The first workshop for the National Imams Consultative Forum (NICF) was held over 4th-5th December at The University of Melbourne. A total of 22 imams from around Australia attended the workshop. The attendees were a national group, including 9 participants from Victoria, 4 from New South Wales, 3 from Western Australia, 2 from Queensland, and 1 each from South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
The workshop was opened by Sheikh Abdul Azim al-Afifi, President, Australian National Imams Council; Mark Duckworth, Executive Director, Citizenship and Resilience, Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet; and Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton, Victoria Police. An introduction to the workshop and the NICF was given by Professor Abdullah Saeed, Sultan of Oman Chair of Arab and Islamic Studies and Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies (NCEIS) at the University of Melbourne.
Over the course of two days participants engaged with a number of speakers, both local and international, with expertise in various aspects of radicalism, extremism, and community re-integration. These included Dr Muhammad Haniff Hassan, from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and Dr Pete Lentini and Kate Barrelle, from the Global Terrorism Research Unit, Monash University. Participants also heard a number of speakers from Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police, who presented aspects of government policy on terrorism and details of past counter-terrorism operations. Imams also engaged in a fruitful group discussion on the importance of a community re-integration program being implemented by the Islamic Council of Victoria.
Some of the issues that emerged through discussion were:
- There is a need to understand the causes of political violence and terrorism
- There is a perception that Islam and Muslims are unfairly singled out by the media and/or law enforcement
- There was interest in understanding how Australian terrorism legislation works
- There is a need to clearly distinguish between mainstream Muslim beliefs, and beliefs or ideologies associated with extremism
- There is a need for government to listen to the community and adopt inclusive language
Download Muhammad Haniff Hassan's Presentation Slides on Countering Violent Extremism in Singapore
Watch Muhammad Haniff Hassan's presentation on video: