“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you. Indeed, God is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Quran 49:13)
“…and speak nicely to people…” (Quran 2:83)
As can be seen from the above verses taken from the scriptures of the Holy Quran, Islam fully supports and promotes good relations between people of all different backgrounds and faiths. It recognises the righteous qualities that a person has as being of ultimate importance.
In this regard, Al Siraat College has embarked on our very first involvement in an interfaith program this year. We are working closely with Saint Monica’s College in Epping to:
• help build a better understanding of other faiths and cultures;
• help break down typical stereotypes;
• promote good relationships not only within the College grounds but also outside in the wider community.
A small group of interested students from Year 9, eager to represent Islam to the wider community, have been selected for this program.
This program aligns with one of our strategic directions – Our Identity, that was identified as part of the strategic review conducted with the school community last year. This is aimed at promoting and implementing the understanding that a person can be an Australian and a practising Muslim at the same time.
Before we can begin to unpack what it means to be an Australian Muslim, we will be looking at what makes something ‘Australian’ and then striving to understand our own faith. The purpose of educating on this level is to be able to move beyond simply a preservation of our Islamic identity. Al Siraat College is dedicated to a holistic education, where we are focused on the transformation of individuals so that they can be functional members of this society.
For centuries, the Islamic civilisation successfully harmonised indigenous cultures with Islamic norms. In essence it was culturally friendly. This happened without the need for stressing on an ‘Islamic identity’ as the people did not face a crisis like the type we face today. In fact, they were able to understand that any good, local cultural norms also fell under the banner of Islam.
The Muslims were not afraid to take the good and beneficial things from wherever they found them. They were also good at rejecting any cultural practices that were abhorrent in Islam such as promiscuity or any actions that lead to a break down of moral values.
Wisdom is the lost property of a believer and he is the first to take it wherever he or she finds it.
In this same way, when we turn to what is Australian, we will be looking to things such as; mateship, fair go, tolerance and inclusion just to name a few. These in fact form what we also support as some of the teachings of Islam.
In summary, the involvement in this interfaith project is aimed at empowering our students to be able to articulate a shared understanding of what it is to be an Australian Muslim. InshaAllah this will pave the way for many more opportunities for all of us to work towards developing an inclusive school culture that reinforces the values of care, consideration, and respect for self and others.