the jasmine in my mind - Act 1, Scene 2[As the old Seals & Crofts song, “Summer Breeze”, plays in the background, Husein stands up and holds up the large cardboard credits cards before throwing them into a bin of fire, Bob Dylan style. Husein wears a torn 3 piece suit and has long hair and a beard. Cat Stevens style. He then addresses the crowd in a British accent …]
HUSEIN: It is 2032. Sydney is booming. It has joined the American empire, and has become the 106th state of the United States of Liberty or USL. It is a cornerstone of the USL presence in South East Asia. Amongst its fellow states are Indonesia, Malaysia and Fiji. The rest of Asia has joined the Eastern Republic of Chinese Asia or ERCA. Most Muslim countries have joined ERCA, including the entire Arab League, Iran, Bangladesh and the Central Asian republics. The flashpoint of this conflict is Pakistan, where USL and ERCA forces are fighting street battles for control of the natural gas pipeline.
Muslims in Sydney are subject to suspicion and rumour. Many have been detained under the Patriot Act, adopted by the Australian Parliament under Prime Minister Alex Hawke. The PM’s predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, was the first to sign away Australia’s sovereignty in 2020, after a failed referendum in which Australians soundly rejected the notion of becoming part of the USL and taking sides in any struggle between superpowers.
Despite popular sentiment, Mr Turnbull was able to secure support from opposition leader Kim Beazley III. Both major parties supported the move, and Australia adopted the USL constitution. USL troops patrol the streets of major cities, and the USL intelligence agencies keep a close watch on the movements of suspected ERCA supporters.
As part of the USL security policy, all media has been privatised and transferred to the ownership of the Murdoch family. The fact that the family also controls all media in ERCA does not seem to bother anyone in the USL administration.
USL includes amongst its ranks all European nations except Albania and Bosnia. These countries voted in 2011 to reject the offer of USL President Schwartznegger to join the rest of the former European Union. Albania retains its independence and is part of the non-aligned movement. Bosnia has been divided between the republics of Serbia and Croatia, and Muslims have been interned in detention camps or shipped to other secret facilities.
The non-aligned movement includes Albania, Turkey, South Africa, India and New Zealand. Pakistan is also a member, but has been rocked by over a decade of military conflict and intervention by USL and ERCA forces.
Because so many Muslim countries support ERCA, Muslim Australians are being watched closely. The Murdoch-owned press has been busy publishing stories and editorials questioning the loyalty of Muslims to Australian membership of USL. Mr Hawke’s Minister for Information & Education, Andrew Bolt, has issued a standard policy for educating Australians about the perils of Islam. The policy is being applied across all forms of media for the past 2 years.
The results of the policy have been alarming. At least 30 mosques have been vandalised and attacked. Muslims have been removed from all sensitive positions in the public service. The constitution has been amended to ensure that Muslim membership of all political parties has been outlawed.
Muslims are also being driven out of elite professions such as medicine and law. Muslim professionals are made the target of smear campaigns, leading to their investigation and removal from professional rolls. Already some 40 Muslim lawyers have been struck off in Sydney alone. Among them is Imran Yunus, an industrial lawyer with some 15 years experience. Imran was also a member of the Liberal Party, and was expelled after a motion moved by Mr Hawke was carried unanimously.
Imran, always referred to by his friends as ‘Yunus’, now spends his time between writing and looking after his mother who suffers from bipolar disorder. Yunus still meets with friends at the pub from time to time, and they are waiting for him tonight.
[Two men sit at a bar. A pretty girl stands behind the bar serving drinks. She has long straight black har. She wears a black t-shirt and black jeans. The men are in suits but with top buttons undone and ties slouched. One is trying to chat up the girl as she serves them and other customers.]
NICK: Mate, when is bloody Yunus gonna turn up?
LUKE: Hey, give him a chance. He is only 30 minutes late. You know what these bloody Muslims are like with their time!
[the barmaid sniggers]
NICK: [to the barmaid in a flirtatious manner] What are you sniggering about, my dear Carmel?
CARMEL: Nothing. Just the way you guys talk about your friend.
LUKE: So why are you so interested in him, ay?
NICK: Yeh, what’s so crash about him? Apart from him crashing his lawyer’s license!
[Both men laugh with loud guffaws. Carmel turns her back on them and starts cleaning some glasses.]
NICK: Anyway, why are you wasting yourself behind a bar? I’ve got plenty of money. Why don’t you try me out?
CARMEL: Yeah, OK. I’ll just wait until I’ve been buried. Then I’ll be happy to join you.
LUKE: Mate, this bird’s a feisty one.
[Yunus appears. He is wearing trousers, a business shirt and shoes with no socks. His trousers are pulled up high so that his ankles are showing.]
NICK: Well, well, well. Look who we have here? Carmel here was just talking about you and your troubles with the law.
CARMEL: [sounding very annoyed] I was not! You liar!
[Nick and Luke have a good laugh. Yunus looks at Carmel and smiles. She smiles back half-amorously.]
CARMEL: Just the usual? Coke with no ice?
YUNUS: Yeah, thanks love. How much do I owe you?
CARMEL: It’s ok.
LUKE: Bloody Yunus always gets favouritism. And he never buys us any drinks, the cheapskate!
NICK: That’s cause he’s one of those pro-ERCA China-loving Moslem bastards. He reckons Allah Akbar won’t let him buy drinks.
CARMEL: Stop it, you 2! Leave my friend alone.
[Nick and Luke stand up and are in the process of leaving to go to another bar.]
YUNUS: Well, I guess I had better be off.
CARMEL: No, stay for a while. I wanna talk.
YUNUS: It’s getting late and I need to …
CARMEL: [cutting him off] No, I insist you stay. Um, sorry to cut you off.
YUNUS: Alright, what is it?
CARMEL: Is it true that Muslims aren’t allowed to drink?
YUNUS: Yeah, that’s true. And we can’t buy drinks for others, or serve it or sell it.
CARMEL: [looks down] Um.
YUNUS: What’s wrong?
CARMEL: Nothing. Actually everything.
YUNUS: Hey tell me this. Why do you keep giving me free drinks? What’s the story, Carmel?
CARMEL: Please don’t call me by that name.
YUNUS: So what name should I call you by?
CARMEL: Call me Yesmina.
YUNUS: Why do you insist on a Muslim name?
CARMEL: Well, you are Muslim, aren’t you?
YUNUS: Yeah, but what’s that got to do with your name?
CARMEL: Come closer.
[Carmel leans her chin on her palm as her elbow rests on the bar table. Yunus brings his head closer to hers and rests his chin in similar fashion.]
CARMEL: [looking straight in his eyes] Don’t tell anyone I told you this. It’s our secret. Promise?
YUNUS: ok, promise.
CARMEL: My dad was Muslim. He was from Bander Aceh in Indonesia. Mum and dad lived there. They met in England. They both studied law there. They moved to Indonesia. Mum converted to Islam. They had 2 boys. My 2 older brothers. My mum was pregnant with me. I was born on 26 December 2004.
YUNUS: Hang on. Wasn’t there a huge tsunami in Bander Aceh? How did you survive?
CARMEL: Mum took us all out of there to Auckland in September 2004. I was in her stomach. Mum applied for custody. The hearing was to be on 5 January 2005. Dad was leaving Bander Aceh to go to Jakarta when the tsunami struck.
YUNUS: So you were born when …
CARMEL: I was born at the same time the tsunami hit Bander Aceh. Mum was really stressed out. My eldest brother Hasan was 6 years old at the time. He told me mum was ringing trying to reach dad from the hospital. His whole family went missing.
YUNUS: So how did you end up with Yesmina?
CARMEL: Dad grew jasmine flowers in his garden. It was his favourite flower. He got a specimen specially from Shaykh Martin.
YUNUS: Shaykh Martin? You mean THE Shaykh Martin? Abu Bakr Siraj?
CARMEL: I am not sure. He wrote some famous book or something. He is related to my mum somehow.
YUNUS: Yeh, that guy is Martin Lings. I read his book every night. It is the best anti-depressant in the world.
CARMEL: What’s the book about?
YUNUS: It’s the life of the Prophet. Everyone’s got it. All the Muslim families. So Yesmina, have you read it?
CARMEL: No. I spend most of my time reading Deepak Chopra and Dalai Lama stuff.
YUNUS: So why do you call yourself Carmel?
CARMEL: I don’t want anyone to know I work here. It’s not right. My dad is Muslim and I work in a pub. Doesn’t sound too good, does it?
YUNUS: So why are you here then?
CARMEL: Long story. One day I’ll get to tell you.
[Other drinkers begin to walk out. Yunus watches them leave]
YUNUS: I guess I should have one more coke and be off.
[Yunus takes out a bottle of pills and removes 5 of them. Carmel watches as she pours the coke]
CARMEL: What are they? Are you on drugs or something?
YUNUS: Yeah, kind of. I have to take anti-depressants.
CARMEL: How come?
YUNUS: Well, it’s a bit like you working in a bar. Long story. One day I’ll get to tell you!
[They both break out into a giggle.]
YUNUS: Sometimes I come here and you aren’t here. When do you usually work?
CARMEL: It depends. I get really bad back pain. Sometimes my younger brother Husein comes and visits me. He lives on the streets.
YUNUS: Why doesn’t he stay with you?
CARMEL: He’s really sick. I mean, he’s kind of schizophrenic. He had a car accident 3 years ago. He had a head injury and became depressed. He started taking drugs and he just became ill all of a sudden.
YUNUS: Hey, there are medicines for these things.
CARMEL: Yeah, I know. But he never takes prescription stuff. Only the other stuff.
YUNUS: So how does he survive?
CARMEL: He plays electric guitar at Central Station.
YUNUS: And what does Hasan do? Is it Hasan?
CARMEL: Yeah. He’s a plastic surgeon. He lives in Brisbane.
YUNUS: And what about your mum?
CARMEL: [flirtatiously] Hey, why all these questions, Mister!
YUNUS: Sorry, bubz.
CARMEL: [giggling] Bubz! I like it. Call me that from now on.
YUNUS: OK, but only when others are around. Otherwise you are Yesmina. So about your mum …
CARMEL: She is like you. She’s a lawyer.
YUNUS: I’m not a lawyer. I just write. And they took my certificate off me when I fell ill.
CARMEL: Why didn’t you go get it back?
YUNUS: Because I am too sick to work.
[Intercom rings. A voice is heard: “OK, Carmel, that’s your time. Close up now and escort the gentleman outside”. Carmel opens the bar door and walks with Yunus toward the door.]
CARMEL: [opening the door] Come tomorrow night. At this time. Please.
[Carmel kisses Yunus on the cheek.]
YUNUS: Sweet. I’ll be here.
[He walks out and away. She shuts the door and leans her head against the glass, staring at him.]
© Irfan Yusuf