Last night on the ABC TV Lateline program, they featured British author Ed Husain, who had–as a youngster–been coopted into some extremist “Islamistic” (which he distinguished from “genuine religion, ie. Islam” and “Jihadist”) “cells”. “How did you pull back from the brink?” asked Tony Jones. After giving several reasons, Husain said:
Making more and more friends, from wider society, getting to know Britain as it really is and realising that these ideas of extremism aren’t sustainable, but backed up with all of this was exposure to genuine religion, orthodox Islam, where there is this tradition of plurality, there is a tradition of acceptance of the other, there is a tradition of spirituality, of honouring fellow human beings based on verses of the Koran which talk about enobling human beings, being merciful and compassionate.
I like to think that this is what we were doing at JCMA. There were a number of young Muslim youths (year 11 to early Uni), and while I am not in any way suggesting these terrific young Australians were in any way connected with “extremist cells” (God forbid), they are in the age that is most vulnerable to such influences. “Anti-Other” influences abound in Judaism and Christianity too, of course, and are usually fed into our minds when we are young and impressionable.
JCMA was (and is–there will be another next year 23-26 June) an opportunity for Australians (and visitors to Australia) from three different religious backgrounds (Jewish, Christian and Muslim) to come together, to meet and to get to know one another. One gentleman told me that this was the most “connected and accepted” he had ever felt in his 40 years since coming to Australia.
Husain said at one point during the above interview that: “Muslims and non-Muslims need to join hands to overcome this perverse ideology that is in our midst”. JCMA is Muslims, Jews and Christians “joining hands” to work for greater understanding and acceptance of our three faiths in Australia.
It’s good stuff.