Following my talk last Friday at Sydney’s Imam Husain Islamic Centre, one of the organisers of the event, Ali Alsamail, asked if I would publish a Muslim perspective on the proceedings. The following piece is by him:
Imam Husain Islamic Centre is unique among places of worship. In my visits there, I always find a buzz of young ladies and gentlemen, among which one finds a sprinkling of easy-going parents and elders. They stem from British, American, Arab, Iranian, Greek, French, East European and African backgrounds and the centre seems to thrive on this smooth, flowing diversity.
Thus, it was no surprise to me that this centre, sitting peacefully on the bank of the Cooks River, would be host to a truly ground-breaking show of humanitarian unity against oppression.
Last Friday night, Muslims, Christians and Jews gathered at the centre to listen to a Jewish, a Muslim and a Christian speaker speak about a topic that unified all of them. A crowd of over two hundred gathered to discuss the events, past and present, in occupied Palestine.
The main theme of the night, emphasised by Father Dave, the Parish Priest at the Holy Trinity Church at Dulwich Hill, keynote speaker Antony Loewenstein, a Jewish journalist, author and co-founder of Independent Australian Jewish Voices, and Sheikh Mansour Leghaei, the religious director of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre, was that the opposition to the atrocities perpetrated by Zionism over at least the past sixty years is purely humanitarian and universal.
Antony spoke about the differences between Jews and Zionists, emphasising the fact that whilst most Jews accepted Israel’s actions unconditionally, there was a growing movement amongst the Jewish community, in Israel and abroad, that questioned and opposed the actions, as well as the origins of the Zionist regime in Israel.
For a largely Muslim audience, hearing a non-Muslim, especially a Jew, call himself an anti-Zionist was like a fresh breath of air. After his speech, Antony answered a number of questions from the crowd and his answers left no room for any animosity between Muslim and Jew, and seemed to leave most with the conviction that this was not a religious war fought by one faith against another, but a political conflict fought by a ruthless minority against a now largely helpless group of people.
The other theme of the night was the importance of individuals doing as much as they can to make their voices heard against oppression, and the effect that their collective voice could eventually have.
Muslims and Arabs are often accused of being politically, to say the least, inefficient, and another aim of the night was to encourage the mostly Muslims audience to take steps to make their voices heard against the atrocities being committed in the Middle East.
The event was definitely ground-breaking and will arouse much discussion amongst Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities. It was a step in the right direction for the Muslim community, and will be sure to trigger much reflection, research and hopefully action from a young and vibrant Muslim community.