Workshop eight highlights

6th - 8th December, 2014

The seventh workshop of the National Imams Consultative Forum (NICF) was held over 6th-8th December, 2014 in Melbourne. A total of 21 imams attended from around Australia including 11 from Victoria, 4 from New South Wales, 1 from Western Australia, 2 from Queensland, 2 from the Northern Territory and 1 Tasmania.

The workshop was opened by Professor Abdullah Saeed, Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies, informing the group about the structural changes to the imam's workshop. Professor Saeed briefed the imams about the outcome of the one day workshop that took place in November. The purpose of the one day workshop was to develop a range of responses to a number of issues of interest to the community, with the intention of forming the basis of a resource that could be used by imams and relevant parties. Professor Saeed highlighted a number of key outcomes expected from the three day workshop; namely, analysing and modifying a series of drafted statements based on group consensus.

A welcome was given by Sheikh Abdul Azim al-Afifi, President of the Australian National Imams Council. Sheikh Abdul Azim stressed the importance of the NICF workshops and the continual attendance and participation of Imams from around Australia. Sheikh Abdul Azim highlighted the number of events that have taken place since the last workshop. He addressed the escalating tensions within the current climate and the intensifying role of the Imams as community and religious leaders.

During the workshop participants heard from Mr Duncan Lewis, ASIO Director General who briefed the imams about the security measures concerning the current climate and the response of the Australian Government. The Director General was accompanied by a colleague who is a subject matter expert, offering an insight to the current conflict taking place in Iraq and Syria.

Throughout the workshop, fifty eight draft statements were analysed by twenty one imams who were allocated to three groups addressing twelve topics covered within four sessions over the first two days of the workshop. At the end of each session, the chair summarised the discussion, finalised the statement agreed upon by the group and then presented the modified statements to the wider group. Out of the fifty eight statements, ten were requested to be rephrased by the NCEIS team, thirteen were modified and the rest of the thirty five statements were accepted as presented.

Day two of the workshop was concluded with discussing the public forums to take place during 2015. The format of the one-day public forums throughout different states and territories within Australia were discussed. Various imams were selected to act as ambassadors of their mosques and community organisations to take lead of the forum within their district.

The third day of the workshop was allocated to media training titled 'The Religious Leaders Media Training' which was coordinated by the Australian Multicultural Foundation for Imams across Australia to build their skills, confidence and networks in relation to working with media. The sessions included information on how the media works and interview techniques and tips, and how to engage with the media. The imams had practical experience on camera and radio being interviewed with feedback following each interview.

The seventh imams' workshop was well received by the imams. The group's contribution to the development of a resource regarding the issues discussed in the workshop is highly appreciated. Further work is currently being undertaken to develop the resource.