An eminent British Muslim scholar, Professor Mona Siddiqui visited Australia earlier in October and gave a number of talks at various locations in Sydney and Canberra.
She gave public lectures on the topic “Hospitality & Inter-Religious Witness” on Monday 10 October at Novotel Parramatta in Sydney as well as at Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, both events organised by ISRA and Centre for Contextual Theology, Charles Sturt University.
During her lectures, she discussed the relationships between hosts, guests and religion – a theme that she has explored in one of her books also titled “Hospitality and Islam: Welcoming in God’s Name”.
Professor Siddiqui has explored the concepts and categories, scriptural stories and characters, and legal, ethical, mystical and feminist discourses that engage the ideal of “hospitality” in the Muslim tradition.
At a time when images of desperate Iraqi and Syrian refugees seeking safe havens dominate the news, fewer themes have been more pressing than that of hospitality.
She has raised the question as to what can religion contribute to the idea of hospitality and its practice in contemporary society?
Answer to this question become absolutely critical with movement of large number of people of diverse backgrounds as immigrants and refugees.
Professor Siddiqui, OBE currently holds the Chair of Islamic and Inter-religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh and was the Presenter of the 2016 Gifford Lectures.
During her lecture in Sydney, Professor Siddiqui, who was born in Karachi, Pakistan and raised in UK, related some personal moving stories of her growing up and in particular hospitality in action by a poor woman and her children to her as a stranger when she went to Egypt to study Arabic as a young woman.
She explored in detail on hospitality in the Abrahamic tradition in general and in the Islamic tradition in particular.
She said that hospitality is an obligation, a foremost duty for others and is considered unconditional shown to our loved ones, family and friends as well as to strangers.
Professor Siddiqui emphasised the need to change our immigrant mentality where our home is not a place but the people we live with. The West is now the home of Muslim immigrants in general and specially of their children who have grown up or are born and raised in the West.
Professor Mona Siddiqui was also an invited speaker at the first “Morning Conversation” with the topic “Faith, Freedom, and the Secular Sphere” on Tuesday 11 October held at the Sydney city offices of Affinity Intercultural Foundation.
The ‘Morning Conversation” is a series from 7.30 to 9 am breakfast event organised regularly by Affinity with facilitated interactive conversations between experts and an audience of diverse professional backgrounds.
The event began with a traditional Turkish breakfast spread, and guests mingled, and enjoyed the breakfast until the official conversation started with a live interview of Professor Siddiqui by Jane Jeffes, Executive Producer, Religion and Ethics, ABC Radio.
The interview touched on a wide range of topics including radicalisation, family relationships, types of secularism, practices of the media, individual freedoms and the role of religion in modern societies.
Facilitated Q&A followed the engaging interview, and the audience members had the opportunity to ask Professor Siddiqui their questions.
Professor Siddiqui’s thoughtful answers and unique ideas, as well as Jane’s interesting questions made for a highly interesting conversation at the launch of this unique initiative by Affinity that was considered highly successful.