Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Video Message for Book launch: Muslim Citizens in the West: Spaces and Agents of Inclusion and Exclusion, Centre for Muslim States and Societies, School of Social Sciences, University of Western Australia

Good evening.

I am pleased as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services, to join you by video to launch a new book entitled Muslim Citizens in the West: Spaces and Agents of Inclusion and Exclusion.

I apologise that I am unable to be with you in person today as originally planned. The recent announcement in relation to the Syrian humanitarian response necessities me being in Canberra today and regretfully, I was unable to join you today.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Professor Samina Yasmeen, the Director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies at the School of Social Sciences here at the University of Western Australia for inviting me to launch this new book.

According to the 2011 census, 476,291 people, or 2.2 per cent of Australia’s total population identify as Muslims.

But it would be erroneous to consider Australia’s Muslim population as a homogenous group – those of Islamic faith hail from racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and from a broad spectrum of the faith.

And this is the case across the Western world.

Muslim Citizens in the West: Spaces and Agents of Inclusion and Exclusion, edited by Professor Samina Yasmeen and Nina Markovi? who is from my Alma Mater, the Australian National University, is a collection of case studies from academics around the world.

They demonstrate the diversity of experience of Muslim minority populations in Christian and secular majority nations worldwide, particularly those of Europe, Canada, the United States and here in Australia.

The book grew out of work on the issue of Muslim inclusion and exclusion undertaken by the Centre for Muslim States and Society here at the University of Western Australia and seeks to build on this work providing a comprehensive analysis of the dynamics of exclusion and inclusion in a globalised world.

The book offers up important insights into understanding all the elements that undermine inclusion and also provides suggested avenues to better promote inclusion and strengthen social cohesion.

Through its case studies and articles based on interviews, the book challenges the myth of the “Muslim threat” by providing a deeper insight into how Muslims live as citizens in the West.

In this text, Professor Yasmeen, Ms Markovi? and their contributing academic authors hold up a mirror to Western societies with Muslim communities and demonstrate the rich and wide contribution of these communities – to scholarship and education, theology and faith, law, medicine and science, the arts and of course in cultural and social activism.

The case studies acknowledge examples where Muslims have been agents of positive change by engaging in interfaith and communal harmony dialogues in relation to their respective countries.

The book acknowledges that the involvement and contribution of women to establishment of cross-cultural and cross-religious ties is also crucial.

The case studies in the book also teach those of us who are non-Muslim something about ourselves and how we can always participate more in our society to promote inclusion and whilst giving others space adhere to their own personal set of values.

The authors also do not shy away from the challenges you have all come here to discuss over these two days: exclusion, self-isolation and where social inclusion fails our societies.

This book is a useful starting point for the conversations intended for this conference.

It provides important insights for both government and community groups to consider in finding more effective avenues to promote social cohesion.

Thank you.