The mosque leg of the Opening of the New Law Term, the first of which was held last year, was held for the second time on the 7th of February at Auburn Gallipoli Mosque. The event was organised by the Muslim Legal Network and Gallipoli Mosque and the program was hosted by Affinity. Present at the ceremony were the NSW Attorney-General, The Hon Greg Smith; the NSW Shadow Attorney-General, The Hon Paul Lynch; the Chief Justice of NSW, The Hon Tom Bathurst; the President of the NSW Law Society, Mr John Dobson; the President of the Muslim Legal Network, Mr Zaid Khan; the President of Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, Mr Ibrahim Din; the Executive Director of Affinity Intercultural Foundation, Mr Ahmet Keskin; the Imam of Auburn Gallipoli Mosque, Imam Musa Celik; and many other distinguished guests including parliamentarians, senior members of the judiciary, barristers, lawyers and Muslim community leaders.

The ceremony started with the recitation of a short passage about justice from the Holy Qur’an by Imam Musa Celik. The Attorney-General, The Hon Greg Smith, followed with a short speech that highlighted the opportunities opened up by the ceremony. Minister Smith, who stressed that the ceremony brings to public attention the ever-updating legal system and strengthens the existing dialogue between the different faiths and cultures present in our society, urged the Muslim community to be informed about the legal system, their right to access it and responsibility when doing so. He congratulated the Muslim Legal Network and Affinity Intercultural Foundation for “helping fulfil functions that laws on their own cannot fulfil”.

Following the Attorney-General’s speech, his counterpart, the Hon Paul Lynch said, “Auburn Gallipoli Mosque is one of the symbols of our multiculturalism… I would like to thank everyone involved in the organisation of this program because it is a promising example of us taking the embracement of multiculturalism from a theoretical level to a practical level. To ensure a truly multicultural Australia, we have to increase the number of such bridge-building programs and on that note, I would also like to congratulate the Muslim Legal Network and Affinity for doing just that.”

The Hon Tom Bathurst followed with a very meaningful speech stressing the value of the ceremony and of law in Islam. He said, “One should not underestimate the value of this ceremony. It is a sign of mutual respect between the Muslim community and members of the judiciary. It is also a good opportunity to discuss our commonalities; human values. It plays an important role for breaking down barriers and helping to construct a strong, multicultural society. Mutual education and understanding, through programs like this, between the Muslim community and members of the judiciary is vital for preventing injustice in legal matters concerning the Muslims.” Also highlighting the importance of law and justice in Islam, the Chief Justice said, “You know better than I that in the past, Islamic Law served a vital function. While Europe lived the Dark Ages for centuries, the mechanism of law and justice was functional in the Muslim world. Everyone was subject to and equal before the law, be they a sultan or a beggar.” Chief Justice Bathurst finished with the following words of encouragement: “We see the same respect that Muslims had towards law in history, today in Australia. We see the contribution of Muslim legal practitioners to the development of our laws and we will hopefully see an increased contribution in the future.”

After the Chief Justice, Mr John Dobson, the President of the NSW Law Society, mentioned that the ceremony is a meaningful tradition from the Middle Ages that was held in Australia for the first time in 1931. Highlighting that it has now expanded from being limited only to one Christian tradition, he said that such programs are proof that when people act with good will, they can achieve many good things and build enduring bridges of friendship. Mr Dobson also touched on the value of Gallipoli Mosque as a bridge between Turkey and Australia saying, “The two nations are building on the legacy of Gallipoli by organising many joint remembrance events here and abroad. Our flags are hoisted together. By sharing our culture and traditions, by increasing mutual understanding and respect, we are building a resilient community here.”

To conclude the formal proceedings, the President of the Muslim Legal Network, Mr Zaid Khan, thanked all those present on behalf of the Muslim community. The Muslim Legal Network was established to “ethically strive towards protecting the civil liberties and human rights of Muslims living in Australia” and “to work diligently towards building a better understanding of the Islamic faith within the wider Australian community”. Mr Khan also underlined the importance of the ceremony for the Muslim community stating that “it helps the Muslims take their place in, share and play a part in the legal system”.

The program came to a close with a tour of the mosque by Mr Mehmet Ozalp, President of Islamic Sciences and Research Academy, Australia, followed by a light lunch…