MEETING REPORT 7th OCTOBER 2014

 
Chair for the day;  Bruce Heron
 
Visitors; Gary Jungwirth of RC Greenvale;  Michelle Heard, Scholar
 
Announcements;
  • Roger Thornton was pleased to announce that Rob Hines had become the 80th Paul Harris Society member and the 7th from our club.
  • David Jones reminded us of the Lost Dogs Home vocational visit on October 15th
  • Neville Taylor promoted the Pub Night on October 31st and congratulated one member who has already checked out the décor at the Cabinet Bar and Balcony
  • Doug Robertson reminded us of the Garden DesignFest on Sunday November 16 and the Paul Harris Breakfast on November 18.
Directors Report;  International Services.
Kevin Love reporting on Frank O’Brien’s behalf updated us on the Laos Schools projects. The 2013/14 project is complete and Kevin and Veronica will travel to Luang Prabang to attend the opening. The Fitzroy Crossing project set for ~ June 13, 2015 is being progressed with Rob Hines going there next week. Another DIK working bee is being planned and RC Echuca - Moama are keen to host us up there. 
 
Guest Speaker;
Chairman Bruce Heron introduced our guest speaker, Ms Sherene Hassan, a Director of the Australian Islamic Museum who was unwell but regardless felt it important to talk to us about the public debate around Islam in our community. Sherene was born in Perth and has found the current social climate difficult for Muslims and urges more dialogue so that we do not allow ourselves to be crippled by fear.
 
Sherene addressed three main issues; Sharia, violence and misogyny. The historical literal translation of Sharia is “path to God” and is based on 5 principles including the sanctity of life and respect for other religions. 
Sharia law or Islamic law is not set in stone and is subject to context including local law.  No one country has adopted Sharia law completely and there is no grass roots drive for its adoption in Australia.  Unfortunately negative stereotypes abound e.g. forced marriages, genital mutilation, etc, are customs which predate Islam.  One issue of particular concern to Sherene is the misconception regarding patriarchal authority and she regards herself as a Muslim feminist urging the role of Muslim women to become better understood in society.
 
On the issue of violence, Sherene noted that of about 6200 verses in the Qur’an, 11 deal with the use of violence, vs 130 that deal with peace or tolerance.  She also noted that “sayings of the Prophet Muhammad” i.e. hadiths which are the recorded words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, are sometimes misquoted, incorrectly interpreted, or even fabricated in order to make an erroneous point.  The popular image of Islam is not helpful - e.g. a school class of ~250 kids when asked if they knew a Muslim, could only name Osama Bin Laden!  Moderate views really struggle for airtime in our media.  Sherene related a couple of egregious examples of media behavior reflecting preconceived negative themes or poor investigation or both.  She referred to a survey by Professor Kevin Dunn which showed that those who interacted with Muslims but considered themselves not very knowledgeable had generally positive views about Islam whilst those who did not interact tended to be fearful and claim a high level of knowledge on the topic. 
 
The Muslim community has responded to the more strident debate by either getting on the front foot to demonstrate they are responsible citizens much like everybody else or they retreat into isolationism, which potentially worsens relationships.
 
Question time was fully used by members and Chairman Bruce thanked Sherene.  
 
President Roy closed the meeting.