It’s great when people from diverse backgrounds come together. Last year, Temple Beth Israel treated their guests to a rich cultural experience when they staged an Interfaith Sacred Concert
“based around composer Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service)… with its exhortation to praise G-d with music and dancing… with the message that there are a variety of ways one can praise G-d… a perfect backdrop for promoting harmony and understanding.”
The second half of the concert brought “something new to TBI’s sanctuary, the Muslim call to prayer, and a chanting of the 55th Surah of the Koran. With this recitation Abdul Aziz al Mathkour and Brother Waseem Razvi of the Islamic research Education Academy (IREA) revealed many points of commonality between Judaism and Islam in its languages and texts”
Temple Beth invited concertgoers to “participate in this opportunity to get to know and to de-mystify the “Other” in our “Sacred Music “.
If Temple Beth needed further de-mystification of the “Other” they should have hastened to Waseem Razvi’s Australian Islamic Peace Conference at the Melbourne Convention Centre. The Australian reported:
Children, including a five-year-old girl, took to the stage at a controversial Islamic conference that also listed on its program a speech from a Malaysian cleric who believes Muslim terrorists were not responsible for the September 11 attacks on the US.
The children spoke at the gender-segregated IREA Academy’s peace conference dressed as famous Muslim scholars and preachers.
Organiser Wazeem Razvi … thanked Immigration authorities for helping to organise visas for the conference guests.
Keynote speaker Hussain Yee, who … was on the program, has attracted controversy for comments implying Jewish people were behind the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
Mr Razvi, who is IREA president, and other speakers, including the Islamic Council of Victoria’s Bayram Aktepe, were careful to style the event as an exercise in reaching out to all other faiths.
A young boy gave an impersonation of a scholar called “Zakir Naik”…an Islamic tele-evangelist banned from Britain for his rhetorical support for terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Up to 500 guests attended the conference that attracted controversy last year over posters that proposed the hijab as a “solution for rape”.
The IREA was forced to cancel a public “interfaith’’ event at the University of Melbourne last year after it insisted on being allowed to enforce gender segregation of audience members.
The day before, The Australian’s Rachel Baxendale reported:
The September 11 terror attacks were neither unjust nor committed by Muslims, according to the “guest of honour” Malaysian cleric Hussain Yee, who has also claimed a “group of Jews” was “having a party when they heard that the Twin Towers had been burned”, who was announced as the headline act at the IREA’s Islamic “peace” conference.
Conference organiser, IREA director Waseem Razvi, also last night told a Muslim man who attacked him for giving “a Jew and a Christian a platform to address an audience” with their “kufr beliefs” that he understood and appreciated his concerns…Tomorrow’s conference promises to feature a “multifaith” panel with a “Christian representative” and a “Jewish representative”, which IREA has not yet named.
Other speakers advertised… include New Zealand Salafist Sheikh Anwar Sahib, Qatari Sheikh Abu Bakr and Kuwaiti Qari Abdulaziz Almathkour, as well as Islamic Council of Victoria vice-president Bayram Aktepe, a panel of children as young as five who will showcase their abilities as “Da’ees”, or preachers, and Australian convert Sheikh Isa Graham.
Graham has regularly spoken at the Hume Islamic Youth Centre, attended by Jake Bilardi and at least two other radicalised youths who later left Australia to battle with ISIS in the Middle East.
In a 2006 video clip… keynote speaker Sheikh Yee tells a large Muslim audience that “nobody really knows” what happened on September 11, 2001.
“We do not know who is behind that. If they want to say it is the Muslims, what can we do? It’s their word against our word.”
“In Islam, in the international court, you cannot act on suspicions. Anything you do when you act you must have what is called hard proof, hard evidence. But the world is very unjust. Who is unjust? We? No. The Twin Towers is unjust? No. What is happening in Iraq is very unjust. What is happening in Palestine is very unjust. So don’t worry about the Twin Towers. We have nothing to do with it.”
But Sheikh Yee said he had suspicions of his own about who might have been behind September 11.
“You know who is very happy when the Twin Towers had been attacked?A group of Jews was so happy in America. They were having a party when they heard that the Twin Towers had been burned.
Why did they do that? We don’t know. Who is behind that? Allah knows.”
On his Facebook page, Waseem Razvi addressed the concerns of a Muslim man, Benjamin Jurd, who said he was based in Medina, but intending to return to Sydney in early June.
“Why would you give a Jew and a Christian a platform to address an audience, the majority of whom I assume will be Muslims, concerning their “perspectives” and kufr beliefs?”
“I understand and appreciate your concern, but I will say just attend this conference and yu will understand the very reason inshallah,”
Mr Razvi responded.
“I get your point, anyone living the west will have much more crisis of faith at various points, rather interfaith dialogue is the place where it gets stronger (for the very reason you mentioned that Islamic belief is very strong compared to any other). Though I wont allow any muslim (even knowledgeable) to do interfaith except the experts in this field approved by scholars. Thats why here in melbourne, Australia generally its only IREA which leads interfaith for muslim community, as thats our expertise coming from Sheikh Ahmed deedat’s strategy of dawah (sic),”
Mr Razvi said.
Sheik Deedat, who died in 2005, was a South African Muslim missionary of Indian descent whose books have been banned from sale in France since 1994 for being “violently anti-western, antisemitic and inciting to racial hate.”
Mr Razvi … invited The Australian to attend tomorrow’s conference but declined an interview…
“I would love that your staff at ‘The Australian’, be my Special Guest at the ‘Australian Islamic Peace Conference 2015’ and observe the event, it’s activities, my mission and decide for yourself the peaceful message and convey it to my beloved Australian community at large….”(sic).
The Australian has contacted the Immigration Department regarding the visa status of several of the advertised international speakers, including Sheikh Yee.
What is especially worrying is that – as reported in the Australian Jewish News this week – the conference was held with the “active endorsement of the Islamic Council of Victoria.” ICV are the main interfaith partners with mainstream Jewish organisations, including Bnai Brith and the JCCV, in the Jewish Christian Muslim Association. Together the JCMA have promoted the Building Bridges Programme, which Jewish schools, including Mount Scopus, are involved with. Rabbi Genende is on the Board of the JCMA.
I haven’t been able to find out who were the Jewish and Christian representatives for the “multifaith” panel – which isn’t multifaith at all, given the absence of Buddhists, Hindus and the other religions represented in Australia. I wonder if Brother Razvi returned Temple Beth Israel’s generous hospitality by inviting one of their rabbis to be the Jewish representative.
I can however certainly help de-mystify the “Other” for the benefit of Temple Beth Israel:
- IREA endorse gender segregation – and not just during religious services.
- They believe that 9/11 was the fault of the Jews.
- They have no problem inviting anti-Semitic and racist speakers to their conference.
Surely this is enough for Temple Beth Israel to re-think who they should be fraternising with.