Australian Government Puts $8m Towards Islamic Institute

Sydney Morning News, July 16, 2006

The federal government will put $8 million towards establishing a national Institute of Islamic Studies at an Australian university as part of efforts to tackle extremism.

The decision, announced by Andrew Robb, the parliamentary secretary for immigration and multicultural affairs, forms part of the government’s national action plan to promote social cohesion and harmony in Muslim communities and discourage radicalism.

The government outlined the funding details of its national action plan, including measures designed to increase tolerance, boost employment, strengthen national security and help Muslim communities integrate into Australian life.

The Islamic research and training institute, to be established at an existing university which has not yet been decided, is a central plank of the $35 million, four-year action plan and could attract up to 300 students when classes begin in 2007.

“The courses will provide many subjects relevant for those training to be Muslim religious leaders, providing an important vehicle for the teaching of Islam in an Australian context,” Mr Robb said in a statement.

“This will be particularly helpful to young Australian Muslims who want to understand the role of religion in Australia.

“The centre will attract eminent, moderate Islamic scholars from around the world who will provide an authoritative community reference point.”

Mr Robb said the centre, along with other initiatives, would lead to greater cultural understanding, tolerance and social cohesion.

“Helping disadvantaged Australians, including some Muslim communities, become integrated and connected to mainstream Australia is the best way to prevent extremists getting a toehold in Australia,” he said.

The funding package includes $4.4 million for human rights education in Muslim communities.

The programs, to be run by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, are aimed at breaking down barriers between Islamic youth and authorities, tackling discrimination and building acceptance.

There is also $1.6 million for two new programs to boost employment in Lakemba and Macquarie Fields, in Sydney’s southwest, and $1 million for an inter-faith education program.

The announcements arise from the prime minister’s summit with Australian Muslim leaders in August last year.

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