The fifth annual Premier of Victoria’s Ramadan Dinner was held at the glamorous Grand Hyatt at the Paris end of Melbourne city on Thursday 30 May.

 

The master of ceremonies was Madeleine Morris who shared fascinating stories from her time in Morocco where she first encountered Muslim hospitality during a time in need.

The opening prayer was performed by the popular Sheikh Alaa Elzokm.

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Sheikh Alaa Elzokm

At Iftaar time the moving call to prayer echoed across the crowded ballroom performed by Sergeant Ali Gurdag from Victoria Police.

 

Sargent Ali Gurdag from Victoria Police

Representatives from most leading Muslim organisations, peak bodies and community groups were represented including the Islamic Council of Victoria, Benevolence Australia, Australian Interfaith Society and most Islamic schools and Muslim communities from across Victoria.

Members from all sides of politics were present, demonstrating that supporting these platforms for social cohesion and sharing in the breaking of the fast together with the Muslim Community is important to all Victorians.

The Premier of Victoria, Hon Daniel Andrews gave a powerful speech which received thunderous applause from the crowd.

Premier Hon Daniel Andrews

In his speech, the Premier acknowledged the late Grand Mufti Al-Afifi who had been with us at last year’s Premier’s dinner and praised his work, his views and leadership.

 

Keynote speaker Sherene Hassan

He said, “I have a lot of respect for him and he talked a lot about the fact that we should celebrate our diversity, be true to ourselves but focus on the fact that we are one family.”

Premier Andrews also praised the response and resilience of the Victoria Muslim community in the face of the devastating Christchurch attacks stating, “The Muslim community opened their arms and their doors welcoming the broader Victorian community to come to mosques and share in the beauty of the values that underpin Islam, the hard-work, passion, the good nature and goodwill of those who follow the Islamic faith. 

I will never forget being at Preston mosque on the Sunday right after the Christchurch attacks and to be able to meet with so many people from every walk of life.  It was a great demonstration of everything Victoria stands for.  We don’t tolerate diversity in this state, we celebrate it. We are stronger for our diversity, we are stronger for our inclusion, we are stronger for the fact that we come from so many different perspectives.”

Keynote speaker for the night was Director of the Islamic Museum of Australia, Sherene Hassan sharing reflections on the struggles, most Muslim women growing up in Australia can relate to.

One inspiring story was in light of the hurtful and divisive comments made by Sonia Kruger to ban Muslim migration and Sherene’s subsequent letter in The Age inviting Victorians “who have chosen the path of understanding over fear for a coffee at the Islamic Museum.” 

What resulted from this one act of kindness was a series of “Coffee With Sherene” programs at Islamic Museum welcoming hundreds of Victorians.

Benevolence Australia crew

Sherene shared the message that “It’s important that we make our current practices to promote interculturalism even more meaningful and take it up a notch by organising cultural immersion days.  Let’s use every opportunity to cultivate greater respect for one another.”

Sargent Ali Gurdag, Erhan Eryegit VMC, Premier Daniel Andrews

Speeches were also made on the night by the Hon Richard Wynne MP, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and The Hon Neil Angus MP, Shadow Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs.