Say g'day to ease Muslim-Christian tensions


Daily TelegraphLeaders of some Christian denominations at Camden on Sydney's south-west fringe have joined forces to oppose a bid by the Quranic Society to build an Islamic school.

It came as a shock to many Christians committed to interfaith dialogue to read that Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary officials expressed their views in a letter sent last week:

'Our concern is the Quranic Society inevitably advocates a political ideological position that is incompatible with the Australian way of life. This includes promoting Quranic law as being superior to national laws and regarding followers of any rival religion as inevitably at enmity with it.'

Until now, Christian opposition to the school has been confined to more extreme elements. In December 2007, the Rev. Fred Nile explained at a protest rally that he opposed the school because Islam opposed Christianity.

Last Thursday, local opposition to the school was further buoyed by a separate statement of support from the General-Secretary of the Baptist Union of NSW Alan Soden, and the Principal of the Baptists' Morling Theological College Ross Clifford.

They stressed that they are 'committed to living in harmony with people of all faiths and no faith', and that 'the Baptist Union of NSW acknowledges the place of multifaith dialogue and encourages warm personal relations between members of all religious groups'. But they declare:

'Australians absolutely oppose all form of seditious activity. No politician or community leader would want to be associated with decisions that could lead to a religious-based legal system overriding or operating in conjunction with Australian law.'

The problem is that their argument appears to be based on an assumption that Camden's Quranic Society is predisposed to promoting such seditious activity. When contacted by Eureka Street, Mr Soden conceded his suspicion, warning that Australian Muslims could follow those in the UK in attempting to introduce elements of Sharia law into their communities.

It is in fact arguable that partial adoption of Sharia law within Muslim communities in western nations could be desirable. Indeed last year the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams controversially accepted its inevitability.

It seems that the Baptist Union, and the Camden Christian leaders, could make a better contribution to harmony in the Camden community by taking positive steps to find out what the Quranic school actually plans to do.

They could encourage opponents of the school to meet with the Quranic Society, and perhaps get to know them socially. It is ironic that the residents' attempts to 'preserve the Australian way of life' involve turning their backs on the iconic principle of saying g'day to newcomers.

It is only after establishing such positive relations that members of the Camden community will be able to know and understand the real purpose of the school. It's true that there is a concerted effort on the part of numbers of Muslims to introduce Sharia law. But in the case of the Camden school, it's likely that fears about a preoccupation with Sharia law are as fanciful as the idea of their local Catholic school wanting to see Canon Law replace Australian law.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.


Topic tags: Camden, sydney, Quranic Society, Islamic school, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, muslims, shariah law



submit a comment

Existing comments

Michael, I agree with you that we should take the time to get to know our neighbour before making any stand against what they might or might not represent or what we assume their intentions might or might not be ... on any matter, as well as on education. T

hat is, of course, assuming that our neighbour is willing also to come to the table and meet without barriers and in honesty. Vulnerability and open-ness is something that no one does well … we all have agendas (hidden and open) and we all assume that others have agendas too … unfortunately very few of us are willing to admit that and hence we all walk a thin line between trust and fear.

Sadly, what the intentions of our neighbour might be today is easily changed by a new administration that steps in tomorrow (I have seen it happen at the Christian School my disabled son attended till mid last year). What guarantee can anyone have?
As you say … the key is relationship, in learning to love and trust one another … do we have the time and the will to learn to do that? That is the question.

Dennis | 27 April 2009  

In Dubai I worship with up to 3000 others regularly in a church build on land DONATED by the Sheik who thought the Catholics needed some place to worship just as tshe Moslems had their mosques. It is actually right next door to a mosque.

A little understanding and dialogue would go a lot further to these fellow children of Abraham.

Peter Walsh | 27 April 2009  

The quote that Michael included from the various concerned Christian groups is a great worry. I say this because it is completely accurate. Use the internet and you will see many Muslims in Western countries espousing these precise sentiments themselves. They come not as immigrants but as colonisers. They despise the West. They want to overturn our secular democracies. Islam is to be dominant not dominated.

Michael's hopes that the Camden school won't be preoccupied with Sharia law come right out of the fanciful wish file. Some hard proof would be a much be preferable. If this school follows much of the teaching of mosques in the UK and the US, we have every reason to be suspicious rather than naively optimistic.

Finally, what of one law for all? Why should Muslims have the privileged position of having Sharia incorporated into the laws of a land they have come to. And what of the less palatable aspects of Sharia? Will we allow adulterers to be stoned and gays to be hanged. Will apostates from Islam have to suffer death as prescribed in Sharia? Where do we draw the line?

We in the West have much to fear from Islam.

Patrick James | 27 April 2009  

It wouldn't seem so bad if Muslims have proven that can can assimilate into a host country while keeping their culture as a sub-culture.

Unfort. Muslims have only ever proven that they seek to dominate - and by their own submission - because theirs is a counter-culture.

That is why we don't want it here nor anywhere in Australia. We should cease Islamic immigration, it is diluting our identity. Why should they live in my street but be completely subject to a different set of laws a position of which, they seek to have legalised through our own court systems?

This is more than just a school. It is firstly an immigration centre via the back door. Imported Islamic students can complete their studies here and, along with their carer, automatically be granted Permanent Residency (refer School Sector Visa Sub-class 571).

Secondly, look at any area where Islam has grown. The first thing to be established? No, not a mosque, but a school. The mosque comes next, then the cemetary.

It is all part of their plan for world domination. And you'd better toe the line, or else.

Say "NO" to an Islamic School anywhere.

HP James | 27 April 2009  

Yes Dennis, where to from here. What do we do to test out the statements of Patrick James? Can HP James be accepted for his assertions?

I would like to hear public statements from the leaders of the Muslim Community and clear expositions of their beliefs and intentions.

Ray O'Donoghue | 27 April 2009  

My forebears were of Irish Catholic stock. They were constantly accused of being unpatriotic because they opposed conscription, feckless because some Irish gambled, violent because some Irish fought for independence, and idolatrous because they recognised the Pope. Their enemies charged to their account every bad action, every bad word, every wild opinion, held by any Irishman anywhere in the world

All the time they just thought they were Australians.

They also knew that the demand - made of them by people who had never taken the trouble to talk with them - that they prove their loyalty was arrogant, smug and hypocritical. They knew that nothing they could say would have persuaded the closed-minded of their good disposition.

They would have felt fellow-feeling with the Muslims in Australia today, not with their despisers.

Dan McGonnigal | 27 April 2009  

quote"This includes promoting Quranic law as being superior to national laws and regarding followers of any rival religion as inevitably at enmity with it.'"

Let's see what Christians think about abortion? or taking the pill or working on good friday?
Let's see if they follow their religion over STATE-LAW

sleepup | 27 April 2009  

Lahore - Pakistan

Australia - Pakistan SMART program | 28 April 2009  

Mr McConnigal, at what point did the Irish in Australia want to overturn the entire constitution? Yes there were runctions, tensions and arguments. But nowhere did the Irish want to set up some type of Catholic hegemony that the rest of Australia would have to follow on pain of death.

Sleepup I am not quite sure of the point that you were making. But I suspect it was the old moral equivalence. The Catholic Church is also out to take over the world and impose its morality on everybody else. So who are we to criticise Islam?

Yes the Catholic Church puts forward its view of morality. It takes its place in the public square and has its say. It would, to an extent, shape the laws of the land to its view of Christ's message. But it does so through the established processes.

It would outlaw abortion, but it would not call for adultery to be punished, music to be banned, drinking to be outlawed, enforce compulsory attendance at Church.

Sharia law, on the other hand, controls every aspect of a Muslim and a non-Muslim's life, social, political, financial and religious.

Equating Catholic moral positions with Sharia is absurd.

Patrick James | 28 April 2009  

Ray O'Donaghue, great points. When you have some sort of reliable and trustworthy statement from the Islamic community (one with substance) then let us know.

We have been asking why the Quranic Society has not lodged a financial statement and tax return for the last six years, but with no answer.

We have been asking why their 2001 return showed an asset position of $500,000 with zero income, and yet manages in 2005/2006 tax year to purchase the land in Camden for $ cash! There is still no reply.

We have been asking who is going to run the school for the safety of the students, but there is no-one on the Quanic Society board with any shool experience whatsoever. Still, the wind gently blows through the trees.

It is patently obvious that there is only one goal. With the total population of muslim residents in Camden being just 300, there can be no justification for a 1200 student school unless they plan to bring them in from Afghanistan, Pakistan etc, formerly Christian countries in the middle-east that are now dominated by Islam and Shari'ah Law.

The Qur'an says that Allah said to Mohammad: "I declare unto you the whole earth a mosque."

HP James | 28 April 2009  

Does the Quranic Society have a constitution? What does it say?

Gavan Breen | 28 April 2009  

It's sad to see comments such as those by HP James and Patrick James in a Christian forum, of all places.

The assumption that Islam in the West automatically involves the introduction of Sharia law and 'world domination' is revealing of fear, bigotry and ignorance. I wonder how many Muslims have they actually spoken to? Are they aware of the overriding ethical demands of Islam, which (contrary to uninformed belief) require the utmost respect for the communities in which Muslims live and those of other faiths?

Comments like these are disappointing and unhelpful - in fact, by making moderate Muslims (the vast majority) feel demonised, they may actually promote the growth of the radicalism they fear.

I highly recommend that anyone agreeing with the Jameses read Waleed Aly's People Like Us or George Negus' World According to Islam, and extend their hand - and cheek - to those they see as enemies.

Tim | 28 April 2009  

HP James if you have PROOF that they have not shown a tax return then go to the tax department and give them your "proof"

and quote "The Qur'an says that Allah said to Mohammad: "I declare unto you the whole earth a mosque." if you had ever went to an imam then you would have learned that it means that you can pray anywhere in the world that you don't HAVE to pray in a mosque like the jews in their temples and in the past for the christain a church

sleepup | 28 April 2009  

Tim, point out anything that I said that is unChristian. Jesus said that we had to love our enemies. He never said that we had to pretend our enemies were actually our friends.

I highly recommend that you read Why I am not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq. He was raised a Muslim but left and became an atheist. Or check out the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute (MEMRI) on the internet. It contains clips and articles from all over the Muslim world. They are translated into English. Watch and read then decide who is uninformed.

Respect for other religions? Try this quotation from the Quran (3.85) "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good)

Of course not all Muslims are violent or intolerant. But it is undeniable that the source of violence and bigotry for the Taliban and their ilk is found in Quran and the other texts of Islam. Spare me the "taken out of context" defense. Direct your arguments to those Muslims who would destroy us.

Patrick James | 28 April 2009  

Tim, with all respect friend, it is because of people like you that Islam has been allowed to grow and dominate. The soft underbelly of our tolerance and democracy is our weakness and they are playing it hard. It is sad to be forced to take this position, I agree with you there. However, it is necessary if we are to maintain our way of life. And please, don't call me names like 'bigot',...they have far more insulting names for people like you and me.

Sleepup, we have the proof and we have been to not only the Commissioner but the heads of the ATO and this FACT has been proven in the recent court case. They have since attempted to get their returns up to date, just to comply with legitimate criticism, but they're still not up to date and they still don't explain away where the $19m cash will come from to construct their 'school' (read: Islamic Immigration Facility), nor the $1.87m to purchase the land.

Indeed none of your responses has offered a credible argument, just the usual name calling etc.

If you want credible evidence of the Islamic plan for mankind, read any book by Bat Ye'or. I recommend The Decline Of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, and Eurabia. Comprehensively referenced, very thorough and an indisputable wealth-mine of Islam in history. So pleae, don't take my word for it. Do your homework.

HP James | 28 April 2009  

first i would like to say in islam, there is quran saying there is no compulsion in the "religion islam" i am not talking about what the people "do" for we do not judge a religion by the action of the people example do i say christianty is bad because of the of what Timothy McVay, Oklahoma Federal Bldg Bomber did who said he was a christain? i can tell you there are many people who say one thing and do another, i know a lot of these people like in iraq they are cultural they do not practice at all i have live in 2 arab countries for about 9 years and i can speak arabic, read and write and about the decline of chritianty in middle eastern countries i say the same when the crusaders in europe with the jews and muslim and many other religion how they declined under christianty rule, lastly There is no compulsion in religion proof of that in dubai, egypt, jordan, morocco palistine iraq and many other countries and the cristain they (cristians and the jew) practices their religion freely.

sleepup | 29 April 2009  

Michael, thank you for your article. The discussion that it has provoked is extremely illuminating. The strength of the fear and prejudice in some of the comments is frightening, and, as Tim writes, conducive to marginalising, or even worse, demonising, an already-marginalised group.

Anne Benjamin | 30 April 2009  

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another;this means Muslims, Jews and eveyone else. Most muslims I've met seem pretty much like the rest of us, except that they often seem more connected to their faith on a day to day level. I have no problems with some Sharia law relating to property issues and divorce being permitted. Jews have their own religious laws/courts which relate to divorce as Rowan Williams commented recently and they are not discriminated against.

My view is that we are violating the human rights of Muslim parents and children if we disallow them equal acccess to set up their own schools and colleges .

isabel Telford | 01 May 2009  

Isabel Telford is mistaken if she thinks that Jewish divorce courts have any force in Australian law. They are just like the rulings of the Catholic Marriage Tribunal. If parties wish to accept the rulings of this body, then they are free to do so. However, the law of the land does not recognize any such laws as these as binding. Why should it be different for Muslims? Why should they receive a privileged place in the eyes of the laws of this land.

I doubt very much that Muslim majority countries would think of changing their laws to suit Christian minorities.

On the contrary, according to reports I have read, Christians in Muslim lands in the Middle East, are being driven out. The Christians in Iraq and Palestine are constantly under persecution and threat of death.

I am glad to see that many posters here welcome Muslims to Australia. I do too. But I think that many Australians are too ready to believe that bigotry, intolerance and xenophobia are phenomena only observed in Australians. Our new Australians of Islamic background may also need to be challenged about making changes to their perspective in their new home.

Peter Heart | 01 May 2009  

Education should be secular

I'd close ALL faith schools

We need religion like fish need bicycles

Religion is the source of far too much violence racism and hate. After the Holocaust one might have hoped people would have learnt

Religions that place importance on wearing hats are particularly dangerous in my opinion

Odd very odd

pete | 20 May 2009  

Thank you Michael for your interesting comments. It does seem strange to me that such a large school is being built in Camden. Like many Australians of Irish background I am well versed in the story of my forebears who were transported without trial for 'political' offenses. However, with the exception of the "Vinegar Hill Rebellion" which was overtly political, the Irish have settled well into Australia's majority Anglican based society despite the sectarianism of past centuries. Islam by its nature is not anything like Irish Catholicism, it is as different as chalk is from cheese. I would hope that the Government will watch any proposed overseas students attending this school and the intents of the teaching staff so that the current rule of law and customs of Australia are not compromised by the curriculum of the Islamic School.

Gavin | 22 May 2009  

Similar Articles

Getting smart, not tough, on bikies

  • Moira Rayner
  • 07 May 2009

No 'group' can be assumed to be full of criminals. Men form friendships out of common, innocuous interests. Laws introduced in NSW interfere with civil liberties and are likely to be ineffective at addressing organised crime.


The questionable ethics of Australia's defence

  • Tony Smith
  • 05 May 2009

It is enouraging that the Government's Defence White Paper de-emphasises the US alliance in favour of self-reliance. However, we still desperately need community debate about the ways in which a military force can be used morally.



Subscribe for more stories like this.

Free sign-up