Speech at the Brisbane Symposium*

 

In the name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Merciful

 

Thank you very much Geraldine

 

 

Geraldine asked me to cut a third of my speech, if I could do that with my body weight, I would be as fit as a fiddle.

 

It might appear that as a Muslim speaker, some of you might think that I am here to just promote Islam, because there are so many misnomers, misapprehensions, stereotypes and misunderstandings that are being perpetuated all the time about Islam

 

I speak about politics quite often, I made a conscious decision to try tonight and avoid doing this.

 

I have to say that I am very grateful to the previous speakers, a few weeks ago, if it was not for the courageous stand that Archbishop Aspinall and others in relation to the Assault on Industrial relations, we would not have had such a healthy debate on the topic, and what Rabbi Uri said about the assault on our civil liberties, again, I could not have said it better myself, and Bishop Finnigan, a wonderful speech, I could just sit down and leave it at that. 

 

However, there are so many misunderstandings about Islam, as such; it would be unfair for you coming here, especially as I have been advertised as the keynote speaker not to speak.

 

An important thing that Islam does is that it celebrates the lives, the missions and the achievements of all the great men of God.  God is referred to as Allah by Arab Muslims and Christians and people of other faiths.  Allah is not an alien different God; He is the same God for all.  You may have a different understanding of God if you are a member of a different faith, we believe God to be Compassionate, Merciful, Loving, Caring, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, Almighty, that this God is the One who created every single one of us and He provides for every single one of us whether we acknowledge His beneficence or not.

 

This God sent a messenger to every human society no matter where in the world this society had lived.  Why did He do that?  Because He created us and He loves those whom He created.  Allah is a God of Love and Compassion, this Compassion is manifested in many of the stories that you read in the Qur`an.  It may surprise you that the book of Islam mentions stories of greats such as Moses and Christ more than it mentions Muhammad; it even has a chapter that is named after Mary the mother of Christ.  It says that God had chosen Mary ahead of the women of all the worlds, past and present.  She was chosen in her time but she was the greatest woman who ever lived.  You do not see that being said about the mother of Prophet Muhammad, you see this being said about Mary the mother of Christ.

 

Islam has a great deal to offer, as a result, it is being maligned, just like Christianity in the early stages, as Judaism even as Abraham were persecuted because of their message of egalitarianism, social reform, their message to the powers in every society that people are not commodities, they are human beings, there is no difference between rich and poor, if you are wealthy, God trusted you with wealth, you are accountable for how you use it, you are not to use it to exploit others or to deprive others of their rights.  Everybody has a right to a decent standard of living.  If I am a wealthy entrepreneur I have no right to hoard this wealth.  The churches have been saying for weeks after they saw the proposed Industrial Relations Reforms that man does not live by bread alone.  Of course he doesn’t, we all value principles, that if we do not have the time, we do not think or reflect on the greatness of God. 

 

I am not here to just promote Islam, I am here to remove some of the misconceptions, I am also here to celebrate faith in general because faith is very enriching to each and every one of us, and we are here to celebrate the grace of God.  When I first started promoting this idea, it was to bring people of different faiths together, to show people, that whoever said that religion causes division, such a person is disingenuously exploiting religion for his own political ends.  In fact religion is a source of compassion, love, respect and tolerance; it has a great capacity to bring people together.

 

God tells us in the Qur`an, that if He had willed, He would have made humanity one community, that is, following one system, one faith, however, He did not, in order to stress the value of a very important gift that he gave us, the gift of conscience, the gift of freewill, the gift of freedom of expression.  Then He told us that there are universal limitations regardless of what system we live by.  These limitations guarantee your own freedom and safety, whatever I use to respect the rights of others, I am guaranteed that through it my rights will also be respected. 

 

When the prophet Muhammad referred to his predecessors, he referred to them as brothers, they have different mothers, but their religion is the same.  His example and that of his predecessors was like one who built a structure and beautified it and decorated it except for one brick in one of its corners, people would walk around it and marvel at its beauty and say only if that brick would be put in place.  He said: I am that brick and I am the final messenger.

 

Muhammad is a brother to Abraham, Noah, Jacob, Isaac, Job, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Zachariah, John the Baptist and Christ.  All these greats together represent God’s love to us and for us, that they came to this world and they suffered and lived with persecution in order to save us.  Who does not know about the greatness of the persecution that Christ suffered, he was maligned, ridiculed, tried, people wanted to kill him.  How can they justify killing him unless they misrepresented him to the society in which he lived.  When Abraham was catapulted into the fire, how could society have accepted that if he had not been demonised?  Likewise, the Jews were being persecuted at the hands of Pharaoh, the first persecution such a long time ago when Moses had to save them.  How could society accept that persecution unless they had been demonised and misrepresented?  It is through these very simple examples, I can give you an idea that there are some people out there who put their conscience aside for expedient reasons.  I do not know who they are and I am not going to point fingers at individuals.

 

Islam tells me that I am a human being with different traits and attributes, if faced with persecution and I become angry, Islam tells me to restrain the anger and hate confine them within limits.  I must channel them towards the actions and not the person, to condemn the action not the man.  I must reach out with love and compassion because my persecutor may also be a victim, either a victim of himself or Satan or something else.  God has shown me the way to rise up above personal and material considerations.  I know, hearing this you won’t be surprised, many of you will tell me that this is what you learnt through Christ in Christianity, or through Moses in Judaism.  Like I said, it is a universal message and its values are universal.  The difference is that most of you do not know enough about the Qur`an or about the prophet Muhammad or what his mission was. 

 

Muhammad told us as the people who celebrate his mission and his life that he was the successor to Christ, Moses and Abraham.  His mission was to bring together the people of all the faiths, every single person regardless of their background or culture.  Islam did not come to wipe out any culture.  If you look at Muslims in Indonesia and compare them to Muslims in India, you will find many different aspects in their culture and behaviour.  Islam said from the start that people develop their own culture and own wisdom and we can all learn from each other. 

 

As a simple humble servant of God, as a person who is erratic and who falls from grace regularly, I try to do a little bit of His will, to do that, I feel the need to join with people of other faiths and work together because the challenges are too great.  There are so many different elements in society that try to divide us and focus too much on the differences.  Yes, there are differences and they are important differences, but what we have in common is greater.  Our love for the fellow creatures or children of God transcends all these differences dramatically. 

 

I do not believe that there is one single person here who would not risk his own safety or his own life to save that of his neighbour if he saw his neighbour in danger or his neighbour’s house on fire.  We are doing this together to save society, we stand up for your rights as people of God, for the rights of everyone and your most essential right that as many of us get distracted through feeding the body is to also give you a little bit of time out to nurture the spirit or nurture the soul, because the soul is greater than the body.  Who is teaching us how to nurture or feed the soul?  It is these great men of God.  We through our erratic fallible manner are trying our best to bring the message of God to you.  We are trying to show you that we can stand united and transcend everything else. 

 

I gave you an example about your neighbour, if I take this example a little further, if you saw another person attacking your neighbour; this person is not attacking you, so there is not the option to turn the other cheek.  I can only turn the other cheek when I am being attacked.  However, when my neighbour is under attack, is it right to just turn the other cheek and just overlook it?  If I do, then I am hurting both the perpetrator and the victim, the perpetrator would be tainting his soul by hurting a fellow human being and the victim would also be hurt.  I must try to save both of them; it would be a dereliction of duty for me to turn the other cheek.  This is why you will see verses in the Qur`an that talk about violence, or that the men of God have engaged in acts violence, such as when the great Christ went into the temple and overturned the tables of the money changers, that is anger, a violent act, he was doing it to save his people.  When Abraham went and chopped down the idols, this is anger, a violent act; he did it to save his people.  When a person defends himself or others against attack, this is a violent act being done to save someone.  The Qur`an says that if the antagonist desists and gives any indication that he wants to stop his attack, then embrace him and opt for peace. 

 

I could stand here and talk to you about family values in Islam, but why should I, my learned friends do that in church all the time in relation to Christianity or Judaism and there is hardly a difference.  I could talk to you about principles or values, but why should I, you hear about these all the time and there is hardly a difference.  However, it would be remiss of me not to introduce you to another great man of God, a man whose mission and life were described by God as a mercy to the worlds, the human, animal and vegetable worlds and the environment.  There are so many verses in the Qur`an that deal with each and every aspect of these.  We are taught through the name of the faith, the greeting: Salam, peace etc. that you have to first and foremost, through your devotion to God, learn to be at peace with yourself, through that emanates peace with your fellow human beings and through that emanates peace with everything around you.  These comments would not surprise you as I could be standing here talking about other religions.  I must tell you a little about the final messenger of God as he came and celebrated his predecessors, the final messengers of God.*  His life epitomised all the positives of his predecessors and was a life full of humility, sacrifice and service to God and to fellow man.  We cannot do his life justice today other than to say that he served God faithfully and delivered to us the final message of God and left behind not only a book, but also a community of believers to teach, preserve and champion the teachings of God for eternity.



* This speech was not read, I had put the written speech aside and delivered another speech, these notes were typed from the recorded speech which ended at the point marked in the final paragraph when the Chairperson alerted me to the time remaining.  The final two sentences have been added for completion.  Naturally, the notes reflect the speech but are not a verbatim account as they eliminate some repetitions and grammatical issues.

* This is where the speech had stopped.