‘Media and Values: Its influence and responsibilities for social ethics’

On the 4th of April, 2011, the second annual media related panel, titled ‘Media and Values: Its influence and responsibilities for social ethics’, was held at Customs Housein Circular Quay.  Last year’s panel featured the launch of ISRA (Islamic Sciences & Research Academy) whereas this year prominent local and international speakers explored the impact of media on social harmony, with the launch of the Fountain magazine.

The event was sponsored by City of Sydney Living in Harmony Initiative and the US based Fountain Magazine, ‘A magazine of scientific and spiritual thought’.  Chaired by the State Director of ABC, Peter Longman, the evening began with a warm ‘Welcome to Country’ by Norma Ingram. The panel‘s four speakers delivered insightful and highly engaging presentations.

Mr Peter Manning, a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Monash University & author of “Us & Them”, analysed the ways in which Australian values are defined, determined and ultimately represented through various media. Drawing on specific examples such as Rwanda and wartime reporting, Mr Manning examined the (inevitably) subjective nature of media and its role in shaping values and re-inforcing attitudes.

Prof Radhi al-Mabouk, Head of Educational Psychology and Foundations Department in the University of Northern Iowa, USA, addressed the influence and responsibilities of media with particular attention to the value of ‘forgiveness’. After explaining the three dimensions to Fethullah Gulen’s perspective on forgiveness, patient endurance, tolerance or mutual respect, and capacity for compassion, Prof al-Mabouk outlined some suggestions on the potential role of the media in investigating and fostering such values before concluding with examples of how this has been achieved in The Fountain magazine.

 

Dr Jon Pahl, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America and the Director of MA programs at The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, addressed the fundamental question of whether media can be moral. Prof Pahl outlined the significance of the notion of sacred space to allow media to be “oriented positively to foster social compassion and charity, to critique injustice and violence, to provide voices for otherwise silenced citizens, and to hold up for societies and individuals the highest, rather than the lowest, human aspirations and ethical horizons.

Universal Message of Love

To speak against the attacks on places of worship in the Sydney suburb of Auburn, Affinity coordinated a panel titled, ‘Universal Message of Love’

with the Sri Mandir Hindu Temple, Auburn Gallipoli Mosque and Auburn Uniting Church.

 

Affinity President Mr Mehmet Saral gave a welcoming speech, where he stated “…Auburn City area has had its fair share of attacks against places of worship, including Mosques, Temples and Churches, over the last decade. These activities were not one faith attacking another faith but were highly likely to be criminal attacks and offences”. He emphasised the need to work with the Police in sorting out these crimes.

 

The keynote address was given by a famous visiting scholar, Sheikh Afeefuddin Al Jailani from Malaysia. He focused on addressing the need for communities to reach out and let themselves be known to one another in order to establish peace.

Rev Dr Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe from Auburn Uniting Church, responded by reminiscing how the community responded after their hall was burnt down on December 2005. She recalled how the Affinity President brought over to the Church a group of Muslim youth who collected donations of $500 towards the re-building of the church hall.

Mr Rajeev Kapoor, President of the Sri Mandir Hindu Temple, which had gun shots fired in to the Temple a few weeks ago, talked about the devastating attack on their temple. He sees it as a sign that people of all faiths should work together to stop the spread of violence and hatred. He noted how important it was to do this on a youth level.

Remarks from Superintendent Phil Rogerson from  Flemington Local Area Command, gave his remarks from a Policing perspective and how the Police are on to the task at hand. He stressed that there have been other places of worship attacked in the area over the last decade or so and on all occasions these have been criminal offences.

 

Ms Julie Owens MP, Federal Member for Parramatta, also made remarks stating she is happy she got to share this moment with the locals and hear words from such an extraordinary person as Sheikh Afeefuddin.

The Vote of Thanks was made by Mr Tony Issa MP, State member for Granville, who thanked everyone for coming and highlighted the importance of faith based communities getting together. Mrs Barbara Perry MP, State member for Auburn, was also present, attending after her busy schedule in NSW State Parliamentary sitting day.Performances on the night included the Australian Sufi Music Ensemble accompanied with an Aboriginal Didgeridoo player.

As a token of appreciation, President of Affinity, Mr Saral, presented all the speakers with a traditional Turkish plate for their time and effort.

During Q&A, many questions were asked by the audience, to which the three speakers gave some interesting answers.

Overall, it was a great event, and it was good to see local people of all faiths coming together in solidarity to showcase that Auburn truly is a harmonious and peaceful place amongst the people of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Universal Compassion of Divine Messengers

The Universal Compassion of Divine Messengers panel, organised by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, on Tuesday April 11, at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre, coincided with three major events in the global religious calendar.

Muslims celebrated the birth of our beloved and treasured Prophet Muhammedpbuh; Christians celebrated Easter and members of the Jewish faith observed Passover.

This alignment of sacred and important religious events presented the ideal backdrop and atmosphere to discuss and commemorate the honourable work of three divine messengers; Muhammedpbuh, Jesuspbuh and Mosespbuh.

Through the knowledge and powerful words of Professor Mahmut Erol Kilic, Bishop Kevin Manning and Rabbi Gary Robuck, the audience heard inspirational stories of the hardships, courage and determination of the divine messengers to follow the command of God and deliver His message from a Muslim, Jewish and Christian perspective.

Rabbi Robuck spared time with his family on Passover to enlighten the audience on the character and nobility of Mosespbuh referring to him as “Judaism’s greatest prophet, law giver and teacher”.

The Rabbi continued to say that “even as a young man Mosespbuh had a refined conscious and that he puts an end to the violence that he witnessed. Mosespbuh was brave and courageous in front of the Pharaoh who was the most powerful man in the world and asks for his people to be freed”.

“Mosespbuh was religious and attentive and a role model to seek and uncover the divine even in the most dark and remote places and always lived life in the immediate presence of God”, the Rabbi said.

The compassionate words of Bishop Kevin Manning had a great impact on the audience as he shared the attributes of Jesuspbuh who instructed his disciples to convey and show mercy.

Bishop Manning explained that God speaks to man through the universe and His power and compassion are evident through His creations. Therefore God is visible through the mercy of Christ. The sacrifice of Jesuspbuh would restore the relationship between God and man as Jesuspbuh states “blessed is the man who does not lose faith in me”.

Bishop Manning went on to explain that “the suffering of Christ speaks in a special way to man and not just the believer. The message of Christ is culminated on the cross because Christ appeals for mercy when he suffers. Mercy is an indispensable dimension of love”.

International keynote speaker Professor Mahmut Erol Kilic, Head of Islamic Sufism, School of Theology, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey, presented insight into the life of the Muhammedpbuh and Islamic theology and spirituality.

 

Professor Kilic explained that verses in the Quran “emphasised the oneness of humanity as a family where everyone is equally eligible for basic human rights including choosing one’s religion without coercion”.

He continued to emphasise tolerance and acceptance of other religions as stated in the Qur’an, which has references to the Bible and the Torah and what was revealed to other Prophets.

The Qur’an encourages Muslims to have dialogue with others and have no distinctions between humans because we are all made by the Creator and will eventually return to Him”.

Professor Kilic also explained the compassion and tolerance of Prophet Muhammedpbuh who emphasised that hurting someone from the people of the book (Bible, Torah, Qur’an) would be like hurting him personally.

Islamic theology and spirituality promotes and encourages interfaith dialogue and Muslims were reading the Torah and knew the Gospel from the time of the early Sufi’s.

Professor Kilic explained that “in order to heal the world we have to nurture ourselves in the beauty and compassion of the Prophet Muhammedpbuh. Humans have divine guidance, which is currently lost in the jungle of this world where pain and suffering is caused by a separation from God”.

The Professor expressed a need to wake up to a higher level of consciousness. We should be able to perceive the truth and noble character of Prophet Muhammedpbuh more clearly, because through him, humanity has received a religion of mercy, heart and compassion. The coming of the Prophet changed everything-a higher standard of morality was sent”.

“The world has reached a state where unity, substance, grace, vision, love, and beauty are needed to sustain us. The bedrock of Islamic thought rests on the foundations of humanity, compassion, and learning where peace signifies an act of reconciliation to overcome violence”.

“The Prophet himself proclaimed that he was not sent for condemnation but as the Prophet of mercy and displayed this attribute when he asks for the forgiveness of those who have come to hurt him rather than ask for their punishment. The emphasis on Allah’s mercy is evident in the Quran where His name Ar-Rahman (the Merciful) appears more than any other name.

 

The event successfully highlighted the compassion of the divine messengers and their impact and contribution to the foundations of society and religion. Having listened to the speakers, one may ask “what did the panel achieve?” The panel achieved many things. Firstly, it showed that members of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths can come together to acknowledge the wonderful work of the divine messengers in harmony. It showed that as a community we can respect the values and beliefs of each faith and the willingness of the community to reach out and embrace each other in support. More importantly it is an influential demonstration of the tolerance, understanding and similarity of faiths existing and operating parallel to one another. Professor Kilic asked an important question; “If Prophet Muhammedpbuh, Jesuspbuh and Mosespbuh were alive at the same time, would they have been friends?” The answer is an obvious yes as expressed by the audience. This is because they all worked towards a common goal; to show mercy and compassion, to educate towards tolerance and acceptance and to spread the love and message of “the God” (Allah).

 

Many members of the audience said they were impressed by the event because it showed the similarities between the three faiths and the messages conveyed by each of the divine messengers. Some even stated that the similarities far outweighed the differences and that the universal message of mercy and love was the foundation for all religions. Perhaps this is the marking of success – where community members can walk away with such a realisation which will have a positive impact on their interactions in the community. Additional performances by Musa Hodzic, Mohamed Cengic and Omer Sacan also made this a memorable and spiritual night with many positive messages for the benefit of our multicultural society.

Approaching Sacred Texts in Modern Times Panel

 

Imagine a courtyard, one taken right out of a snap shot of old Sydney Town, looking around you, you see the beautiful stone walls and you know there is history there. You walk about and the cobble stone pavement, its ups and downs making you feel like you are walking on large bits of the past.

And then you gaze up and you feel yourself being pulled out of the pages of history and back to reality, a few towering buildings, very corporate like make you realise you are in the heart of the city on a Friday in the year 2007 and you think, what a marvellous contrast!

The last day of November was so spent in St. Patrick’s Church Crypt amidst the hustle and bustle of the city and the wondrous peacefulness and unexpected quiet of the church itself. ‘Quran & the Gospels: Approaching Sacred Texts in Modern Times’, was the topic at hand and with around 150 or so people who came to hear the speakers, it was evident that the topic was one that resonated with many.

Sr Michelle Connolly was first to address the topic. She started by defining what the Gospel was, a narrative, a story about Jesus (as), a historical person and the historical events occurring around him. She said the principle aim of the Gospels is to take the memories of a community regarding Jesus’ traditions thus creating a portrait of him that is personal.

Mehmet Ozalp spoke about how we make relevant our texts, the Quran and how we connect to it. He stated that in three ways one could do so, one a general reader, a Muslim, or non-Muslim seeking to benefit from the Quran and finally, the content of the Quran itself, which helps us to understand it.

He talked of Gods light resonating in the universe and the mirrors, which reflect this light, the universe, the Quran, and the human heart. He acknowledged that we are all subjective beings and need to try and stay away from extremes. He gave two points; if you do not allow the Quran to transform you, you will transform it to which you are yourself, and again we are bias creatures based on our belief, life experience and events that occur around us one text could mean two different things. He then stated that Muslims have to be ‘coachable’ by the Quran. “The Qur’an’s teachings are from God therefore submit to it, become coachable, and let God be the Teacher.” He ended by saying that it is important we have a collective understanding of the Quran so we do not become narrow in our understanding.

Another highlight of the night was prayer where Muslims prayed Maghrib prayer and Christians focused on the word maranatha and both groups prayed together.

The evening ended with ‘different perspectives, but moving to the one point-God’.

Overall the atmosphere of the event, the feeling of spirituality and of sincerity, trying together to understand God and his words was overwhelming and delightful.

From the ‘Remembrance of One God’ Affinity Intercultural Foundation in collaboration with the Christian Meditation Group held this second panel, “Quran & the Gospels: Approaching Sacred Texts in Modern Times” on Friday, 30th November 2007.

2nd Annual Youth Panel 2007

On the 25th of August 2007, Affinity Intercultural Foundation held their 2nd annual Youth Panel. The topic of this year panel was ‘I am a Young Australian Muslim because…’

The event began about 7:30pm and Makiz Ansari opened up the panel with a welcoming note to all our guests. It was good to see that although the turn out was low, the 100 to 150 people that did com, were those among the youth, especially from the Muslim community.

All up there were 5 speakers in this panel and they included:

·         Assoc Prof Christine Inglis- from Sydney Uni

·         Zainab Alttahir-from Auburn Girls High (Yr 12)

·         Maher Yaghmour-from AIA (Yr 12)

·         Mahsheed Ansari-from UWS (President of UWS Affinity Club)

·         Ziya Sahin-from Sydney Uni (President of Sydney Uni Affinity Club)

All speakers added their own touch to the topic and especially the youth speakers who had prior to the event rehearsed rigorously to get their speech and timing perfect. And this they did.

The first speaker up was Christine Inglis who stated that her talk was on the research she had carried out on migrant young people. She basically touched on the fact the migrant youth can be great contributors to their society. That the cliché views that they are outsiders, they don’t fit in and more, are really concepts that stop the full impact the migrant youth can have on our society. She also touched on identity and how this is such an issue with migrant youth, an issue she says can be dealt with through education. It is through education she says, that we can help the youth and the public be aware of one another, and also use education as a tool to help build their sense of identity.

You could tell that the youth speakers were NERVOUS! But as the first youth speaker, Zainab took to the stage, it all changed. Her topic was titled ‘The Collision of My Two Worlds?’. Her speech was based her personal experiencing of being a migrant who grew up in Australia and her struggles to try and balance her ‘2 worlds’. She stated that developing ones identity is very much needed within the youth and that this is not something that can easily be achieved. She however said that it was the struggle of finding her identity in Australia that actually helped her find her place, and her faith, Islam. Her idea was that her two worlds do not conflict with each other, but rather compliment one another. This is concept that was touched by many of the youth that night.

Maher Yaghmour was the second youth speaker for the night, and he certainly delivered! His topic was on ‘To be or not to be’. He basically talked about the rip in the ocean, stating that you either try to fight the rip or you go along with it. Maher said that he sees this ‘ripe’ as the peer pressure that many youth face today. He gave a personal example of how he was conflicted about fighting someone at school, because on one side his friends were telling him to fight and on the other hand he had his conscious which was reminding him chapters from the Quran about patients and forgiveness. In the end he chose not to fight….! He stated that friends play an important role in your life, especially he said in his and that we always think before we re-act.

The third youth speaker was Mahsheed Ansari. Her topic was on ‘Spirituality in Generation Y’. Mahsheed talked about the yearning that the youth have of wanting spirituality. She stated that just because it might not be something that we see often, it does not mean its not there. She went on to say that society should look more to youth and the spirituality that they have to offer, that we should nurture them and give them faith the makes seme to them. All humans she states ask these 3 questions (1) who am I? (2) What is my purpose? And (3) where am I going? Once these questions are satisfactorily answered youth are able to discover their spirituality within the society. She ended her talk by stating that all living begins need to full 2 things in order to be alive, Growth and Contribution. Without either humans are not truly living. It is for this reason that the youth of today need to be nurtured, so that they may grow and contribute to their society.

The final speaker for the night was Ziya Sahin. His topic was ‘Maturing Shoots Bearing Fruits’. Ziya started of talking about his early years in Australia in which he hated to be called an ‘aussie, because he felt a strong tie to his Turkish background’. And how this perception changed as he grew up in Australia and realised how much he was attached to it, i.e. his home, studies and friends. He calls himself a hybrid of the two backgrounds, in that he takes the good from both and fuses’ it together. Ziya also touched on the importance of his faith in his life and how much it has helped him be where he is today. He touched also on the idea of helping our society, especially as youth through education and other venues.

After tea and coffee everyone gathered back for a little entertainment provided by comedian Nazeem Hussain, who by the end of the night had us all in stiches. May God reward the brother who flied from Melbourne purely for this event and ended up missing his flight! God willing he has now safely reached home.

Question and answer time followed and many people in the audience were keen to ask questions. Some of the ones that were read out included, ‘what is the key challenges facing the Muslim youth today’? and ‘do you think universities should give classes on interfaith in order to learn or spread tolerance’? Another question was ‘can Australia except migrants from a different faith background, as they do of migrant who are of the same faith background i.e. Christians?’

The great thing about this panel for me was the fact that each speaker brought their own flare to the topic. I felt as if I was at 5 different panels, all in one…!

Overall the panel was both entertaining and enlightening. In his vote of thanks Mehmet Ozalp summed the night up well when he stated that we need to listen to our youth, we need to give them more attention, and that our society at the moment is not doing so. He stated that the speakers of the night are the emerging Muslim youth of Australia, and that they need to be listened to.