Media release

For Release: 21st January 2011

Two leading academics, one Christian and one Muslim, debate whether Australians have reason to be cautious about the beliefs and aspirations of the Islamic faith, in timely essays published in the latest edition of Viewpoint, ACL’s public policy magazine.

The contrasting views of Professor Samina Yasmeen, a specialist on the role of Islam in world politics, and Christian theologian Dr Mark Durie, gives new perspectives on a controversial topic.

The topic has received renewed interest as a result of recent local and world events including the Christmas Island refugee tragedy and the trial of radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir on terrorist charges.

Viewpoint editor Paul O’Rourke said he chose the topic of Islam because most Australians know little about Islam and tend to judge the faith based on media reports, many of which are unfavourable, particularly post 9/11.

“The Twin Towers attacks, the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries, death threats against cartoonists and authors, together with debate over halal fast-food restaurants, the place of sharia law and the wearing of the burka by some Muslim women has created concern and confusion among Australian who, by nature, want to give people a fair go,’’ he said.

“Professor Samina Yasmeen from the University of Western Australia, argues there is diversity among Muslims and their beliefs, including interpretation of the Koran, the place of Mohammad and women, and tolerance to criticism of the faith.

“Conversely, author and theologian Dr Mark Durie says Australians have good reason to be concerned about Islam’s political and social agenda, given the experiences of European countries and the effects on society of increasing numbers of Muslims.’’

The February edition of Viewpoint also explores renewed debate on prostitution, euthanasia and proposed reform of anti-discrimination laws.

The magazine is distributed to all Federal politicians and is available for sale online and at selected newsagents.