Saturday, November 26, 2011
Muslim handbook is divisive
From: Herald Sun
MONASH University prides itself on its "multicultural learning environment" and yet it produces a handbook for one certain class of students, and not for others.
Salaam Monash is the title of the glossy 50-page "handbook for Muslim students".
"At Monash we understand that Muslim students have specific social, religious and cultural needs," writes Professor Stephanie Fahey, deputy vice-chancellor, in a foreword to the handbook.
The booklet lists Islamic banking and financial institutions, Muslim publications, women's groups and schools. It also lists Muslim medical and dental practitioners, which splits up doctors into male and female groups.
There is also a halal food guide and a list of halal grocers and butchers.
Much of the information seems useful and, having had a young Muslim house guest recently, I know just how tricky it can be to find halal food. But there is no similar handbook for other religious or ethnic groups, not for Buddhists, Taoists, Germans, Greeks, Sikhs, Mormons or vegans.
Why encourage one group of people to maintain an identity separate from other Australians?
Most unwise, however, is that the handbook lists without comment some of Australia's most radical prayer halls.
Among them is cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran's Islamic Call Society in Brunswick, where young Muslim men have been radicalised. A number of men arrested in Operation Pendennis, over a foiled 2005 Melbourne terror plot, had frequented the mosque, according to a New York Police Department study, which identified it as an "extremist incubator".
Similarly, the handbook points students in the direction of Coburg's ISNA mosque, associated with preacher Abu Hamza, who was videotaped telling men they could "beat their wives to shape them up" but only as a last resort. In the lecture entitled "The Keys to a Successful Marriage", he said: "You smack them, you beat them. You are not allowed to bruise them."
The handbook has angered people on campus.
"Monash University should not be endorsing (an) ideology which prescribes that Muslims must not eat our food, wear our clothes, share our services or even use our 'infidel' money," said four insiders who wrote to me. "International students would be better served with a handbook explaining Australian culture and values."
Monash is not alone. La Trobe has its own Muslim student guide and last year opened a $927,000 prayer room.
In 2006 RMIT produced a Muslim handbook "In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful". Two years later 1000 Muslim students protested against sharing new prayer rooms with Christians and Jews.
Muslim students from overseas are a lucrative part of the fee-paying student body and keeping them happy is important. But the message should be about mutual respect and hospitality -- not segregation and exclusion.