ISRA held it’s annual Ramadan Dinner on 19th June 2016. The theme of the evening was Faith, Identity and Commitment. The evening began with beautiful Quranic verses about Ramadan by Br Suhail Noor. Angela Parlovic then spoke about ‘What Ramadan Means To Me’, sharing a personal recount, with pleasant experiences from her childhood with the multitude of benefits she gained from fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Professor Kevin Dunn from Western Sydney University, followed next on the program, presenting the results of his research on the ‘Ordinariness of Australian Muslims’. A key justification for the research, he indicated was due to the assumed incompatibility of Muslims with Australian values. The findings showed that the more religious Muslims are, the higher their pro-diversity attitudes and integration with Australian values. He offered a range of various statistics pointing to this conclusion, such as ‘71% of Muslims agree that Islam is consistent with Australian values’. The ‘hopes and aspirations of ordinary Muslims’, the report found were well-aligned with what ordinary Australians too, hope and aspire for, such as education and employment. He also shared findings about the unacceptable high rates of racial intolerance towards Muslims, for example, 61% of Sydney Muslims have experienced racism with is three times the national average.
Mr Paul Dowler from Charles Sturt University was next with an update on the Islamic University campus, noting that in 2011 there were 118 student enrolments and today, there are over 300 students enrolled in Islamic studies at ISRA/CISAC. A vision consultant, he stated has been engaged in the planning to determine the requirements. Meetings and workshops are underway with an expected due date for this stage by end of July, with feasibility plan and design being worked through till October. 2017 is the expected facility planning, design and construction commencement. He praised ISRA’s work, mission and benefits as reflecting harmony among Australians and contributing to national unity and social cohesion.
Senator the Hon. Concetta Feirravanti-Wells, then welcomed guests on behalf of her Liberal Party colleagues. She shared her concern about the widespread anti Muslim feeling and the fact that there is no evidence about widespread religious extremism and radicalisation, as the media would have us think. A beautiful poem recitation by Deepa Alam then followed taking the audience on a reflective journey of the soul.
The final speaker for the night, The Hon Jihad Dib MP, NSW Shadow Minister for Education, reminded us how sharing meals historically has always brought people together. He reflected how 20 years ago few people knew about Ramadan. But today, there’s a brighter horizon, with more awareness of what Ramadan is in Australian society. He entertained and motivated the audience with highlights of his career and achievements, recalling how if he had ‘listened to all the people telling him ‘you can’t’ , he wouldn’t be where he is today’. ‘A lot more unites Australian Muslims with Australians than divides them’ he believes, also sharing his thoughts on how Australia gives us opportunities no matter what religion or background you are.
A warm vote of thanks ended the night, by Assoc. Prof Mehmet Ozalp, who thanked all those who have been a part of the vision and work for ISRA/CISAC. He shared his thoughts on how ‘Ramadan is for everyone’ and shared some personal inspiring stories. His experience, he noted, has shown him how much education with understanding and sincerity changes lives, and shared the ISRA/CISAC vision for Muslims to understand their traditions and build their Australian Muslim identity.