Annual ICPA Ramadan Dinner, Al Amanah College, Liverpool
Can I start by acknowledging your Excellency General the Hon David Hurley, my many Federal and State Parliamentary Colleagues, Dr Ghayath Al-Shelh, President of the Islamic Charity Projects Association, Sheikh Dr Salim Alwan and the other distinguished Sheiks; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
The Prime Minister has asked me to pass on his very best wishes and it is my great pleasure to be here this evening to represent him.
He has asked me to read the following message on his behalf:
I am pleased to provide this message for the 22nd ICPA Ramadan Dinner.
Marking the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed, Ramadan is a time for forgiveness, reflection and the renewal of faith.
It is a time for charity, generosity and kindness towards others.
The practices of Ramadan reflect a deep commitment, and I respect the devotion and discipline of all who fast for their faith.
Ramadan is also a time for strengthening bonds between family and friends as Iftar dinners such as this are shared to break the fast each day.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Muslim-Australian community to our nation.
We live in a country that has long been an exemplar of how people of different faiths and cultures can not only live harmoniously together but find unity in diversity.
I send my best wishes to everyone observing the holy month of Ramadan.
The Hon Tony Abbott MP, Prime Minister of Australia
Given my responsibilities for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, can I endorse the sentiments of the Prime Minister and say that Islam has indeed enjoyed a long and harmonious existence in Australia over many many generations.
And tonight, we share and celebrate the strength of our cultural diversity, our mutual respect for one another and observe our social cohesion in action.
We are one of the most socially cohesive nations on Earth, yet we are one of the culturally most diverse. And our cultural diversity is indeed something to celebrate. It is a source of great social and economic strength.
Faith, of course, is a very important part of our lives here in Australia. The Australian Government values all of our faith communities. They are an integral part of our diverse and accepting society.
And we want Australians of all faiths to be free to express their beliefs and practise their religion without intimidation and interference. And we take great pride that our faith communities are cohesive and we do not experience the divisions that other countries do experience.
We are a welcoming nation where rights are balanced with responsibilities, and we are building and maintaining a prosperous and cohesive multicultural society.
Our sustained success as a socially cohesive nation takes efforts, from individuals, from civil society and the Government who join together. We are best when we work hand-in-hand.
Our vibrant society owes much to the hard work of organisations like the Islamic Charity Projects Association.
Can I take this opportunity to congratulate you for all your work in operating religious, education, welfare and radio broadcasting services. And these efforts play a significant role in our social cohesion.
Can I conclude by also acknowledging the work that you do, particularly in these difficult times; your calls to oppose extremism and promote moderation.
One of the key outcomes of the recent summit that we had was the importance of community engagement and community partnerships. And the need to stop the process of radicalisation before it begins.
And that begins with the parents, the educators, the spiritual and community leaders.
And as the Governor so correctly said to us, the wisdom of their experience is so important as we together have to confront the challenges that this new phenomenon has created here for Australia.
Therefore, we need to work in partnership with you to ensure that our fight against extremism is one that goes hand in hand with civil society, governments and the community.