Four Australian Imams were presented with special awards by the Hon Governor General of NSW at the ICPA Iftar held on Friday 10 July at Al-Amanah College in Liverpool, South Western Sydney.
For the first time ever and through an arrangement between Darulfatwa Australia and Al-Azhar University, Egypt, the four Australian imams completed a three month course at Al Azhar on the teachings of Islam.
Hon David Hurley, the Governor General of NSW, Dr Al-Shelh, Darulfatwa Vice Chairman, Consul General of Egypt, Yusuf Shawqi, werte called on the stage to present the achievement awards to the four recipients namely Sheikh Abdul-Latif Nachar, Sheikh Amr Al-Shelh, Sheikh Shady Kasem and Sheikh Haysam Hammoud.
The VIP panel also presented Sheikh Khaled As-Saj with an achievement award for recently completing his bachelor degree in Islamic studies from Al-Azhar as well
Twenty three years ago, the inaugural ICPA Ramadan Dinner set the trend. Since then it has continued to raise the bench mark for Ramadan Iftars in the community a platform for unity, rewarding moderation and inspiring dialogue on social and global affairs.
The ICPA Ramadan Dinner has become a landmark event and a focus for who’s who among the Australian and Muslim societies, attending it every year.
The event commenced with the call for the sunset prayer, marking the time for Muslims to bread their fast, followed by dinner and a blessed recitation of the Holy Qur’an.
The Master of Ceremonies, Principle of Al-Amanah College High School, Mr. Ayman Alwan opened the series of official talks inviting the ICPA Present Dr. Ghayath Al-Shelh OAM to the stage.
In an agenda setting speech, Dr. Al-Shelh encapsulated the value of Ramadan, the role of the ICPA in the community and the importance of addressing world affairs.
“The iconic annual Ramadan Dinner of the ICPA will always be an event that unites, gratifies and enlightens. It is a symbol of our profound commitment to inclusion and openness and an event that celebrates the blessed month of Ramadan”, he said.
Dr Al-Shelh made reference to the emergence of terror in parts of the world and stressed the importance of using the pure teachings of Islam as a tool to dismantle radical ideologies spreading in Australia.
He emphasised the need for a holistic approach to combat extreme ideologies, saying that at its core should be a strategy, “to raise Muslim awareness against radical ideologies and educate the mainstream about the general and pure Islamic knowledge.” He said,
“Tonight’s massive presence of community leaders from different cultures and background and the level of politicians, is evidence to all of us that the ICPA is committed to building strong ties and to achieving unity, engagement and peace,” he said.
After delivering his advice for the blessed month of Ramadan, Darulfatwa Vice Chairman, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Shafie said, “Darulfatwa Australia reached out to the hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world to further solidify the stand of mainstream moderate Islam and disintegrate calls of radicalism by minority sects.
“Through its open and inclusive approach, Darulfatwa Australia strengthened its relations with international figures, and affiliated with Islamic institutions globally, on top of which is Al Azhar Ash-Sharif of Egypt Arabia,” he said.
Following a video presentation of the achievements and growth of the ICPA as a primary community builder, the invited guests were invited to speak.
Representing the Prime Minister of Australia Hon Malcolm Turnbull, Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Federal MP for Reid, Craig Laundy MP recognized the integral role of the ICPA and the importance of its teachings.
“I want to thank you for providing the leadership in the mosques on a daily basis, not just in Ramadan but throughout the year,” he said.
Representing the NSW Premiere Mike Baird, Minister John Ajaka said, “t just demonstrates the bi-partisan support that you [ICPA] have here from all sides of parliament who walk with you and stand by your side and I congratulate each and every one of you being here.”
In his speech, the NSW Opposition leader and shadow Minister for Western Sydney, Luke Foley MP noted the impact of the ICPA influenced by its commitment to community building, and commented on its activity through his global experiences.
“What the ICPA is doing in our community in the last quarter of a century, is very much what the people of Lebanon are attempting; a co-existence between people of the Muslim faith and non-Muslims,”, he said.
The last speaker of the evening, Mayor of Liverpool Council, Ned Manoun said, “I want to congratulate the ICPA for the wonderful work that they do and their commitment to this event that brings together community leaders from all different faiths, all different religions, different political groups together as one.”
“We should all work to build the best country in the world and if we ever need inspiration we should look onto the ICPA,” he said.
Mr Manoun added,“Liverpool Council supports you [Al-Amanah] and will always continue to support you. We want you to grow.”
The evening ended on the high note with prayers for all, followed by interviews conducted by the Muslim Community Radio 2MFM 92.1 by Rafic Hussein and other presenters.