On Sunday, 19 April 2015, Islamic Sciences and Research Academy launched its Melbourne Centre with a significant event that attracted 150 guests representing various Islamic organisations and educational institutions in Victoria.
The momentous event officially commenced with Qur’an recitation by Dr Bekim Hassani, the Imam of the Albanian Australian Islamic Society Mosque. This was followed by a welcome speech by the General Manager of ISRA Melbourne, Omer A. Ergi, who thanked the Muslim community for its support in starting ISRA in Melbourne, highlighting how important it was for ISRA to have the Muslim community behind this initiative. The Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Associate Professor Tracey Green also noted this aspect of ISRA in her speech as she commented on how ISRA was recognised within CSU as having good relations with the community; this in turn made a significant contribution to the success of ISRA. Tracey also noted the close relationship which existed between CSU and ISRA, a relationship which she said “CSU hopes to foster and further develop.”
Zuleyha Keskin, the Course Coordinator, shed further light on the courses offered by ISRA. While highlighting that there were some amazing educational initiatives within the Muslim community in Melbourne, Keskin stated that, “there was a need to provide a combined classical and contemporary Islamic learning at the university level within Australia. These courses have filled this gap.” Keskin continued by explaining the course structure of the three main courses offered; Bachelor of Islamic Studies, Master of Islamic Studies and Master of Arts (Classical Arabic). The flexibility of the courses was notable, catering for the busy schedule of Australians.
Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp gave further insight into activities of ISRA by elaborating on the vision of ISRA in an evolving Muslim community, particularly ISRA’s focus on providing Islamic education to all segments of society from schools to professional bodies, with the CSU courses being an important component of the educational services provided. Ozalp emphasised the importance of developing research projects where Muslims lead the research on Muslims rather than Muslims being the object of research. “I can envision a day where we establish a think tank comprised of 10 researchers who are constantly churning out research about Islam and Muslims in the West” said Ozalp.
After the stimulating and insightful talks about ISRA, Melbourne ISRA was officially launched by Mr Mesut Lelik, the CEO of the Selimiye Foundation. The evening was wrapped up with reflections from the floor. Associate Professor Aladin Zayegh from Victoria University highlighted the importance of formal recognised education in today’s society to ensure the Muslim community is at a par with the wider society. Professor Akhtar Kalam from Victoria University noted how he was excited by what ISRA was seeking to achieve while Sheikh Mustafa Saraqibi from the Islamic Council of Victoria congratulated ISRA for undertaking this imperative initiative.