Smithfield Mosque opens its doors to Affinity

smithfield-mosqueopenday2On 9th April, Affinity Intercultural Foundation and the Smithfield Mosque held the Smithfield Mosque Open Day between 10 am and 2 pm. From Affinity, present were Ahmet Keskin, Omar Ouiek, Muhamed Cengic, Rifat Cakir, Adil Bayazitli and Musa Hodzic.

From the Bosnian community present were Bosnian community Mufti Shk Salih Mujala, Imam Jasmin Bekric, who was the organiser from the Bosnian community, Mr Osman Softic and the President of the Bosnian Islamic Society. There were also a few youths present but mainly the first generation Bosnian Australians.

They were curious on how this event would unfold. At the same time, they themselves have experienced something different for the first time in their life. Although, they have contributed greatly in helping out on the day, they were amazed that such an event could be organised by people younger than them.

There were 2 seminars and a traditional Bosnian lunch. The seminars covered the features of the mosque, make up of congregation and basic information on Islam.

During the first seminar, present were the Fairfield Police Chief Commander Ray King and another of his colleagues, Wetherill Park Police Ethnic Community Liaison Officer Uttara Khchao, Buddhist monk from Fairfield temple and mainly the first generation Bosnian Australians. A journalist from the local newspaper “Champion” was also present and the event was covered in the newspaper this week (19/04/06).

After that, we had the Noon prayer and a few verses were read out from the Holy Qur’an by Imam Jasmin Bekric. The guests witnessed the prayer in a very intimate fashion. They sat leaning on the side walls where the rows end. The Buddhist monk was taking pictures and was filming the prayer to what he said, “I’ve never experienced something like this. This is amazing.” We also had positive feedback from the police superintendent. Uttara Khchao said that he never knew that Islam was so beautiful and that these things should be done on a much wider scale. They hold conferences on various community issues within their network and said that he specifically wants to talk about the Smithfield Mosque Open Day. A question on apostasy was raised by the monk during the question time and he was satisfied by the answer.

The second seminar had about 20 non-Muslims. There was 1 family from the neighbourhood. They’ve also gave a positive feedback and some of them even attended our Panel on compassion. The neighbour said, “This was an eye-opener for me.” He also said that the people are starting to realise that the media is always trying to make Muslims look bad so they turn the people away from them.

All together, there were approximately 100 people of which were around 25 non-Muslims.

You may also want to read the Smithfield Open Day short article in the Champion local paper:

smithfield open day article

 

 

Auburn Uniting Church Visit

???????????????????????????????Muslim Youth Raises Funds for the Burnt Hall of Auburn Uniting Church on Ash Wednesday

On the evening of Ash Wednesday, the 1st March, 2006, Affinity Directors, Mr Mehmet Saral, Mr Ahmet Keskin and Mrs Amine Atalay arranged a group visit to Auburn Uniting Church. The congregation has observed the first day of the Lent Season in the Christian faith. The church hall was burnt down by vandals last December.

Auburn Gallipoli Mosque’s Girls’ Youth group had collectively raised funds with a sense of responsibility and solidarity for their Christian neighbours in the aftermath of the burning of the Church Hall following the Cronulla riots. Ms. Nazli Akyil presented the $500 donation on behalf of the youth to Rev Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe.

Mr Saral spoke briefly on the significance of the lunar month of Muharram in the Islamic Calender, reflecting over historical Day of Ashura. “It is Muslim culture to distribute Noah’s pudding to neighbours and fast on the 10th day of Muharram. This gesture is especially important at the time of hardship” remarked Mr Saral.

Noah’s Pudding (ashura) is a sweet dish reportedly cooked on the day when Noah (p) and his followers first landed after the flood. The pudding was distributed by Affinity members to the church congregation. In return, church ladies presented a hand made traditional Tongan wall carpet as a gesture of their appreciation of the Muslim Youth and Affinity Intercultural Foundation.

Mrs Atalay remarked “When a community in our very neighbourhood is in grief, irrespective of how small is the contribution, we are here for you in assistance and support.”

ANTI-TERROR SUMMIT

  • Sunday, 11 September 2005 at 1pm at the Seymour Centre

In conjunction with members of the Muslim and non-Muslim community in Australia, Affinity Intercultural Foundation is to facilitate a Summit entitled“Muslims in Australia: Contributions to National Security & Harmony”.

This platform is organised to facilitate the community and religious leaders of the Muslim community to publicly denounce terrorism of all forms and to declare their commitment to the laws and shared values of our country, Australia.

There are two imperatives for this event. Firstly, in many interfaith events we have been part of, people have asked ‘why don’t you publicly announce that Islam and Muslims denounce terrorism’. Secondly, we received many requests from the Muslim community after the London bombings that something must be done in Australia to denounce terrorism.” said Mehmet Ozalp the president of Affinity Intercultural Foundation. 

Mehmet Ozalp also remarked “September the 11 represents the day terror hit the global scene and the day the world changed forever which profoundly impacted Muslims worldwide and in Australia. More Muslims died in the last 15 years due to acts of terrorism than any other people. Therefore, Australian Muslims in this country should unite with the rest of Australians on this day to denounce terrorism and remember all those who tragically died in terrorist acts.

Affinity Intercultural Foundation has been planning this summit soon after the London bombings occurred, in order to speak up against terror. This summit is not held because we or other participants were not invited to the PM summit. This summit will serve to complement the summit already held by the Prime Minister and further enhance and support the PM’s and Australia’s stance against terrorism.

In a local Sydney newspaper last week, the title “Muslims who were not invited to the PM summit hold their own summit on September 11” was grossly inaccurate and blatantly trying to undermine the significance of this event. We actually have participants from the PM summit, such as the NSW Islamic Council, who will be speaking and attending this summit.

Prime Minister was also invited to this summit. Prime Minister’s office sent us a letter and called this summit as “an ideal forum” and expressed his apologies saying, Unfortunately, longstanding commitments at that time will prevent the PM from joining you and he must, therefore, decline your kind invitation… The PM has asked, however, that you accept his apologies and best wishes for a successful and constructive Summit.

Affinity Intercultural Foundation President Mehmet Ozalp said “It is vital for Australian Muslims to condemn and reject all forms of terrorism.  Living in one of the most culturally and ethnically diverse nations in the world there is no place for extremism or intolerance.  As Muslims we need to promote the true and universal Islam”.

 

1st Legacy of Prophet Muhammad Conference – 2005

1st Legacy of Prophet Muhammad Conference 

The Novotel Hotel, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush

September 17, 2005 

Conference Summary Report

Conference program

Affinity Intercultural Foundation presented the : ‘1 st Legacy of the Prophet Muhammad’ Conference on 17 th September, 2005 . It was held at Novotel Hotel, Olympic Park, Homebush and attended by a mix of people from different backgrounds and faiths.

 

Keynote Speaker: Dr Muhammad Al Habash 

Dr Al Habash joined us live from Syria via a video conference. He discussed: how Muslims can follow the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in their life; the relationship between Islam and citizenship in terms of whether Australia comes first or Islam; whether there is actually a conflict between these two and what Muslims can understand from the legacy of The Prophet (pbuh) in understanding these areas.

He began with three points that formed the foundation in his address. The first: that for a believer, there is the recognition that our life, the earth and all that is contained in it belongs to God. All things prostrate to God, he stated. Second, the implications of what Allah (swt) says in the Quran: ‘You have indeed in the Prophet a good example’. Thirdly, that the Prophet (pbuh) did in fact teach that loyalty to your land, nation and religion are all acceptable for a believer.

The Prophet’s (pbuh) statement proved this, said the Professor, when the Prophet (pbuh) said: ‘May Allah give us love to Medina as he gave us love to Mecca ‘. There were many things he did in his lifetime which stemmed from this hope. His teaching others to be good to the earth, his decision to clean the city of Medina when he arrived / immigrated there. Within a year the natural surroundings were transformed in Medina , the water and irrigation systems were improved. Medina became the first city, lightened by lamps and more. The first constitutional development occurred in Medina , between the Jews and Muslims, in addition to the establishment of the first civil society in the Arab peninsula and with that peace between the people in Medina .

The Prophet (pbuh) saw no contradiction between loyalty to one’s land and loyalty to your religion. In fact he taught how to balance between these two. In the first constitution, the Jews and Muslims were considered one nation, Islam giving them equal human rights, concluded Dr Al Habash.

 

1st Speaker: Dr Zachariah Mathews 

Mr. Zachariah Mathews speech focused on conflict resolution at the time of the Prophet (pbuh).

He began clarifying quite simply that diversity actually means to understand each other, referring to the Holy Quran: ‘He created you in nations and tribes so you may know each other’. The way to address diversity is by learning ethics and values to deal with it, at the same time acknowledging that methods of resolving conflicts differ from one context to another.

However rather than conflict resolution being the goal, Mr. Mathews stressed that conflict management is what’s needed because its impossible to resolve all conflicts as this is the test that God has set out for us. With equality and freedom being the core values, the search for peace he stated must go via the process of 2 sources as follows.

The Prophet (pbuh) was a ‘Mercy to the worlds’ (Quran). When one examines his exalted character, tender heart, his persona being neither seeking rewards from people or for his own and someone whose sole duty was to confirm that which was brought by messengers before him, we can become aware of the foundation that gave him success in conflict management in his lifetime.

Various cultural and religious practices prevalent during his time gave him a range of experiences, but most importantly gave him informed perspective. Stories are abundant, a famous one, ‘the placing of the black stone on the Holy Kaba’, where the issues involved could have led to a tribal war, yet was averted by the way the Prophet (pbuh) strategically resolved it. His commitment to resolving conflicts peacefully and in promoting social order for all citizens was at the core of his success in conflict management.

The rise of Prophet Hood was a shock to pagans whose efforts to suppress Islam increased and led to the Prophet (pbuh) immigrating to Medina . With the new community in Medina , the Prophet (pbhu) was a leader of all, Jews, polytheists etc, all whom contributed to forming the Constitution of Medina – a Pact of friendship and co-operation that safeguarded all. Further, the change in political and social organization benefited minority groups. He was the supreme spiritual leader and law giver at the same time.

The Treaty of Hudaibeyah is another example, where though unfavorable towards the Muslims, he consolidated the community and although the polytheists violated the conditions, the Prophet (pbuh) negotiated with them and chose not to retaliate against those who had earlier persecuted them, why because he rose above hatred, pardoned and forgave them. These were the dimensions of his level of humanity that formed the success of his conflict management. Mr. Mathews ended his speech saying: today’s leaders should consider this Prophetic example.

 

2nd Speaker: Mrs. Fulia Celik

Mrs. Fulya Celik’s speech focused on how the Prophet (pbuh) transformed society. She began, stating: Islam gives great importance to knowledge; the first verses revealed of the Holy Quran were ‘Read….’ Offspring of this being that piety and worship are possible only via knowledge.

Before the light of Islam hit Mecca , it was a hopeless situation, the social climate, customs and civilization were lawless, persecutions against the weak were prevalent and more, she explained. The Prophet (pbuh) overturned these and other barbaric ways and transformed the people into leaders of the world, by becoming the ‘trainer of their hearts and minds’, inculcating qualities that became second nature to them.

In 23 yrs, he brought peace to the lands, living the principle, ‘All actions are done first and then translated/taught to others’. He produced the most just rulers in history. He spread literacy and knowledge and through this educational transformations in society (in pre-Islamic Arabia only a few people could read and write). Written materials and records increased (where there was absent afore). Islamic civilization was transformed into ‘roads full of students and scholars’. In addition, he also solved all the prevalent social and economic problems.

Learned persons were appointed to educate people in mosques. Suburban schools were established. Every opportunity to increase literacy was taken until the illiterate became the exception over time and this carried to produce the great civilization of Islam. With the obligation to ‘READ’ – at that time there were no books, but this implied – ‘Read the book of the universe…Humanity is to observe the universe and thereby know God’.

 

3rd Speaker: Sheikh Ahmad Ihsan Abou Sharaf

Sheikh Ahmad’s speech was of a spiritual nature and perspective, namely the practical application of the message of lslam and of devotion to humanity. The connection between humans and The Creator, he said is one of sustenance, life, guidance, all of which are in place so the system of life works perfectly.

How do we get connected to the Creator, he posed to the audience. Via constant striving. We have needs and this makes us look for the source of our needs. Whoever one calls, one is actually calling ‘The One’ regardless of the title one uses.

Is it the earth or the Controller of the earth that manages/sustains it, another significant question he asked. He (God) did not create it and leave, as is obvious in the continuous operations of the earth. Our connection with Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala is via our feelings, our conscience. Everywhere on earth our innate nature is guiding us to what’s right and wrong. If we realize via the attributes of Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala, then the self will turn to Him, via all our senses and our heart and when that moment happens this moment will change our hearts.

The role of the Prophets is of a higher level, they understood all this at a higher level, they taught us how to be accepted in the presence of God. Sunnah is the way to God, the practical application between you and your God. Messengers were enlightened to see the Truth, playing the role model for humanity, showing us in practical applications how to be with Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala as a slave, in sorrow and joy, in strength and weakness, to be a neighbor, husband, wife, child – all on the right way.

We can’t be perfect, he said, but striving to be good/better is like perfection. So sunnah is the way to God and denying other prophets, won’t get you to God, he ended.

 

4th Speaker: Mr. Mehmet Ozalp

Mr. Mehmet Ozalp spoke about the Universalisation of the message of God. He began by addressing the assumption some people have, that the Prophet (pbuh) created the religion of Islam from his observations of Jews and Christians. To address this accurately, he stated, raises three questions: Did he call only Arabs to Islam; was the content universal and did Muslims carry a universal message and represent it.

The evidence, he said, is the Holy Quran with its clarification of the ‘Seal of Prophets’ implying that if the message was going to be given one last time, it has to be acceptable to all. The Prophet (pbuh) ‘was sent as mercy to all the worlds’, he had a special mission to all. The Holy Quran terms: ‘Oh Humanity’, hence not only addressing Arabs but all humanity. His last sermon was addressed to all human beings, at the end imploring, ‘those who are here, should relay it to others’.

The Prophet (pbuh) was granted for the first time something that was never given to previous Prophets and that is that the whole earth was now a place of worship. After Mecca ‘s conquest, the Prophet (pbuh) sent letters to leaders of the world to consider the message of Islam. Hence he understood his mission as being for all human beings.

Addressing the second question regarding the content of his message, he began explaining how the Prophet (pbuh) had a spiritual, cosmic and social essence. He taught to love neighbors and fellow human beings, as you love self and to understand the universe with light of belief in One God. Monotheism is the fundamental message here and that all humans are equal.

To address the third question, he discussed the contribution of the Prophet (pbuh), whose most supreme message was to believe in One God and love him most, this was the message of mercy and grace of God– as it extends throughout the universe. Acknowledging that humans created in the fitrah of the All Merciful.

The way people related to God until Islam was in one of two ways: idolatry or incarnations of God. Islam introduced that one can do this via His attributes and qualities. The oneness of humanity is an essential quality, ‘Be merciful to those on earth and He in the heavens will be merciful to you’. And with this the equality of races, before the Prophet, no-one had expressed it as explicitly.

The Prophet (pbuh) had a detailed version of how God governs the universe, through his ascension to the Heavens on the night of Isra An Miraj, the significance of this being that he witnessed the glory of God. In conclusion, Mr. Ozalp said that the message from God for all human beings, resonates with previous revelations, but was reaffirmed in practice one last time for humans via the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).