SYDNEY: With the background of anti-Muslim rallies being held by extremists in many cities of Australia, a number of speakers at the recently held conference at UWS warned that right-wing extremism was emerging as an equal, if not greater, threat than Muslim radicalisation in Australia.
“Advancing Community Cohesion” conference was held from Wednesday 15 to Friday 17 July at The University of Western Sydney supported by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.
The conference date coincided with the last two days of Ramadan and the day of Eid-ul-Fitr festivities itself. Reportedly this resulted in a number of potential Muslim participants not to join the conference as well as a few scheduled speakers to pull out due to the ill-timing of the conference.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said that there had undoubtedly been a rise in far-right extremist organisations who were not confining their activities underground but were coming out in the public.
Keysar Trad, founder of the Islamic Friendship Association of Australia criticised the right-wing columnists and shock jocks, saying they take no responsibility for the hostile environment they have created for minorities.
Commenting on radicalisation and extremism, NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas said that the police force had extensive community engagement strategies in place and praised the increasing number of bystanders responding to public incidents of racism.
Dr Anne Aly, a researcher and academic from Curtin University, WA said that Violent extremism in Australia is beginning to mirror that of the US, where many more people have been killed by right wing extremists than the so called terrorists since 9/11.
On a positive note, A/Prof Memet Ozalp from ISRA and Charles Sturt University, told that Muslims living in the West provide a great opportunity to develop mutual understanding by supporting dialogue initiatives that involve education and social interaction.
“Dialogue gives an opportunity for Muslims (and others) to voice their concerns in a democratic way to Western public, intellectuals, religious leaders and politicians while Western religious and secular circles find out about who Muslims really are rather than via just media sources and intelligence reports”, he said.
He advised that presence of Muslims in Western societies should be accepted and diversity should be genuinely embraced as richness.
“Muslim presence enables Muslims to appreciate the positives of Western civilisation and pass this on to other Muslims around the world and at the same time it enables Westerners to engage in a first hand dialogue with Muslims and start to clarify the blind-spots.” he said.
From left: Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, Keysar Trad and Dr Anas Natfaji at the UWS conference on community cohesion.