Ali Abdul v The King

Men with dark skins and turbans didn’t look foreign to me at all; we were connected; they were a part of my heritage.

Award winning author Hanifa Deen enters the wonderful world of the archives and discovers 'a tribe of men with a hidden history' – men whose stories are rarely told: the 'Ghans', cameleers, 'sepoys', hawkers, herbalists, and pearl divers, known collectively as 'Mohammedans' in early Australian history.

Mahomet Allum, wonder herbalist and ladies’ man, bush battler Ali Abdul, the feisty Afghan Rock men, and Sam the republican pearl diver, are some of Deen’s 'men from the archives'.   To others they are troublemakers and ‘lustful aliens’. Unwelcome and a threat to Australian workers, these are the dark strangers in the days of the White Australia Policy, when race was used to classify people and bar them from entering the country.

This fascinating collection of narratives combines Deen’s gift for storytelling with history and nostalgia as she takes the reader back into Australia’s past. These stories may even help explain some of the moral ambiguities and strange ironies that trouble us today.

Read an Excerpt:

Seventy-five years ago a man called Ali Abdul found himself in serious trouble with the law. He was a nondescript sort of Indian, a quiet man who kept to himself more through circumstance than any inclination. His hands, scarred and roughened by years of hard physical labour belonged to a man more used to handling an axe and a pick and shovel than someone sitting at a desk or standing behind a counter selling fruit and lollies although that was how he made his living later in life. The wrinkles lining his face came from years of working outside in the open, but the brown of his skin disguised the deep lines. I can’t swear to it but I think he was a bit of a loner. Not your usual city Muslim, Ali now owned a small shop in Abernathy Street, Redfern, a working class enclave in inner Sydney.


Owen Richardson - The Age: 
" ... HANIFA Deen went looking in the archives and into her own past and this highly engaging collection of narratives is the result...."
Full Review   

Carlene Ellwood - The Sunday Tasmanian: 
" ...Deen says there are lessons to be learnt from looking at the way we were...."A lot of the stories here explain some of the moral ambiguities, some of the strange ironies that trouble us today....You don't escape a racist past overnight; it does shape you...."
Full Review  


Gillian Bramley-Moore - The Courier Mail: 
" ...Deen's lively chronicles about Mahomet Allum, a herbalist who was irresistible to women, bush battler Ali Abdul and Sam the pearl diver, who led a special SAS team in World War II and yet was thwarted in his efforts to be naturalised, are confronting. Yet Deen avoids preaching, telling with humour all sides of the story...."
Full Review    

Jose Borghino - The Australian 
" ....To her credit, Deen balances such stories of institutionalised racism and cruelty with examples of ordinary (white) Australians deviating from the twisted "normality" around them and treating Muslims with humanity and generosity of spirit. The White Australia Policy was eventually dismantled...."
Full Review    

Sarah Drummond - Overland: 
" ...Deen’s humour and feistiness prevails throughout this book...She deftly spins narrative nonfiction into a ripping yarn of the outback, the courts and the openly racist application of immigration dictation tests...Hanifa Deen is also unafraid to throw in a chuckle, a pointedly personal take on an ambiguous piece of historiography with a raised textual eyebrow: ‘Not bloody likely!’...."
Full Review    

Wendy Alexander - Transnational Literature: 
" ...The style is accessible, and exemplary of the narrative nonfiction-genre in which Deen has previously published...."
Full Review   


Hanifa Deen with Meri Fatin of Morning Magazine 
The Interview...


Afternoons with Gillian O'Shaughnessy - 720 ABC Perth 

" ...When did we start having these debates about Muslim culture in Australia? Conversations about the burkha, about refugees of Muslim origin? Just in these last few years? Or further back....Well you might not realise it, but the conversation goes back a whole lot further than that...right back to 1890 when the first Muslim cameleers and hawkers arrived and then somehow slipped through the net of the White Australia Policy...."
The Interview