This year Sydney has witnessed community Iftars almost on a daily basis throughout the month of Ramadan.
Iftar is the evening meal taken after the day long fast from dawn to dusk. It brings families and communities toge ther from diverse backgrounds and all walks of life to share meal in an atmosphere of peace, harmony and respect for all.
There were a great variety of Iftars at various venues, from political Iftars at parliament house to community Iftars at Villawood detention centre as well as corporate Iftars in and around the city.
The Premier of NSW, Mike Baird hosted the bipartisan Premier’s Iftar dinner on Tuesday 14 June at the NSW Parliament House inviting a large contingent of Muslim as well as interfaith leaders.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hosted a Ramadan Iftar on Thursday evening 16 June at Kirribilli House, Sydney, a first by an Australian PM. The invited guests included Muslim leaders and young activists from all states as well as interfaith representatives from Sydney.
Mr Turnbull greeted Muslims saying, “I am honoured to be the first Australian Prime Minister to host an Iftar during the holy month of Ramadan. To the approximately five hundred thousand Muslim Australians across our country and to more than one and half billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan Kareem.”
“Tonight we gather as a community of many faiths and cultures to get to know one another and to share the spirit of Ramadan. I am delighted that we are joined tonight not only by so many outstanding Muslim Australians, but Australians of many faiths,” he said.
Mr Turnbull singled out Australia as the most successful multicultural society in the world and Muslims as an integral part of Australia, and said that he was honoured by the attendance of the 75 guests at this unprecedented national Iftar dinner.
The PM shared the dinner table with Network Ten’s The Project host, Waleed Aly and his wife Susan Carland, mechanical engineer and Youth activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, AFL player Bachar Houli, Maha Abdo, Ghena Krayem, and Ridwan Jadwat from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Other guests included Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, Hass Dellal, from Australian Multicultural Foundation, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, Shaikh Wesam Charkawi and interfaith representatives including Archbishop of Sydney Reverend Glenn Davies, Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton from the Great Synagogue of Sydney and Dr Nihal Agar from Hindu Council of Australia.
Quoting from the Quran and sayings of Prophet Muhammad (s), Mr Turnbull said “by breaking bread across religions and by bringing diverse people together, we are embodying Islam’s emphasis on human diversity.”
“We must stand together like we do tonight as one Australian family united against terrorism, racism, discrimination and violence,” he said.
However this great initiative by the PM was dampened by the media frenzy targeting one of the invited guests Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, Chairman of the Australian National Imams Council, as being homophobic. The PM was left defending himself and regretting his invitation to Sheikh Shady.
The accusation of Sheikh Shady being homophobic was based on an old video where the Sheikh had explained the position of Islam with respect to homosexuality, possibly not in a politically correct way.
However next day Sheikh Shady promptly put out a media statement denying the accusation of being homophobic and “unreservedly condemned vilification and oppression of any group of people based on race, religion, gender, sexuality…”.
“There is absolutely no place for homophobia or any sort of hatred or discrimination towards a person who identifies as LGBTI”, he stated.
Last weekend Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed had strongly condemned media witch hunt for Sheikh Shady and supported him for stating the Islamic view on the subject of homosexuality without being apologetic about it.