The following brief comments are my immediate impressions, after having read the research report which was released on 21 March 2011.
I quote from the Conclusion:
The methodology employed did not enable the research team to measure the weight behind each voice. The research brief was to listen to and report the issues raised. (source)
Many issues raised were not reported at all. E.g. the disproportionate Muslim representation amongst the researchers when only 1.7% of Australia is statistically Muslim; the pro-Muslim bias of all the main researchers; the pro-interfaith bias of all these researchers; the lack of Evangelical Christian representation amongst the researchers when the latter group outnumbers Muslims many times. To think that researchers are unbiased is simply untrue.
In Federal MP Laurie Ferguson's introductory speech during the launching of this project on 17 September 2008, he said that .........its focus will be on the Islamic faith…….
There was no explanation re this preferential treatment of Islam. Then, when submissions have heeded this focus, the researches interpret it as anti-Muslim sentiment. Even the truth about Islam is now called anti-Muslim sentiment.
They were also quick to say that this sentiment was related to overseas’ happenings involving Muslims. This is not entirely true. All one needs to do is to check local crime and prison statistics. The researchers mostly ignored the truth and played the Muslim victim card.
Not only was the weight behind the voices not measured, the weight of personal submissions was not measured either. This is a very disappointing way of not giving weight to the hundreds of submissions by individual Christians. In fact, some might say that the whole exercise was a cynical waste of time and money.
The researchers looked for agreement with their prior agenda, and found it. No wonder that the Conclusion recommends education about religions in schools. and pushes the researchers’ multi-faith agenda.
When the same voices say the same a thousand times, they might get no more or even less mention than one voice saying something different. E.g. the submission by the Tasmanian (OADC) Office of the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner is quoted twice, while this is still only one bureaucrat’s personal opinion.
Of the personal submissions, not one has been published on the AHRC website, beyond number 179. By not publishing all the submissions, there is no way for participants to personally fully check the report and its conclusions. Of the 1937 personal submissions only a selection of the first 179 was published. There were also another 95 unpublished late submissions.
As mentioned, the identical bias of the main researchers is their involvement and commitment to multi-faith enterprises. For all to have this same bias is not representative of religion and belief in Australia.
Many Christians, in principle, cannot go along with this emphasis as was expressed well by the Western Australian Presbyterian submission.
The Presbyterian Church of WA submission stated:
In general, the Presbyterian Church of Australia does not typically participate in interfaith initiatives, partly because of concern that such initiatives are often predicated upon a theoretical commitment to philosophical pluralism which is problematic from our theological perspective.
In my submission I also spoke against interfaith activities.
Most Pentecostals and other Evangelical denominations and groups largely distrust and reject interfaith activities. This includes the growing Evangelical wing of the Uniting Church and the Anglican Church.
The current Pope was quoted in my submission as saying that an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible. In theological terms, added the pope a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.
Most informed Christians agree with the above Presbyterian statement and the Pope’s view on this matter. Committed Christians would compromise their own convictions by supporting interfaith activities.
I quoted in my submission 284 that Mr Trad from Sydney uses ‘interfaith’ as a Muslim recruitment campaign. Many of my submission’s issues were not mentioned at all in this report. This is contrary to the brief above which says The research brief was to listen to and report the issues raised. It should have added unless the issues are at odds with the researchers’ interfaith agenda.
Not surprisingly, the conclusion to this research project recommends interfaith involvement and the teaching about various religions in schools.
The researchers concluded that Australian Muslims are not seeking to introduce Sharia Law Into this country. The opposite Is true. One needs but read the newspapers. Actually the media are accused of stereotyping Muslims. Nothing is more untrue. The media walk on eggs around Muslims. Organisations like the AHRC typically stereotype Muslims. Just look at the photos of Muslims on the AHRC website.
Mr Trad, in Sydney, is quite adamant about Sharia. He wants polygamy to be accepted. The Federal Labor Governnent has already approved Sharia-compliant finance in Australia. This is but the thin edge of the wedge. There are many other examples of this push to introduce Sharia. One wonders why the researchers are able to ignore these plain facts which are out there in the public domain.
My prior suspicions (as also expressed in my submission) about this costly research project have proved to be entirely correct.
This research project was used by the researchers to promote the researchers' own interfaith agenda and thus portray Muslims as victims; and not much else.
I am not surprised, but nevertheless I am deeply disappointed in the report and its omissions and conclusions.