With anti-Islam rallies held in 16 cities and regional locations throughout Australia over the Easter weekend, religious leaders are responding to the hostility, and one is offering a subtle solution.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism based in Nevada, USA, issued a press release urging the Australian government to set up a “multi-faith centres” in all hospitals throughout the nation as an initiative to support religious equality.
The announcement is contained in a press release following a plan of the Collin Barnett’s government in Western Australia to open a $1.2 billion Perth Children’s Hospital next year.
Zed said that having a multi-faith centre at the children’s hospital would make a neutral place for meditation-prayer-worship-reflection by diverse faith. This would be a step in a positive direction, he added, noting of many world-class hospitals in many countries around the world have multi-faith centres.
Zed further said multi-faith centers would be a highly appropriate place to reach out to God in time of need adding:
All hospitals in Australia should be equipped with multi-faith centers providing resources to the faithful of all major religions and those with no religious affiliation, where patients/families/staff could turn to and feel at home in the moments of suffering/grief/loneliness/difficulty for quite-time/prayer/reflection/spiritual-support and seeking hope/peace/comfort/healing/courage.
He did not specify, however, any formal petition or dialogue being undertaken on the matter.
‘Reclaim Australia’ rallies
Meanwhile in Australia, religious leaders are distressed over the ‘Reclaim Australia’ rallies held over the Easter in 16 capital cities, regional and rural centres. Organizers attacked sharia law, halal certification, and Islamic extremism. Counter-rallies were organised by opposing groups to protest against the ideology behind ‘Reclaim Australia’. Demonstrators clashed with police and some were reportedly injured.
Religious leaders find the rallies distressing more so of what critics call a tinge of “racist Australia.” A man named Shermon Burgess, who goes by the name Great Aussie Patriot, posted on Facebook that more rallies would be held soon which will be “much, much bigger, seeing a lot more people now know that ‘Reclaim Australia’ is here.”
The Islamic Council of Victoria called for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to condemn the sentiments expressed at the protests. The council’s President Ghaith Krayem said he is disappointed that elected leaders have failed to set an example of what Australian values are really about.
The commonwealth has been quick to call on our community and leaders to speak out against extremism and hate preaching, yet when these are directed at us they have remained silent. We expect the government to speak out strongly against these co-ordinated rallies and call them what they really are and that is nothing more than a racist and bigoted attack on Muslims.
The council welcomed the statement by the Victorian government, which condemned religious-based attacks. Krayem said Muslim Victorians would play an important role in the state’s multicultural society and said they will not allow such hatred and bigotry to stop this.
FECCA issues a statement:
The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) stands strongly with its member organisations across Australia against the narrative purported by Reclaim Australia that calls on the Federal Government to ensure the “Australian way of life” is maintained. In response to the Reclaim Australia Rallies which took place on 4 April Australia-wide, FECCA emphasises the value of Australia’s rich cultural diversity.
Joe Caputo, FECCA chair, said that he found the presence of these rallies across the country deeply disconcerting as they pose a risk to social cohesion and harmony. In recent months there has been a rise in racially and religiously motivated attacks against members of Australia’s multicultural communities.
There have been positive examples of Australians working to restore the relationship with migrant and refugee communities such as the “I’ll ride with you” campaign. Despite contributing to the development of Australian society, many culturally and linguistically diverse Australians still feel as though they don’t belong.
At FECCA, we are concerned over the increasingly hostile attitudes towards Muslim Australians and other minority groups. “Whilst we respect the right of every Australian to demonstrate their views peacefully, the rhetoric being expressed towards people from culturally, linguistically and religiously diverse backgrounds should concern the wider Australian community”, said Mr Caputo.
A defining quality of our country is that Australia has a long history of migration. Since the post-war era, Australia has evolved into a culturally and linguistically diverse society. Migrants have contributed to the social, cultural and economic fabric of Australia, with the country greatly benefiting from this unique composition. Diversifying society ensures people gain different cultural experiences and outlooks.
FECCA highlights the many positive attributes of multiculturalism. It is about the recognition, acceptance and celebration of our cultural, linguistic and faith based diversity, as well as our shared commitment to Australian laws and democratic values.
“The message these rallies perpetuate is that Australia is not a welcoming, inclusive place for people of multicultural and multi-faith backgrounds. It is important that the wider Australian society comes together to promote harmony and acceptance,” stated Mr Caputo.
During this time of increased community angst, FECCA would like to reiterate the necessity to reach out to the multicultural community and foster a cohesive, accepting and unified Australia.