Finally, an articulate, highly educated Imam appearing on TV

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The Twittersphere was alight during and after ABC’s airing of QandA on Monday night. To my surprise, the words ‘Imam’, ‘Islam’ and ‘Religion’ were trending on Twitter. The interfaith panel comprising of Archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge; Imam, Dr Mohamad Abdalla; Buddhist nun, The Venerable Robina Courtin; Comedian and atheist, Josh Thomas and Jewish/Atheist singer songwriter Deborah Conway stimulated rigorous debate on social media.

One panelist in particular however, seemed to have captivated the entire audience: Imam Mohamad Abdalla.

It was incredibly refreshing to see (finally) an articulate, well spoken, highly educated religious cleric representing Islam and Muslims in Australia. He spoke with dignity and exhibited a calming and peaceful demeanour which resonated with many. He was rational and genuine – a breath of fresh air.

He explained key Islamic concepts in a manner which sadly, had rarely been done on Australian mainstream media before, offering much needed insight and understanding. In that regard, his appearance on QandA was therefore historic.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that he made sure to distinguish between ‘Islamic extremism’ versus ‘Muslim extremists’. He also explained that there are a host of reasons for why young people feel disenfranchised and turn to violent acts of terrorism, including feelings of isolation and questions of identity and belonging. He articulately explained that religions do not posses a monopoly when it comes to human values, a comment which was met with hearty applause. In every aspect of his discussion, the key theme was finding common ground.

Many (mostly non-Muslims) praised him over social media:

Penny Gordon @PrettyPennyLane11h :#QandA “It’s a shame this cleric isn’t the spokesperson for Islam in Australia, he is a voice of reason”

james norman @jamescnorman12h

#QandA “the cleric is doing a great job at explaining in simple language what Islam is really about – we don’t hear that clarity often enough

Sean Scullion @seanifool11h

Very Impressed with the insights and wisdom being shared by this Islamic cleric sharing truth with Muslim & non-Muslim Australians on #QandA

In short, Imam Abdalla spoke a lot of sense. I watched on with pride. As did many other Muslims.

He is by far, one of the best things to happen to the Muslim community in Australia for a while – an under-utilized talent. Don’t get me wrong, we have many articulate and very capable Muslim spokespersons that have previously spoken in the media about a whole host of issues. And we also have many knowledgeable and pious scholars – the issue at hand is – not many of these scholars are equipped with the necessary skills and demeanour to address national media. The Muslim community has been grappling with this issue for decades now.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) now known as ‘Muslims Australia’ claimed to represent Muslims in Australia but failed miserably. Caught up in scandals, many in the community feel a sense of distrust and antagonism towards AFIC and its leadership team – both past and present.

Imam Abdalla’s impressive performance on QandA prompted social media posts suggesting that Imam Abdalla should be considered for the role of the next Mufti of Australia. This is a view I wholeheartedly agree with and encourage. Perhaps as a community we need to come together and demand more from our leaders.

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3 thoughts on “Finally, an articulate, highly educated Imam appearing on TV

  1. Well said Mariam!

    I think last night Dr Abdalla was particularly impressive because the panel was discussing a range of issue that are not always easy to answer in sound bites and are particularly controversial. The fact that he handled these matters in such an articulate and reasoned fashion proves to me at least that he is very very capable when it comes to being a spokes person on the public stage. As well as being a gifted Academic and Imam Dr Abdalla is a true public intellectual.

    In a multicultural society those of us from minority groups must be very careful in “selecting” our spokespeople. Sure, it is unfair the media go to those most extreme amongst us. Whether they are Muslims, Christians, Indigenous etc But in the end it is we who suffer the consequences of bad leadership. So we must place particular importance on ensuring our best and brightest and most importantly those most capable of a intellectual discussion in the public sphere are given leadership roles and are supported by the communities.

    In this sense from an outsiders point of view Dr Abdalla strikes me as an exceptional person to be leading dialogue and engaging more often with the media, on issues of policy and in a general leadership realm. Being a public intellectual to me is more than just being an academic, or a leader of ones community, or exceptional in a particular area. It is the ability to engage the entire community in an intellectual and ultimately fruitful discussion. Dr Abdalla has shown he is absolutely up to that job.

    We are never going to agree on everything, and who would want to, what a boring world that would be. But the way our discussions take place, the people who lead them and the focus being on creating a more harmonious society is what truly counts. In that sense all Australians benefit from the contribution Dr Abdalla makes everyday. And that is the sign of wonderful leadership.

    Whether he was to be one day elevated to Mufti is not for me as a Non-Muslim to say, I think these decisions are entirely for the Muslim community as they are for any other community. But as a fellow Australian I for one would very much like to see an increased presence of his time and wisdom in the public sphere.

    Martin

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  2. YA ALLAH ! YA ALLAH. As a Muslim I have never been more proud. To the imam please make yourself more available, where have you been hiding. May Allah reward you for what you have done for the community during your appearance at Q&A.

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  3. Dr Mohamad Abdalla was very good and it was great to see him have a voice on QandA. However, he’s still a Creationist and he still believes in the superiority of monotheism to polytheism and atheism, which I see as problematic, especially since much of the world’s population are polytheists.

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