At the beginning of the month I was fortunate to attend an excellent conference in Brisbane at Griffith University. Attendees included prominent Christian and Muslim academics and a variety of community workers from various fields. Prof Tariq Ramadan opened the conference with a strong appeal for active citizenship from the Muslim community living in the West. He urged all parties to remember and to celebrate their history – the Islamic contribution to the civilisation in the West, and the Christian contribution during Muslim rule in earlier centuries. He also stressed the need for Muslim specialists in various fields to help apply Islam to the many dilemmas of society today.
There were two presentations on the early history of the Aborigines and the excellent relations that they had with the Muslim community over the centuries through intermarriage and trade. Some elders in North Western Australian continue to have immediate family amongst the Muslim community in the nearby islands.
Waleed Aly as a closing speaker talked about the do-it-yourself terrorism that currently operates in our globalised community. He described the deculturalised and deterritorialised Muslim community that has the potential of reacting to marginalisation through radicalisation. He urged for a change of discourse within the community and active civic engagement.
I was impressed by the honesty of all of the participants, and their willingness to address these problems realistically. With the guidance of these academics and mentoring of a new generation, I believe it is possible for newer younger leaders to take the community into a different direction - a more constructive and compassionate one.