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Muslim leader calls for unity on peace

Vanessa Walker, James Murray, Megan Saunders
2 April 2004
The Australian

THE gentle quavering voice rang out across the vast sandstone interior of St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Sydney.

"Bismillah irrahman irrahim" (in the name of Allah, the almighty and all-merciful God). With these words, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf set a milestone in inter-faith relations, becoming the first Muslim leader to address a congregation at the historic cathedral.

Watched by Cardinal George Pell, Imam Abdul Rauf — a leading moderate based at Masjid al-Farah mosque in New York City — told thousands of Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists that people of different religions needed to work together to ensure world peace.

In the audience was the country's most senior Muslim, the Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj Din al-Hilali, who was recently in trouble for his alleged support of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Hezbollah, and NSW Premier Bob Carr, who invited the imam to Australia.

After Cardinal Pell and Imam Abdul Rauf lit a candle together as a symbol of unity, the imam said economic prosperity and a sense of belonging was the key to discouraging radical Islam in Australia.

"We need to re-establish ourselves as Australian Muslims, sociologically, institutionally, culturally," he said.

"We need to engage with many of the agencies who wish to understand the Muslim issues and can be in a position to address them.

"We also need to explain to Australian government authorities the issues that are of concern to the Muslim world and how the future of the Muslim world and its future prosperity is important to all nations."

Imam Abdul Rauf founded the Cordoba Project in New York to develop strategies to bring about rapprochement between Islam and the west.

He advised Australia to follow the lead of Britain, which in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the US asked Muslim leaders to send letters to their local mosques urging people to report suspicious activity to the police.

"Muslims all over the world have to engage with law-enforcement agencies to participate in policing our own communities," he said.

Copyright 2004 News Ltd. All Rights Reserved

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