BRISBANE – A tattooed, muscular, man with a shaved head is not the typical Muslim one expects to meet inside a mosque. But Robbie Maestracci, an ex-biker who now works as a youth worker in Brisbane’s Holland Park Mosque, made it possible.
“I’ve got criminal history, I’ve been locked up,” Maestracci told SBS’s The Mosque Next Door, The Daily Mail reported.
“I’m very blessed that I’ve got a job working with our community here, but if our community wasn’t open to me, where would I work?”
Five years ago, Maestracci converted to Islam while he was behind bars. Afterwards, he became a close friend to Imam Uzair, a Muslim leader who runs Brisbane’s Holland Park Mosque.
Since leaving jail, Maestracci founded a support program for other Muslims in jail and is now an Islamic Council Youth Worker.
There are an estimated 100 Muslim prisoners in Queensland jails, according to the documentary which aims to demystify the world of Australian Muslims.
Jesse is another Muslim whose life was explored in the SBS’s series.
The 21-year-old man also converted to Islam behind bars and more recently changed his name to Jihad.
“I stopped using drugs the day I became Muslim,” Jihad told the program.
Finding Islam, both Jihad and Maestracci praised the Muslim community for offering them a second chance.
The documentary series about Brisbane’s Holland Park Mosque, which opened in 1908, shines a light on the lives of Muslims, educating Australians about the second largest religion in the world, and that Muslims need not be feared.
It was praised as “an honest attempt by SBS to showcase a world many Australians haven’t had a chance to experience.”