one of my public life, that my religion, the colour of my skin, the place where I came from, where used to vilify me and pile on abuse and hate.”
As a woman in politics, Faruqi says there is toxic mix of sexism and racism that underscores these attacks. Despite it all, she has no inclination to let these abusers win, and she continues to be outspoken about how proud she is of her background and the place she has come from, Pakistan.
“I embrace these titles, these identities that I’m proud of. They make me who I am,” she said. “I’m not going to shy away from the fact that Australia is my home, and it has been my home for a longer time than Pakistan was. I’m here to stay, to change the system, so suck it up people.”
In the podcast, Faruqi says that she chose to buck the trend of most political memoirs, and write hers while she was still in parliament. She thinks it was important to do so, in order to show people what politics is really like, while she still has the capacity to make the changes she is writing about.
“You don’t have to be captive by the system that you’ve gone in to change,” she said.
For Faruqi, going into politics wasn’t about having a career. She already had a career she loved as an engineer. Going in to politics was about public service.
“I deliberately gave up a job that I absolutely loved because I saw that maybe it was time for me to use my professional experience, my lived experience and my work in the community to do something that might have some more influence,” she said.
“For me, politics is not about sloganeering or trying to win the next election, to be frank. It is actually about trying to make fundamental changes to things. Not just band aid solutions to the major challenges which we face at the moment – the climate crisis and inequality, especially as it impacts gender and minorities.”
Listen to Senator Mehreen Faruqi’s interview with Tarla Lambert on The Women’s Agenda Podcast, starting around 28 minutes in.