To the Muslims of Australia, I wish to say “sorry” for the hurt caused to you and your families by the poll reporting that 49% of Australians want to stop Muslim immigration. Those 49% do NOT represent me, my family, my colleagues, my relatives or the many people of good faith and good will in this country.
This is what the Catholic Church teaches about our attitude towards Muslims:
“The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.
Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” (Nostra Aetate, no. 3)
There are issues of violence, extremism, fundamentalism in all our traditions. There are issues in our society of racism, bigotry and hatred fuelled by ignorance and unwarranted fears. There are issues in our world of invasion, occupation, war and injustice that must be addressed if there is to be meaningful peace.
The divide is not between Christian and Muslim, between Jew and Muslim, between secularist and believer, or any other popular categories. The divide is between people of good will and people of ill will (and they are in all our traditions).
Let us not be divided. Let us stand together in the name of respect for the human dignity of all. The people of good will and good faith vastly outnumber the no-sayers in this a small and unrepresentative poll. Let us say a resounding “YES” to multi-cultural, multi-religious Australia.
On the occasion of Eid al-Adha, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed – Grand Mufti of Australia invited me to breakfast with him. He called me “my friend” and “my brother”.
In these challenging times, let us not be distracted and divided by those who are fearful, by those who project their insecurities onto others; rather, let us all work together as people of faith and good will to maintain and strengthen our fraternal relations.
Again, I am sorry for the hurt and distress this poll has caused.
PS: I have since learned that only1,000 people were polled i.e. 0.005% of the Australian population. This sample is so small that it does not provide any reliable indication i.e. this is NOT a representative poll.
Also, one must ask how, where and when those polled were selected e.g. Western Brisbane will yield a significantly different answer from Western Sydney; a time of high media frenzy over “Islamist” terrorist incidents will lead to a higher antipathy to Muslims than other times.
However, the use of these dubious figures by One Nation to claim political legitimacy is appalling. When even one Muslim child comes home from school and asks his/her parents, “Why do they hate us?” that traumatic outcome is wicked and evil and plays into the terrorists’ false dichotomies.
We are one, not by selectivity or banning, but by inclusion and respect—Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, secularist, humanist, atheist—all Australians together, sharing one nation, one law, one equal citizenship.