The Booktopia Book Guru asks
author of Equal Justice
Ten Terrifying Questions
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
I am a first generation Australian. My father is a Muslim Indian, my mother a British/Scottish Australian. I spent my early years in India and we immigrated to Perth in the late 1970’s. I attended a Government primary school in a fairly Anglo, post war, working class neighbourhood and was very fortunate to attend Penrhos College, a Uniting Church Private Girls school for my secondary education.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
From a young age I decided I wanted to help others obtain access to justice and find their voice, largely as a result of experiences I had as a child which gave me a strong sense of social justice and equality, so after obtain a BA and LLB from the University of WA I started my career in the law in Perth.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
As an 18 year old I saw things in a very black and white way. As I have got older I realise that not everything, in fact very few things are black and white, and that life is filled with many shades of grey. I have always been a tolerant person, but life and the various journey I have had has taught me to be even more accepting, compassionate and forgiving.
4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?
The three most significant and influential events in my life have been experiencing first-hand; the discrimination and prejudice my father suffered as a dark skinned Muslim immigrant to what was then a very conservative Australia in the 1970’s, which gave me an early sense of equality and social justice, the powerlessness I felt as a young child of 9 after having been sexually abused my a neighbour for many months and then being told by my parents to never speak of the abuse to anyone, and the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, days before I commissioned as a Legal Officer in the British Army.
5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?
I guess you could say in some ways I am a traditionalist and I still believe there is no replacement to the experience of reading a remarkable or beautiful book. Books are the purest and most authentic way of sharing stories, and whilst Equal Justice is also available as an eBook, I believe my story and the messages I convey were worthy of more than a newspaper article or blog.
6. Please tell us about your latest book…
Equal Justice is the story about my life and my journey. It is a memoir about strength, resilience, courage and grit. It shines a light on authentic and ethical leadership, equality and deals openly with the challenging topics of abuse, war, physical and psychological suffering and a woman excelling in a man’s world. It is a book I am very proud of and a story that has resonated with so many.
7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?
If my work could do one thing it would be to inspire others to be agents for change – in their relationships, households, communities and workplaces.
8. Whom do you most admire and why?
Mahatma Gandhi has always been my hero. He said “Be the change you wish to see in this world” and that has been my life’s mantra and my life’s work.
9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I have been so fortunate and blessed to have achieved and realised so many of my goals and dreams, but I continue to dedicate my life to being the best parent, partner and friend and I can be, and to doing what I can to make a difference and inspire others to also make our communities and societies more tolerant, inclusive and diverse – so we can work and live together in genuine harmony and peace. I believe in dreaming big and striving for the highest. That is something I will impart to my children and something that will always define me as a human being and citizen of the world.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
I believe nearly everyone has a story to tell. Don’t focus on the reasons not to write your stories, but ask yourself why not? Stories are the most effective way to break down barriers and connect with people. Have a focus on what you hope to achieve and make it happen. I truly believe that when you do something for the right reasons it always has a way of working out – joy and success will inevitably follow.
For writers seeking publishing deals – invest in a good literary agent!
Rabia, thank you for playing.
by Rabia Siddique
Rabia Siddique is a woman with an extraordinary perspective. Growing up as a Muslim in the conservative and monocultural landscape of 1970s suburban Perth, she knew what it was like to be different. It gave her an abiding passion for equality and social justice that was to guide the course of her life. She trained as a lawyer, and found herself working in the UK on that fateful day in September 2001 when Islamic terrorists attacked the US.
She joined the British army in the Judge Advocates’ division as a military lawyer. She served in Iraq and was taken hostage by Islamic insurgents as she tried to negotiate the release of two kidnapped British soldiers. She battled for hours to save their lives, using her legal expertise, knowledge of Islam and Arabic to negotiate with their captors. After their release, her colleague received a Military Cross. Rabia received nothing. Her subsequent sex and race discrimination case against the British Army made headlines around the world. After leaving the army, she joined the Crown Prosecution Service as a prosecutor working on terrorism cases. Last year she returned to Perth to raise her triplet sons.
Her perspective as a feminist, a social justice crusader, a lawyer, a soldier, a former hostage, a terrorism prosecutor and a Muslim is unique, and her memoir is a story of grit, courage and conviction like no other.
About the Contributor
John Purcell (aka Natasha Walker) is the author of The Secret Lives of Emma trilogy published by Random House Australia. The Secret Lives of Emma: Beginnings reached the top ten on the Australian fiction charts and Natasha/John was the tenth highest selling Australian novelist and third highest selling Australian debut author in 2012. The trilogy has since sold over 50,000 copies in print and ebook and has been translated into French, Korean and Polish. John has worked in the book industry for over twenty-five years. While still in his twenties he opened John’s Bookshop, a second-hand bookshop in Mosman in which he sat for ten years reading, ranting and writing. Now he is the Director of Books at booktopia.com.au.