ACT: Grand Mufti addresses Navy Iftar Meal

The Royal Australian Navy has marked the month of Ramadan with a special dinner in Canberra attended by the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed. Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett hosted the inaugural ‘iftar’ dinner with serving sailors and officers at the Australian War Memorial on 23 June.

Guests were welcomed initially to the Last Post Ceremony at the Memorial, during which Chief Petty Officer Zul Naim spoke of Muslim Lance Sergeant Bin Shalid Ma’Aruff, who was killed in action in Borneo in 1945. Lance Sergeant Ma’Aruff was operating with the Army’s Z Special Force and was a courageous volunteer for hazardous duty as a commando operating behind enemy lines.

Chief of Navy’s Strategic Advisor on Islamic Cultural Affairs, Captain Mona Shindy, gave the opening address at the dinner, and spoke about the significant range of initiatives that Navy has lead over the last two years in the areas of inclusion and diversity. Navy has also increased dialogue and interaction with Islamic community leaders to markedly increase opportunities for further understanding and respect.

Capt Mona Shindy
Capt Mona Shindy spoke about inclusion and diversity in the RAN

Transcript of the speech given by HE Dr. Ibrahim Abu Muhammad, the Grand Mufti of Australia at the Royal Australian Navy’s Inaugural Ramadan Iftar Dinner on 23 June 2015.

Chief of Navy , Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, Assistant Minister for Defence, Hon. Stuart Robert, MP, The Hon. Dr Brendan Nelson, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, during which Muslims, fast from dawn to dusk and voluntarily abstain from eating and drinking.

The Qur’an, Islam’s Holy Book, prescribes the fasting of Ramadan, and recognises that other nations have also done the same.

“O you who believe, fasting has been prescribed upon you as it has been prescribed upon those who came before you.”

Ramadan marks a period of self and communal reflection. During fasting Muslims are obligated not to indulge in any act that may nullify their fast.

Acts that may nullify the fast are not limited to eating and drinking, but also include backbiting, slandering, lying, and hurting others verbally, emotionally or physically.

Prophet Muhammad stated:

“One who does not abandon evil talk and actions while fasting, then God is not in need of his/her abandoning food and water.”

In this regard, Ramadan is seen as a month of reformation and not starvation.

It is a month that aims to help believing men and women endeavour to reform themselves, enhance their spirituality, teach them self?restraint, and empathise with people around the world who have less than we have.

Ramadan, therefore, is a month that seeks to engender the spirit of sharing and caring.

The act of fasting allows those who have; to feel the pain of those who don’t have, and engender a human bond coloured with compassion, mercy and empathy.

That is why at the end of the month of Ramadan, and just before Muslims begin their Eid celebration to commemorate the end of fasting, believing men and women are obligated to pay a charity to the poor and needy.

This money is distributed to people around the world, regardless of their religion, colour, or race.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Our gathering today is a celebration of the multiculturalism we enjoy in Australia, and a reiteration of its noble values, with the core essence of building cultural bridges and braking barriers.

We believe that the worst thing that can face individuals and societies is knowledge self?sufficiency, and the lack of willingness to read “the other” & learn his or her culture and values.

We believe that the barriers between people are nothing but illusions, which are made by the culture of intolerance, hatred and fear. The only way to overcome those barriers is to get closer and exchange expertise and knowledge about one another.

The process of information and expertise exchange will lead to constant changes in the perceptions within any two parties. One will come to realise how vast and wonderful the areas of commonality are between fellow humans the moment the culture of “the other” is unveiled. We, as Muslim Australians, feel that our country’s greatest asset is its bouquet of cultures, races and religions, which have placed it at the forefront of the world’s countries that honour democracy, justice, equality and freedom.

In response to the theory of “The Clash of Civilizations”, our great country – Australia – is providing a vivid example of not just the coexistence of civilizations, but also the integration and interactions of cultures.

And in response to the theory of “The End of History”, Australia is proving – through multiculturalism – that history can start again, and that it will always remain man?made and driven.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all Australian communities of all ethnic backgrounds, specifically the Muslim ones, to embrace a proactive approach and fulfil their obligations before negotiating their rights. Our obligations to this country include offering services, persevering in the workplace, obeying and respecting the laws, and assisting the public institutions to fulfil their roles and obligations.

In my capacity as the representative of more than five hundred thousand Muslims in Australia – elected by the local and federal Board of Imams, I can reassure you with great confidence that the national security of Australia and the preserving of its land, citizens, values and culture are an essential part of the obligations that our religion – Islam – and its set of values and laws it imposes on us. It is at the core of what we constantly request from our followers; “to play a crucial and positive role in maintaining the security and stability of Australia, and also to contribute effectively to the development and progression of Australian society.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all united under one flag, the Australian flag, despite all our differences. It is this multiculturalism that we live within what allows us to be free citizens living with harmony in a country we must protect. Hence, let’s work together to eliminate all these psychological and mental barriers that were created by fundamentalism, hatred and islamophobia.

Let’s try to get close to each and work together and as a result, each one of us will discover a number of common values that we all share, and a lot of goodwill within the other, as well as a high level of humanity that binds us together as children of Adam and Eve and citizens of one country.

I am pleased to say that the Muslim community is delighted with the new engagement that has started with the Royal Australian Navy. The recent appointment of a Muslim representative to the Religious Advisory Committee to the Services (RACS) and the work currently underway to identify a reserve chaplain of Islamic faith for the Navy. These initiatives and nights like tonight are extremely important for increasing understanding and bringing people together. They also lay the foundations for increasing the attractiveness of Navy to Muslim youth who may not have previously considered careers in the services.

Once again thank you to the Royal Australian Navy for their positive leadership, for organising this iftar gathering, and congratulations to all of you for partaking in this gathering.

We look forward to continuing this respectful engagement and welcome all opportunities to work for the betterment of Australia. May every effort made in that direction be blessed.



Photo (L to R) Mr Samir Bennegadi, the Hon Dr Brendon Nelson, MBBS, MRACGP, FRACP (Hon.), FAMA, Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, AO, CSC, Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, Assistant Minister for Defence The Hon Stuart Robert, MP, Captain Mona Shindy, CSC, RAN, and Warrant Officer of the Navy Warrant Officer Martin Holzberger at the Australian War Memorial for the Royal Australian Navy inaugural Ramadan Iftar dinner.


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