Preparing for life in an Islamic country

Published on Royal Australian Navy (author), WO2 Rob Nyffenegger (photographer)

Topic(s): Operations

Lieutenant Shannon Miller, part of Combined Task Force 150 in the Middle East, stands in front of the Naval Headquarters in Bahrain during her deployment. (photo: WO2 Rob Nyffenegger)
Lieutenant Shannon Miller, part of Combined Task Force 150 in the Middle East, stands in front of the Naval Headquarters in Bahrain during her deployment.

As part of their preparations for operational deployment to Bahrain, Royal Australian Navy women from Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) Headquarters visited the Australian Muslim Women’s Association (AMWA) in Auburn, Western Sydney meeting with the association’s President, Silma Ihram.

Shortly after forming up in September 2013, LCDR Emma McDonald-Kerr, LEUT Shannon Miller (pictured), LSCIS Emma Hughes and LSCIS Emma Peters recognised the importance of understanding the cultural and societal sensitivities of living and working in an Islamic country.

LEUT Miller said “While some of the group are experienced travellers, none of the women have lived or worked in an Islamic country, so we had a lot of questions about how this might impact our professional and social conduct.

“AMWA represents educated professional Australian Muslim women. As an educator and campaigner for religious tolerance, President Silma Ihram proved the ideal person to meet with.”

During the meeting, the women discussed a range of topics regarding the Muslim faith and more broadly Arabic culture.

“Hearing from Silma’s personal experience and asking some of the more difficult questions, was a great opportunity,” said LS Peters.

“It gave us a broader perspective on other cultures and, importantly, helped us understand what could be considered culturally insensitive or offensive.”

Working with personnel from other nations including Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen, LS Hughes agreed that the meeting had given her greater confidence in dealing with international colleagues.

“Silma’s advice challenged many of my own ideas about dress, bearing and culture, and that has encouraged me to be more open in my engagement, whether that is with personnel here with the Naval Support Activity, or when I’m interacting with the local population.

“It provided a unique insight into Bahrain, and the people we are working and living with. I would definitely encourage other deploying Navy members to reach out to the local community and look at how they may prepare themselves, beyond the job at hand,” LS Hughes said.