Surf's Up for Australian Muslims

February 2, 2007

Author: Nick Bryant

Source: BBC News

On a beach in south Sydney, a group of young Australian Muslims is about to take a highly symbolic cultural leap.

For the past 10 weeks, they have learned how to rescue stranded swimmers from the foaming surf, discovered more about the undertows and rip currents which can make even the most inviting sea so very perilous, and taken part in gruelling fitness tests.

Now they are about to receive that most coveted of Australian prizes - their bronze, surf life saving medallions.

Tens of thousands of surf life saving volunteers have made this rite of passage.

But this group is unique. These 18 young people, of Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian and Libyan backgrounds, are about to become the first Muslim Australians to receive this prized qualification.

More remarkable still, they have learned and honed their skills on the country's most controversial stretch of sand - Cronulla beach, the site of grotesque race riots in December 2005.