29 May 2012

Remembering 'Mavi Marmara' Freedom Flotilla: More humanitarian aid should go in

'Mavi Marmara' Freedom Flotilla carrying 630 activists and 10 thousand tones of supplies for Gaza people.

This study will focus on the Gaza blockade imposed by Israel since 2007. In the early hours of 31st May 2010, Israel intercepted six vessels on the high seas carrying humanitarian aids to Gaza (collectively called the ‘Gaza Freedom Flotilla’), which resulted in the death of nine civilians and the injury of many more. This brutal and inhumane act by Israel had alerted the world on the issues of the legality and rights of humanitarian assistance.

Questions that arised are, can Israel invoke a prima facie right to blockade Gaza? What is the legal basis for this? Was it legal for humanitarian aid vessels to enter Gaza? Had the Israeli blockade policy helped reduce the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and generally the Palestine-Israel conflict? Or had it instead prolonged the sufferings and long term violence to the Palestinians?

This study will argue that the interception on the Flotilla humanitarian aid vessels  justified by Israel for security concerns, political leverage and ‘legitimate’ economic warfare is illegal and an internationally wrongful act from the international humanitarian laws perspectives. Instead, Israel should efficiently facilitate the humanitarian assistance efforts to Gaza. This would be inline with the international humanitarian assistance principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

On 19th September 2007, Israel Ministerial Committee on National Security Issues adopted a decision which stated in part; the Hamas organization is a terrorist organization which has taken over the Gaza Strip and turned it into a hostile territory.  This organization carries out acts of hostility against the State of “Israel” and its “citizens”, and the responsibility for such acts lies with it. Israel resolved to adopt the continuation of military and preventive activities and put additional restrictive measures upon Hamas regime in a way that can limit the passage of goods to Gaza Strip, reduce the supply of fuel and electricity and the movement of persons from and to the strip. Israel argues that these restrictive measures are necessary to limit rocket attacks from Gaza on Southern Israel and to prevent Hamas obtaining additional weapons. Those cumulative measures in restricting imports into Gaza by land and sea, not only impact the maritime blockade itself but had also caused the deterioration of the living conditions in Gaza. Besides security concerns, the ‘collective punishment’ of Gazan population as characterised by John Holmes of UN (Myers 2009: 117) was further justified by Israel for political leverage and economic warfare (Sanger 2010: 402).

As a response to the Israeli blockade policy, the international community formulated steps to lift the Gaza blockade based on the humanitarian assistance principle. On 31st May 2010, Freedom Flotilla headed towards the Gaza Strip comprising six vessels carrying around 630 solidarity activists from 40 countries. The 10 thousand tons of relief supplies and humanitarian aid included cement, generators, wheelchairs, medicine, clothes, blankets and toys (The Humanitarian Monitor 2010).

In response to that, the Israeli authorities threatened Freedom Flotilla and vowed to block its access to the Gaza Strip by military force (Manna 2010).. Undeterred by the Israeli threats, the solidarity activists insisted on heading to Gaza, however the Israeli forces overtook the flotilla and intercepted them in international waters; they further abseiled onto the deck and stormed Mavi Marmara, the flotilla’s largest passenger ship, using live ammunition, thus killing nine Turkish activists in cold blood while ten  Israeli soldiers were injured in the confrontation.

The argument arose whether Israel’s interception of the humanitarian aid vessels was legitimate. In dealing with the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the debate may involve intense scrutiny of the facts, the rules of international law and the applicability of these rules to what has undoubtedly become sui generis situation (Sanger 2010: 398), unparalleled in its duration, complexity and equivocation. Using the legal framework and considering the universal humanitarian assistance principle as the parameter, the debate looks into a more objective approach rather than allowing sentiment to override.

Issues raised by the blockade and interception of vessels are complex (Scobbie 2010) as some relevant law is drawn from different periods of international law. In its justification of the blockade and interception of vessels, Israel has relied, inter alia, on the San Remo Manual on International Law applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, a non-official document prepared by a private body, named the International Institute of Humanitarian Law. Accordingly, the Manual is not comprehensive and earlier instruments retain utility in filling gaps in it or work as an aid to the interpretation of its provision, although these must be read in subsequent developments such as the UN Charter, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 2005 restatement of customary international humanitarian law undertaken by the International Committee of Red Cross.

Naval blockade refers to an operation aimed at preventing ingress or egress of all vessels or aircraft, regardless of the nationality of the state, to and from the coast or port of an enemy state. It was the oldest methods of naval warfare designed to ‘block supplies to an enemy coast without directly meaning to conquer this coast’ (Heintschel 2008: 551). This method can also be established by a party to an armed conflict or the Security Council in response to the threat or breach of international peace or an act of aggression (UN Charter Article 42).

Israel was actively exercising the naval blockade to cut off the external supply of humanitarian aid into Gaza and to pressure Hamas authorities and justified it as legal by hiding behind Article 42 of UN Charter. However many have argued that this is a breach of international humanitarian law as the supply are humanitarian aids meant to lift the humanitarian conditions faced by the civilians behind the blockade.

Blockade may necessarily affect both neutral states and the civilian population behind the blockade. While traditional international law was primarily concerned with the interest of states inter se, contemporary international law also concerns itself with the interest and protection of individuals. Consequently, international humanitarian law has modified the traditional law of blockade to include the rights and interests of blockaded civilians. Historically, areas under blockade were regarded as a single military objective, but today civilians behind a blockade must be distinguished from legitimate military targets.

To this end, contemporary international law stipulates that a blockade must not have the effect of starving a civilian population. A legal blockade that has this effect will be rendered illegal and cannot be lawfully enforced. The question of whether the blockade is causing a civilian population to starve is one of fact. In addition, if a blockade is causes a civilian population to be deprived of adequate food and other objects necessary for its survival, the blockading state is under an obligation to allow humanitarian supplies to pass through the blockade.

Starvation may occur as a consequence of the destruction of food and sources of food within a state and/or by imposing blockades or sieges that cut off external food supplies (Rosenblad 1973: 252). It has been used throughout history as a method of warfare. As British Foreign Secretary Michael Stewart remarked during the Nigerian-Biafran War in 1967. ‘we must accept that, in the whole history of warfare, any nation which has been in a position to starve its enemy out has done so’. Nevertheless, in seeking to balance military necessity with the protection of civilians, modern international law prohibits the use of starvation as a means of warfare against a civilian population. The legal basis for this can be found in two fundamental rules of international humanitarian law: firstly, civilians must not be directly targeted; and secondly, any civilian harmed resulting from a lawful attack on a military object must be proportionate to the anticipated military advantage.

These rules were codified in Additional Protocol I Article 54(1), which reflects customary law, unambiguously affirms that ‘starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited’ and is applicable in both occupied and non-occupied territories. Additional Protocol II, which applies in non-international armed conflicts, contains a corresponding provision. While there was some doubt in the past about the application of this prohibition to naval blockades, there is no doubt today that Article 49(3) explicitly provides that Article 54 applies to naval blockades if they ‘affect the civilian population, individual civilians or civilian objects on land’. Article 54 also includes a provision that elaborates on the basic rule:
“It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population as such foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, wether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away or for any other motive.”

The provision is intended not only to ‘ensure the survival of the civilian population as such, but also to prevent population displacements which expose civilians to especially high risk’ (Macalister-Smith 1991: 10). Furthermore, the legal and factual protection of fixed civilian objects and installations is especially important, ‘simply because they cannot be moved out of the zone of conflict, as such the only available protection is to prohibit attacks against them’.

The rule in Article 54 is reflected in paragraph 102 of the San Remo Manual, which soughts to restate customary international law on the use of starvation as a means of warfare. Thus, the declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if: first, it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or second, the damage to the civil population is or may be expected to be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade. Thus, whenever a blockade has ‘starvation as one of its effects, the starvation effectively triggers the obligation, subject to certain limitations, to allow relief shipments to gain access to the coasts of the blockade belligerent.

Evidence of state practice in relation to this prohibition can be found in numerous military manuals. For instance, the UK Manual of the Law of Armed Conflicts, the Australian Defence Force Manual, and Canada’s Law of Armed Conflict Manual, and the US Commander’s Handbook of the Law of Naval Operations.

The deliberate starvation of civilians also constitutes a war crime under customary international law for instance, 1919 Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War stipulated that the starvation as a violation of the laws and customs of war that should be prosecuted. Today, under Article 8(2)(b)(XXV) of the Rome Statute also stipulated that it was an international war crime of intentionally to deprive the civilians of objects indispensible to their survival including wilfully impeding relief supplies as provided for under Geneva Conventions.
The obligation to allow relief shipments and humanitarian assistance is reflected in paragraph 103 of San Remo Manual which stipulated that a blockading power must allow free passage of food and other essential supplies necessary for the survival of the civilian population. Article 23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention imposes a duty on all blockading power to allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores including pharmaceutical products and medicine; and objects necessary for religious worship.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza which has left a majority of civilians facing starvation (Feldman 2009), has resulted from the frequent military operations on internal destruction since the ‘Operation Cast Lead’ and by the blockade and siege on Gaza that prevent humanitarian supplies from reaching the civilian population (external restrictions). The crisis has been exacerbated by movement restriction from and to Gaza for supplies. It was also reported that the suffering went to the extent of the civilians having to eat grass to survive (Noor 2008: 143). In April 2010, the United Nation Office for the Coordination of Humaniarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that the number of Palestinians refugees completely unable to secure access to food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items like soap, safe drinking water since the imposition of blockade (The Humanitarian Monitor 2010).

Shirazi argues that between 2007 and 2009 the caloric intake per capita in Gaza and West bank decreased by 18 percent (Shirazi 2011). Although Israel has not declared the sole purpose of the siege to be starvation of the civilian population of Gaza, it has stated that its policy to ‘put the Palestinians on a diet (Guardian 2006), ‘to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse’ and ‘to pressure Gazan into compelling Hamas to change its policy towards Israel’.

These objectives directly target civilians and are thus prohibited by the law of armed conflict. In addition, if the blockade has the effect of starving the civilian population, it is illegal regardless whether the sole purpose of the blockade is starvation of that population (Heintschel 2008: 554). Using these as an argument, on the believe that the Gaza blockade is unlawful, the interception of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla vessels and any other neutral state vessels, so long as they do not satisfy a law enforcement exception, is an unlawful exercise of jurisdiction over neutral vessels on the high seas and constituted an internationally wrongful act. The interception violated the sovereignty of flag-states concerned and it may also amount to an unlawful use of force, prohibited by Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. The interception could only be justified by relying on the right of self–defence but Israel knew the merchant vessels did not have the means to launch an attack. Faced with the unlawful armed attack, the crew and passengers of the intercepted vessels had the right of personal self-defence, the modalities of which are determined by the domestic law of the flag state, by virtue of its exclusive jurisdiction over the vessel.

Israel has a legal obligation to ease the blockade efficiently and allow vessels carrying humanitarian aid to reach the civilian population. Humanitarian assistance, as codified in Geneva Conventions and their Additional protocol, as well as customary international law, require that states consent to and facilitate humanitarian assistance which is impartial, neutral and independent in character, where failure to do so may lead to starvation or otherwise threaten the survival of civilian population (Barber 2009: 371). However if the governments are unable to meet this responsibility, they are required to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid by third parties to civilians in need (MacLean 2001).

As the international humanitarian law has constantly evolved to meet the needs and changes in regulating the conduct of parties of the right to humanitarian assistance, International Institute of Humanitarian Law has regulated a document entitled ‘Guiding Principles on the Right to Humanitarian Assistance’ in San Remo, Italy (International Institute of Humanitarian Law: 1993). Among the main principle is to respect the right to humanitarian assistance in order to ensure human rights to life, health, protection against cruel and degrading treatment, which is essential to survival in public emergencies. It is a fact that the blockade policy had deprived the basic human rights of the Gazan populations and left them in on-going suffering and miserable situation. As a result, Palestinians have the right to humanitarian assistance from any international organization.

The Geneva Conventions also outline that neutral humanitarian organisations, such as International committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), can deliver humanitarian assistance with the approval of warring parties.  The framework for International humanitarian assistance is governed by four main principles; humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence (World Economic Forum). Humanity means human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found, with particular attention to the most vulnerable populations such as children, women, and the elderly. The dignity and rights of all victims must be respected and protected. Impartiality refers to aid provision based solely upon the needs of the host populations. Neutrality requires an organisation to refrain from taking sides in a conflict. Independence ensures that NGOs can make decision and act without the influence of governments. Under these principles, Israel has an obligation to allow humanitarian assistance which is genuinely humanitarian in character to reach the civilian population.

On 20 June 2010, in response to international condemnation of the blockade and the interception, Israel’s security cabinet announced measures designed to ease the blockade (Sanger 2010: 443). However, as of January 2011, this measure to ease restriction on the export of certain products remains unimplemented.

So, what is the future for Gaza? This debate, intentionally, avoid to argue on the legitimacy of the State of Israel over the Gazans which is complicated and difficult debates. Such an objective was framed to understand that non-military intervention by humanitarian assistance is clearly legal and moral approach in order to relief the sufferings and humanitarian catastrophe. The studies were based on international humanitarian law and customary international law, sought to meet the crux underpinned the humanitarian assistance theories. The lesson from this debate is the recognition that Palestinians have legitimate political demands and not just humanitarian needs should not be lost in the face of yet another emergency. The Israel-Palestinians conflict needs to be carefully diagnosed and right mechanism be put in place or otherwise the world must be prepared for the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the future.


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Feldman I 2009, “Gaza’s Humanitarianism Problem”, Journal Of Palestine Studies, Vol XXXVIII, No.3 (Spring).

Guardian the, 2006 “Gaza on Brink of Implosion As Aid Cut-Off Starts To Bite”. Available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/apr/16/israel. Accessed 16 April 2006.

Heintschel Von Heinegg W 2008, “Blockade: The Law of Armed Conflict at Sea”, The Handbook Of International Humanitarian Law, Oxford Press: Oxford.

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention), 12 August 1949, 75 UNTS 287, Applicable at http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6b36d2.html Accessed on 27 May 2012.

International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Guiding Principles On The Right To Humanitarian Assistance. Applicable at www.iihl.org/iihl/Album/GUIDING%20PRINCIPLES.doc. Accessed on 25 May 2012.

Macalister-Smith P 1991, “The Protection Of The Civilian Population and The Prohibition of Starvation as a Method of Conflict: Draft Texts Relating To International Humanitarian Assistance”, Max Planck Institute For Comparative Public Law And Internatoional Law, Heidelberg.

Maclean T L 2001, “Humanitarian Intervention Versus Humanitarian Action”, Encyclopedia Of Disaster Relief, Thousand Oaks: CA.

Manna M 2010, “Freedom Flotilla and Breaking The Siege: Implications And Possibilities”, Strategic Assessment #25, Al-Zaytouna Centre: Beirut.

McGirk J 2008, “Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis Deepen”, The Lancet, Vol.371, No.9610, Feb,
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Noor M N 2008, Palestine: Opression Unrivalled, Palestine Centre of Excellence: Kuala Lumpur.

Rosenblad E 1973, “Starvation as a Method of Warfare: Condition For Regulation By Convention”, International Lawyer.

San Remo Manual, Article 54. Applicable at http://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/law/NIACManualIYBHR15th.pdf. Accessed on 25 May 2012.

Sanger A 2010, “The Contemporary Law of Blockade and The Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, Yearbook Of International Humanitarian Law, Vol 13.

Scobbie I 2010, “Blockade and Interception”, Studies & Report, Al-Zaytouna Center: Beirut. Applicable at http://www.alzaytouna.net/en/publications/studies-and-reports/119568-blockade-and-interception.html#.T8L_Do6H--8. Accessed 25 May 2012.

Shirazi N 2011, “The ‘No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza’ Casard, From Massacre Myopia To Blockade Blindness”, Foreign Policy Journal. Applicable at http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/07/02/the-no-humanitarian-crisis-in-gaza-canard/. Accessed 25 May 2012.

United Nation Charter, Article 2(4), 51. Applicable at http://www.un.org/en/documents/charter/ Accessed on 25 May 2012.

United Nation Office For The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Territory (UNOCHA), The Humanitarian Monitor (May 2010).

World Economic Forum, Guiding Principle for Public-Private Collaboration for Humanitarian Action. Applicable at http://www.un.org/partnerships/Docs/Principles%20for%20Public-Private%20Collaboration%20for%20Humanitarian%20Action.pdf Accessed on 26 May 2012.

01 May 2012


This paper aims to investigate the religio-political effects on the implementation of Shari’a in the modern era. The research will examine the approaches by the religio-political actors nested in interpreting the Shari’a.  Literatures on the concept of Shari’a, its origin and its development will be used as the basis for further critical arguments. The research will also highlight modern approaches by muslim majority and minority countries in dealing with the implementation of Shari’a as the subject matter is currently hotly debated among various groups.
In Britain, the Home Office issued a warning to civil servants not to eat lunch in front of their Muslim colleagues during the month of Ramadan (Gardham 2009).  There was also the controversial Dr Rowan Wlliams, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s announcement that Shari’a Law may be included in the British legal system (Ahdar 2010, p.25). 
In Canada, Windsor police issued a public apology to the local Muslim community for the ‘embarrassment’ caused by its tactical officers when they conducted an arrest operation in connection with the activities of a radical Islamic group (National Post, 2009). 
In Melbourne, a group of local Muslim suggested the establishment of Shari’a courts and tribunals for Muslim community in matrimonial and financial disputes (ABC 2011). 
In New Zealand, the department of corrections revealed that all meat served to prisoners had undergone halal slaughter (Otago Daily Times 2009) and a Muslim woman had filed a complaint to the Human Rights Commission over her removal from the public gallery of a courtroom for refusing to take off her headscarf (New Zealand Herald 2009). 
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood attended first its Christmas celebrations in a Cathedral following the ousted of Mubarak and his regime (Mahmoud 2012). 
In Malaysia, a ‘Malay prophet’ was caught by the Islamic department of Selangor (JAIS) for his illegal propagation and causing distress in the community.
References to Shari’a, its concept, interpretation and implementation were  discussed by many scholars for decades. The answer to the question of ‘What is Shari’a’ is necessary to shed some light on the subject. Ramadan explains that there is ‘not a single definition’ of the term Shari’a. Shari’a can literally mean ‘the way’ (the path leading to the source) . It outlines a global concept of creation, existence, death, and the way of life it entails, stemming from a normative reading and an understanding of scriptural sources. It determines ‘how to be a Muslim’. For jurists, Shari’a is the corpus of general principles of Islamic law extracted from its two fundamental sources; Qur’an and Sunnah. The word occurs only once in the Qur’an and it is used contradistinction with hawa (whimsical desire) (Kamali 2008, p.2). The verse thus reads in an address by Allah to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the angel Gabriel:
“Thus we put you on the right way (shari’atan) of religion. So follow it and follow not the whimsical desire (hawa) of those who have no knowledge.” (verse 45:18)
In an explanatory note on this verse, ‘Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an reads : Syari’atan in this verse is best translated as “the right way of religion” which is wider than the legal provisions which were mostly revealed in the Madinan period, long after this verse had been revealed. The hawa in the context refers to the pagan belief of the people of Makkah who believed in idolatry and association of idols with supernatural powers (Al-Baydawi). 
Since Shari’a is a path to religion, it is concerned with a set of values that are essential to Islam and and its followers. Islam stands on the five pillars (arkan al-khamsah) which are the belief in Allah and His Messenger, ritual prayers, fasting, giving tithe due to the poor (Zakah) and the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). Ibadat is the main characteristics of Shari’a, through which Muslims strengthen the faith to Allah by worshipping Him and observing the bbb to uphold the pillars of Islam.  
One of the primary concern of Shari’a is the protection and advancement of its five essential objectives (Maqasid Al-Syari’ah), namely the religion, life, intellect, lineage and property. This concept is important and used in solving conflicts. For instance it is forbidden for Muslims to touch the non-mahram (opposite sex - unless they are married or immediate family members), however it is permissible during emergencies such as fire, accidents etc, for saving lives is of utmost important in the Maqasid Al-Syari’ah.  
An important term, Fiqh, is part of Shariah. Shari’a is conveyed through the divine revelations (wahy) found in the Qur’an and Sunnah while Fiqh refers mainly to the corpus juris that is developed by the legal school (madhahibs), individual jurists and judges by recourse to legal reasoning (ijtihad) and issuing of legal verdicts (fatwa). 
In the light of understanding the Shari’a and its implementation issues, it would be necessary to highlight a few dominant camps who have different world views particularly in explaining the various perspectives of the Shari’a. There are the ‘moderate Islamists’, ‘literalist Salafis’ and the ‘modernists’ who continually debate and argue their understanding of the Shari’a .  This categorisation is not new and may be due to extensive literatures produced by the group s since  the early 18th century. The term Islamists may be referred to as individuals or groups in contemporary Islamic societies whose primary wishes is to govern and be governed politically by Islamic principles. Islamism refers to a highly politicized version of Islam whose genesis occurred in the early 20th century largely as a reaction to the abolition of the caliphate by the republican Turks in 1924. They are also concerned with the debilitating effects of western colonialism on the Islamic world. In 1899, Muhammad Abduh was appointed as the Mufti of Egypt. Well known as the Islamic reformist, his thoughts were  accepted by many scholars. The idea was to merge the divine revelations and the human  reasonings in formulating the Islamic rulings. There was also his devoted efforts towards building friendship between the  Christian Copts and the Muslims. 
In 1928, Hasan al-Banna in Egypt established the Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) as a countervailing response to both British colonial rule and secular nationalist politics. Unchecked, it was feared that it would undermine the traditional Islamic characters of the Egyptian society. 
In the Indian sub-continent, Abul A’la Al-Maududi established the “Islamic Society” (Jamaat Islami) in 1941 to effectively inculcate Islamic political consciousness to the masses in reaction to British occupation and Hindu nationalism. Maududi migrated to the newly created Pakistan in 1947 and continued to push for the establishment of an Islamic state there until his death in 1979. 
Among political activists and Islamic groups today, the term ‘moderate Islamist’  referred to the people who have been considerably influenced by the thoughts of Abul A’la Al-Maududi and his disciple, the Egyptian activist Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) They were committed to a highly politicized form of Islam, subscribe to democratic norms and embrace modern notions of human rights to a considerable extent (Afsarudin 2010, p,30). Of late, the approaches of this camp were quite interesting . They embrace the concept of tadarruj (gradual) and  have strategic steps to revive the Shari’a principles mainly in Tunisia, Egypt and Morroco.
The Salafis, a word rooted from Salaf, the pious generations of the companions of Prophet Muhammad and their immediate heirs, is also gaining popularity. The early community of the faithfuls are considered to have been closest to the prophet and the revelation, and it can therefore be assumed to have the best knowledge of the divine call. Salafism is closely associated with the theological traditions identified with the political movements of the well-known reformist, Muhammad Abdul Wahhab (1703-92). Known as the Wahhabi movement, its legacy may be found in Saudi Arabia and become the ideological world views of many contemporary Muslims (Esposito 1998, p.118). It has also influenced other revivalists in Africa, India, Europe, Australia and some parts of South East Asia.
Modernists are also known as liberalists. They are the Muslims who, since the 18th century, began to emphasize the inherent adaptability of Islamic principles and thoughts to modernity. This was partially in response to the beginning of the European colonial onslaught. The modernists argue that certain Islamic principles can be freshly interpreted in line with the modern liberal principles of democratic government, civil society, gender equality, etc.   Modernists tend to be critical of traditionalists who they perceive as unthinkingly following precedents and stymieing the efforts of Muslims to adapt to the modern world in an ethical and critical manners. This ideological stream can be found in Europe, America, Oceania and some parts of Asia.
Coming back to the focus of discussion, are there any religio-political impact on the Shari’a debates? How do those ideological streams view the fundamental issues regarding the adaptation of the ‘divine rule’ in the contemporary context
For ‘moderate Islamists’, as pointed out by Esposito, the emergence of neorevivalism, new religious societies, in particular Hasan al-Banna’s Ikhwan al-Muslimun (the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt and Maulana Maududi’s Jamaat al-Islami (the Islamic Society) put the Muslim community of the twentieth century at a critical crossroads (Esposito 1998, p.149). They acknowledged the internal weaknesses of the Ummah (Muslim community) and the external threat of the colonial powers which had caused the collapse of Caliphate. They believe that Islam is the only solution. Islam is a complete way of life ; not restricted to personal piety or simply just a component of the social or political aspects life. It is a comprehensive ideology for personal and public lifes, the foundation for a Muslim state and society. They reinterpreted Islamic history and traditions to respond to the sociohistorical conditions of the twentieth century. Islam is the all-embracing ideology. It is the union of religion and society, the relevance of Islam to all aspects of life, following the doctrine of God’s oneness (tawhid) and It’s sovereignty over all creations. The Shari’a is a complete scheme of life and an all embracing social order. 
Following the revivalists logic, they called for a return to the Qur’an, the Sunnah of the Prophet and the practices of the early community to establish an Islamic system of government. Like Islamic revivalists and modernists, they reject  Taqlid and uphold the right of Ijtihad. They are with the modernists in their acceptance of changes through legal reforms, though not accepting its application to modern family law reforms (which were regarded as Western in its inspiration and intent). It is important to highlight their belief that the reformation of Muslim society and its social transformation and modernization must be rooted in Islamic principles and values such as freedom, justice and integrity.
Although they are not political parties, their holistic vision and their belief that the Islamic community must exist in a state and society governed by Islamic law (Shari’a), drew the Brotherhood and the Jamaat into the political arena. Both understood  social reformation as existing within the society. The threat of the Brotherhood’s movement  to establish an Islamic state lead the Egypt government to take repressive measures  which subsequently lead to  the assassination of its founder, Al-Banna in 1949. Government repression drove the Brotherhood  underground and to a series of confrontations, imprisonment, executions and suppression in the mid-1960s.
While under years of suppression until Mubarak was ousted in 2011, the Brotherhood silently  and effectively educate the Muslim society, especially on their rights in Islam, through its comprehensive Islamic education system. Effectively, it had prepared the society to understand the needs of having Shari’a as the foundation of the constitution and ready to adopt those Islamic principles when the time comes. The people are ready to subscribe to Islamic values and legislations, including the majority of Christian copts. Similar situation can be seen  in Tunisia, Turkey and Morocco.
For literalist Salafis, Afsaruddin points out that the revival of Islamic caliphate as an institution is necessary and is an integral part of Islam (Afsaruddin 2010, p.35). The moderate Islamists and Salafis share a vision in that it is a duty to mankind to uphold Shari’a and govern the society based on Islamic principles. However, Salafis apply strict rules in its approach. Salafis scholars (ulamas), like former Grand Mufti of Saudi, Ibn Baz (d.1999) and Ibn Uthaimin  both play  significant roles in the administration of Shari’a, specifically in Saudi Arabia and  some other Muslim countries. As mentioned earlier, the Salafis  strongly subscribe to Muhammad Abdul Wahhab’s approach of Siyasa Shar’iyya which was actually developed by Ibn Taymiyya (d.1328) and his disciple Ibn Qayyim (d.1350).
Siyasa Shar’iyya means governance in accordance with the divine law, and it calls for harmonization between the law and procedures of Islamic jurisprudence, fiqh, and the practical demands of governance, siyasa. The rationale behind the doctrine is that if the divine law is duly observed, the siyasa of rulers will not be in conflict with fiqh as elaborated by the legal scholars. If conflict arises, it is either because fiqh is understood too narrowly, neglecting the resources of the Shari’a  (al-maslahah al-ammah) or because rulers disregard the divine law and act unjustly.
In the formulation of Siyasa Shar’iyya, Ibn Qayyim believed true siyasa is but a part of Shari’a (Vogel 1997, p.695). In Saudi, interpretation of the doctrine implies that the king may take any action needed for the public good, including legislating to supplement fiqh, provided that the Shari’a is not infringed thereby. The call for unification of fiqh and siyasa points to the concept of Oneness of Allah (Tawhid) as defined by Ibn Taymiyya and following him Ibn Abdul Wahhab (d.1792).   Ibn Abdul Wahhab had distinguished the concept of  tawhid al-rububiyya and tawhid al-uluhiyya, i.e, between acknowledging that Allah is the sole creator , and that serving Him as such characterizes one as a Muslim. A Muslim is, seen from his perspective, a believer who acts in accordance with his belief, in fiqh as well in siyasa (Bramsen 2007, p.23). Therefore, many fatwas formulated by legal scholars regarding the society are strongly based on Qur’an, Sunnah and Qiyas. Giving few examples in Saudi; the rulings of women driving cars, women shaking hands with non-mahram, women working with men and on mixing in education are highly contested by many Muslim and non-Muslim scholars.
For Modernist, as pointed out by An-Na’im, to Muslims, Shari’a is the ‘whole duty of mankind’, moral pastoral theology and ethics, high spiritual aspiration, and detailed ritualistic and formal observance; it encompasses all aspects of public and private laws, hygiene, and even courtesy and good manners (An-Na’im 1990). Shari’a was characterized as ‘a historical-conditioned human interpretation’ of divine sources (An-Na’im 1996, p.337) It is required to observe the basic objective of Shari’a (Maqasid Shari’a), while fiqh principles are subject to change from one time or place to another. But the problem with this view is that the so-called basic objectives of Shari’a are expressed at such high level of abstraction that they are neither distinctly Islamic nor sufficiently specific for the purposes of public policy and legislation. As soon as these principles are presented in more specific and concrete terms, they will immediately be implicated in the familiar controversies and limitations of fiqh.
The modernist group are activists who look to the early Islamic period embodying the normative ideal. Although they overlap with some neotraditionalist,modernist distinguish more sharply between substance and form, between the principles and values of Islam’s immutable revelation and the historically and socially conditioned institutions and practices that can and should be changed to meet contemporary conditions. They maintain that the regulations enshrined in the law books represent the understanding and interpretation of early jurist who applied the principles and values of Islam to their societies. They distinguish between the revealed immutable Shari’a principles and laws contained in the corpus of traditional law and those regulations in Islamic law that are contingent and relative. The latter need to be reformulated in light of the needs of modern society (Esposito 1998, p.231).
Talking about the application of Shari’a in non-muslim states for example, it causes great debates between various groups and scholars. In Australia for instance some Muslim groups request for Shari’a system to be accommodated in Australian legal system particularly in matrimonial matters such as marriage and divorce; and financial transactions. As a response to the call, the government rejected the proposal because Australia is a secular state and no religious law will be introduced in the civil society (Costello 2006). However, the striking comments of Dr Rowan Williams on accommodating Shari’a had caused an uproar.  The scholar appreciates the religion, that  Islam, for Muslims, is the way of life and Shari’a being part and parcel of their day-to-day life. In fact, the principles in Shari’a of justice, freedom and equality are made universal and appropriate for all time and places.
For many Muslims, Shari’a is the perfect blueprint in the society. Majority of Muslims agree that Shari’a is the ‘whole duty of mankind’ and it is an obligation to uphold the Shari’a system as the way of life. However, this ‘divine rule’ is at a crossroad in its implementation  due to the various ideological, political and religious groups which have differences in interpreting, analysing the local conditions and reformulating  strategies and solutions.   Throughout history, some of the Muslim states had applied the system, such Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, though not its true sense. Some are struggling and facing  suppression such as Egypt and Sudan while some Muslims in secular states are fighting for  their rights to put the system into practice. 
It is a real challenge for Muslims to unite and come to an agreed approach in carrying out the principles of Shari’a into the society they live in.


The study will analyse and examine the threat perceptions of terrorism in relation to the world politics, culture and security. The empirical study on the subject matter is used to help understand the focal issue of security. The result(s) of the study would suggest alternative measures in security policy-making exercise.
The studies of International Relations are challenged by several key concepts when dealing with security. For decades, security issues were discussed by political analysts to formulate the framework of what security is, security for whom, how  security can be achieved and other issues surrounding the concept (Williams 2008). 
The tensions caused by the ‘War on Terror’ by the U.S had brought the issue of terrorism to the forefront of western security thinking. The September 11 attacks on the U.S’s symbols of power; the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon had panicked the U.S. The threats to its hegemony security policy had lead to the termination of the two regimes, Iraq and Afghanistan, based on the assumptions that both were supportive of terrorism activities. These, and the many subsequent acts of terrorism in Africa, Europe, Russia and Middle East have alerted political analysts to the need to examine the emergence of  the threat perceptions of terrorism.
Putting the issues in perspective, the major objective of terrorist violence is to instil anxiety in a target population; this anxiety places pressure on political elites to negotiate and make concessions with the terrorists in order to mollify the frightened citizens (Friedland and Merrari 1985). 
Long argues that terrorists often use the unreasonable fear and the resulting political disaffection it has generated among the public to intimidate governments into making political concessions in line with its political goals (Long 1992,5). Wardlaw, in a specific definition, refers the act of terrorism to the use or the threat of use, of violence by an individual or a group, whether acting for or in opposition to established authority. Such action is designed to create extreme anxiety and/or fear-inducing effects to a target group larger than the immediate victims. The purpose is to coerce  that group into acceding to the political demands of the perpetrators (Wardlaw 1982, 16). 
The U.S government defines terrorism as premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience (U.S Department of State 2001, 13). 
A question arose as to why the threat perceptions of terrorism emerged. Rogers argues that most colonial powers used terror tactics to maintain control of colonies, especially during the early phases of colonization. It is also in response to the demands for independence in the early post-war years.
State terrorism too did exist, taking the examples of Stalin’s Soviet Union in the 1930s and Mao Zedong’s China in the 1950s. The two states used a form of terrorism to defend their colonies (Rogers 2008, 174). Israel’s Irgun and Hagana (Zionist’s terrorist groups) also used the terror tactics in the historical massacre at Deir Yassin in 1948 to pursue the occupation in the Palestinian land (Saleh 2000, 104). 
According to Rogers, terrorism was also used by sub-state actors to fight against the colonisation. Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) in Northern Ireland was regarded as a terrorist organisation seeking to achieve united Ireland by a sustained campaign of violence (Rogers 2008, 174). 
Sub-state terrorism can take place in different societies with various motivations and underlying drivers. Ahrari in “Why the Long War can and cannot be compared to the Cold War” argues that Al-Qaeda’s ‘global jihad’ waged against the U.S is a war of ideas, defining their fight with the U.S as a fight to defend “Islam” (Ahrari 2007, 283). 
Some discontented and frustrated individuals or groups, due to their inability and limitations, had chosen the use of violence to bring changes aspired. This can also be a root cause of terrorism. 
Democracy, with its limitations on the security forces, also provides opportunities for terrorism. Limited political participation and repressive government forces can also breed popular discontent for violence (Lutz 2010, 350). Financial gains can also be a cause of terrorism, besides others involving political, ethnic, ideology and religious  causes.
Mursheed believes terrorism is one external factor that causes insecurity to the citizens in the Western world. Terrorism depicting Muslims was put under spotlight by many commentators and analysts.  
In Europe, the threat perceptions of terrorism is compounded by the growth of the so called radical political Islam, which had emerged for two reasons. Firstly, due to the systematic disadvantage faced by Muslim groups including the economic discrimination in terms of jobs, higher unemployment rates, lower incomes, lower educational status and greater poverty. This is made worse by the documented negative perceptions amongst the majority (white European) population - the assumed threats to the European way of life and the dangers of violence posed by Muslim immigrants in their midst. Secondly, the solidarity of political Islam with the global Muslim causes, including the conflicts in Muslim majority areas outside Europe (Murshed 2011, 181). 
There is a great deal of ‘hatred’ felt by a section of Muslims towards the Western civilisation. This is understandably so due to the effects of the global jihad declared by Osama bin Laden’s war against the U.S . Osama’s jihad was triggered by the U.S’s policies towards the Muslim countries, its support of un’Islamic’ regimes in the world of Islam and its unquestioning support of Israel, which had all caused enormous misery and innumerable deaths to Muslims. The attacks on the U.S as his response had consequently given negative perceptions about the Muslims by the non-Muslims, the majority of whom are in the Western countries (Murshed 2011, 182). Negative perceptions lead to discriminations, thus the hatred.
The Neo-Orientalism discourses on new barbarism and the imaginary ‘Arab Mind’ backwardness argue that the root cause of violence and terrorism is the product of backward cultures. Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations thesis critically led the argument why it was that Muslims were involved in far more inter group violence than people of other civilisation (Tuastad 2003, 593). The Islamic world was often depicted as opposed to all that was modern and irremediably autocratic in state relations, and Islamic militants is the product of ‘Islam’s failed encounter with modernity’ (Mgbeoji 2006, 858). These cultural stereotypes had strongly influenced the threat perceptions of terrorism among the citizens. This is further reinforced by the lack of psychological readiness and cultural qualities amongst the Arabs and Islamic world. 
Yes, threat perceptions of terrorism are affected by cultural stereotypes as the orientalist discourses and media bias had successfully depicted the ugly side of the Muslims as promoters of terrorism and violence.
It is for intellectual discourses to uncover the truth about the fundamentals of Islam and the Muslim world. It is a known fact that all religions are against any form of violence and terrorism. One should understand that the Islamic scripture is open to interpretations , that Islam acknowledges and celebrates racial diversity, accepts the earlier religions as an article of faith, proponents towards inclusiveness and respects the non-Muslims either under its governance or otherwise. The practices of the prophet Muhammad, the earlier companions and later Muslim empires in Islamic history had  always been vividly critical of the Muslims and non-Muslims relations. The fundamental Islamic theology which symbolises peace, justice and universality was being masked by acts of terror and rebels which are not in line with the Islamic laws. The responses of Al-Qaeda and other groups do not truly represent Islam.
The psychological distance and narratives of ‘we’ versus ‘others’ are hindrances to efforts to mitigate the threat perceptions. If the cry is reinforced by negative perceptions and assumptions, it simply creates a stereotype that leads to the strengthening of prejudices and a hardening of positions over a protracted period. It is not helpful in removing misunderstandings and finding the middle (grey) ground in complicated situations (Hall 2007, 73). The security and anti-terrorism policing approaches need to tackle both the intellectual and psychological burdens.
The threat perceptions of terrorism are tools to increase prejudice against the threatening out-groups and strengthen cause of ethnocentrism, intolerance and desire for retaliation (Grant and Brown 1995) in order to achieve political, economic and/or religious goals. 
It is clear that terrorism will remain a major security threat for years to come. Security debates on the perceptions of threat inflicted by any dissident’s terrorist groups are ongoing and yet to combat terrorism is not an easy effort. There are too many targets. Terrorists have the advantage to choose targets that are not defended (Lutz 2010, 357). 
Looking at terrorism from the perspectives of war, crime or disease is useful for analysis and pinpointing problems that occurred. Security measures dealing with terrorist threats are likely to require flexibility, and government security forces will have to change techniques as circumstances change.
Ahrari E M 2007, “Why The Long War Can and Cannot Be Compared To The Cold War”, Comparative Strategy, vol.26.
Freinland, Nehemia, And Ariel Merrari 1985,”The Psychological Impact Of Terrorism: A Double-Edged Sword”, Political Psychology, Vol.6, No.4 591
Goodwin R 2005, “Terror Threat Perception and Its Consequences in Contemporary Britain”, British Journal Of Psychology.
Hall R 2007, “The Sociology Of Terrorism”, Rusi Journal, Jun
Huddy L 2005, “Threat, Anxiety and Support of antiterrorism policies”, American Journal of Political Science, vol.49, no.3, July 
Long D 1992, The Anatomy Of Terrorism, New York: Free Press
Lutz B 2010 Contemporary Security Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Mgbeoji I 2006, “The Civilised Self And The Barbaric Other: Imperial Delusions Of Order And The Challenges Of Human Security”, Third World Quarterly, Vol 27, No.5
Murshed S M 2011, “Threat Perceptions in Europe: Domestic Terrorism And International Crime”, Defence And Peace Economics, Vol.22, No.2 April.
Rogers P 2008, Security Studies: An Introduction. New York: Routledge
Saleh M M 2000, History of Palestine. Egypt: Al-Falah Foundation.
Tuastad D 2003, “Neo-Orientalism And The New Barbarism Thesis: Aspects Of Symbolic Violence In The Middle East Conflicts”, Third World Quarterly, Vol.24, No.4.
U.S Department of State 2001, Annual Country Report on Terrorism, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office.
Wardlaw G 1982, Political Terrorism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Williams P D 2008, Security Studies: An Introduction. New York: Routledge

Islamisation in Education: A Case Study Of Australia

The paper focuses on the impact of Islamisation in education among the young Muslim generations in Australia. The study will highlight how the process and its development may change some aspects of young Muslim generations particularly with respect to the character and societal building. Some references and literatures on the historical background, the influence of Islamic resurgence and the comprehensive message of Islam will be included.

Islam is not only a question of belief; it also deals with identity, practice and the future. When the first revelation of Iqra (read) came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him), the question of belief in the oneness of Allah was raised. Allah made it clear to him about the message of Islam, that Islam is a blessing to all mankind. Acquiring knowledge is one way to know Allah, His Attributes and His Miracles. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) encouraged his companions to seek knowledge. Knowledge is the gateway to understanding Islam, the spiritual part of it as well as all regards to the worldly affairs. Prophet Muhammad also said ‘I am the city of knowledge and Ali is the gateway to it’ (Tirmidhi).

This  knowledge-seeking culture had greatly changed the society’s dimension: from darkness  to light. From Jahiliya (ignorance), the Prophet’s companions had changed to become the best generation. Knowledge and character building come hand-in-hand, thus the outstanding characters of the companions.

Few decades later, during the Abbasid empire, Islamic civilisation was at its peak when Islam was regarded as the lighthouse to the whole world, spreading values and technology; religion and worldly affairs.

The integration of knowledge in Islam has always been highly recommended by the scholars of Islam. What kind of integration of knowledge should be observed? Integration of Islamic knowledge refers to the system of education which combine the Islamic teachings and the universal (worldly) knowledge. Originally, the system  was to produce Islamic scholars as of the scholars of Islam during the best generation who not only were masters in technology, science and philosophy but were also pious servants of Allah. Emulating these noble characters will be a real challenge for modern generation Muslims as the secular system and environment are the main hindrances towards achieving such goals. 

Australia would be a good example when discussing the Islamisation of knowledge and its impact. It would be necessary, for this case study, to appreciate some historical points of how Islam had reached ‘down under’ and how part of 1.71 per cent Muslims (Australia Bureau of Statistic 2006) in Australia struggled in trying to observe and preserve their religion-culture identity.

Islam’s connection to Australia can be traced back to the time before the European settlement, as early as 1788 (Matthews, 1995). The arrival of the Malay Macassan fishing crews and traders were followed by the Afghan camel drivers. These early Muslim traders were among the first visitors to establish an economic enterprise, founding Australia’s first ‘modern industry’. Unlike later European settlements Malay enterprise encroached little on the Aboriginal way of life. More lasting is their place in Aboriginal history and culture. They came intermittently as visitors, revealing only parts of Islam. While day-to-day contact would have made Aborigines aware of prayer times and burial practices, Islam as a way of life had little impact on Australia. In 1875, it was estimated that there were 1,800 Malays working in Western Australian waters. In 1930s, the Malays built a mosque in Broome of Western Australia (Matthews, 1997).

Another group of Muslims to settle in Australia were the Afghans. Their camels had made it possible for them to gain access to the vast interior of the Australian continent. They further proved themselves during the construction of Overland Telegraph Line in 1870-72, contributing to both the survey and construction work and carrying loads of materials into otherwise impenetrable country. By 1898, the Muslim community in Coolgardie, Western Australia numbered 300 members with 80 on average, attending Friday prayer (Bilal Cleland 2001, p.17). More mosques and Islamic Centres were established following a great increase in the Muslim population. Statistics shows that 1971  population of 22,311 increased to 340,392 in 2006 (Australian Bureau of Statistic 2007).

The growing Muslim population, in a way, had infused some development of Islamic education in shaping the Muslim identity and way of life. Individuals and groups started to be aware of the impact of the secular education system in Australia. Knowing that it would eventually erode the Muslim identity, the Muslims began to   formulate and develop Islamic education system inline with the national system as well as create Islamic environment among the society.
A study by Theodore Pulcini on Muslim discourse on education in the United States identified a number of potential educational options available to Muslim parents, each requiring a different level of participation and commitment both from parents  and the Muslim community (Pulcini 1990, p.127).The options suggested by Pulcini provide a useful framework for discussing how the educational needs of Muslim children could be met in non-Muslim countries. This framework will be applied to the Australian context. Pulcini refers to these educational options as sub-cultural, counter-cultural, accommodationist and assimilationist.

Translated into practical outcomes, the sub-cultural option is characterised by parents or the Muslim community establishing separate Islamic schools, outside the existing state-controlled system, to provide an education which reflects Islamic values and practices. Since 1983, more than 30 full-time Islamic schools have been established throughout Australia carrying the spirit of Islamic education (Galea, 2008). Much of debate on educating the Muslim children, both in Australia or other Muslim-minority countries, has focused on Islamic schools. However, the study confirmed that 90 per cent of Muslim children attend government schools. It is therefore important that issues such the relationships between curriculum, pedagogy and Islamic cultural values  also be considered.

These relationships provide the focus for the counter-cultural option which sees parents retaining their children within the secular mainstream education system while actively pursuing the cause of ensuring that Islamic knowledge be introduced into the system. The curriculum is also monitored for anti-Muslim sentiments and contents. Certain matters too need to be explained, such as the celebration of Christmas events and social parties which are against the  Islamic teachings. This option requires the Muslim community to take responsibility for religious education, including Qur’anic and Islamic instructions, which are not provided in the mainstream schools. In Australia, some Muslim parents send their children to weekend schools in Islamic centres or mosques while others send their children for private tuitions focusing on Qur’anic and Islamic studies.

Parents and Muslim communities who adopt the accommodationist option believe that Islamic education is the responsibility of the parents. Learning to live within the new society and being accepted by their peers in a conflict-free manner  is however, important for survival as Muslims in a non-Muslim country. Therefore, their children will need to adapt to the secular education of the mainstream school and integrate  it with the ethnically-based education at home. Such an option requires parents and family members to be role models of Islamic belief and practices. Parents themselves must have some knowledge of Islam in order to impart it to their children. Parents too must practise the Islamic teachings and be of good character for the children to emulate. 

The assimilationist option is adopted generally by those Muslims who describe themselves as not very religious. Such Muslims have developed a secular view of religion as the marker of ethnic identity. Assimilationists are concerned with acceptance into mainstream society and see education as the means of achieving this.

As the framework, Muslims in Australia have chosen all of these options for reasons that reflect their diversity of education level, cultural background and personal experiences. Based on the 1996 Australian census, Muslims in Australia are culturally and linguistically diverse and largely of immigrant origin.

Tirana Hassan indicates how the new generations balance the conflicts between the demands of ethnic-religious identity and Australian society. Her study revealed that some Muslim students are proud to be Muslims and practise the Islamic teachings  in the public schools or universities. This is particularly so for females who are not ashamed to wear hijab to class and observe their prayers. Some though  try  to hide their religious identity while others identify themselves by ethniciy, not religion.  For instance, an eighteen years old Indian Muslim of Malaysian decent said: “It depends on who I’m with .  At the university, some of the Malays ask if I’m a Muslim and I always say  yes, but with the Australians who try to make out why I look like I do, I will tell them that I am a Malaysian” (Hassan 1995, p.46). The question of identity; ‘who I am’ is really an interesting subject in a multiracial country like Australia.  Will the young Muslim generations still have a strong tie to Islam or will they be assimilated to the secular mainstream?

Irene Donohoue Clyne, an educationist, discuss the struggle of Muslims in Australia to achieve a culturally appropriate education for their children, and the expectations of the Muslim communities towards the education system.
With the increasing number of Australian-born Muslims (36% of Muslim), it does affect the thinking and expectation of the parents; that education is essential to achieve a secure future and it is a need to seek the best educational option for their children (Clyne, 2001, p.119). With the largely immigrant communities which were shaped by various cultural background, previous education and the strength of their religious belief, Irene argued that the Australian education system does not meet these expectations. 

So what are the expectations? ‘Education which is religious’ is the most important educational need when the Muslim communities were asked about their expectations on education for their children. What does this mean? Is there any difference between religious education and ‘education which is religious’? Education which is religious is a more comprehensive term, for it includes a belief that education will be infused with both religious teachings and practises, in all areas of the curriculum and of life. An education that will drive the young Muslim generations to succeed in this world and the hereafter.

This expectation, however, was articulated in many different ways. Some  mentioned; ‘learning appropriate behaviour’, ‘fostering Islamic identity’, ‘providing skills and knowledge for good future’ and many others. A Somali respondent explained that ‘What Muslim children need most in their Islamic education is an education that encompasses all aspects of life with qualified teachers. It is not only important teaching Arabic language and memorising the Holy Qur’an, but children need to be taught how to become good citizens and how to form families’ unity in solidarity’.

In recent years, these expectations reflect the belief of Muslim communities towards the teachingss of Islam. The Islamisation of education which is comprehensive, balanced and ‘secure the future’ is acceptable among the majority Muslim communities in Australia. The development of this process could be seen through the establishment of Islamic centres and schools, forums and discourses in bridging the unity between Muslim and non-Muslims. The government policies like building prayer areas in public places such as universities, hospitals and airports are laudable efforts. The Islamic non-governmental organisations (NGO) and societies’  continuous and tireless efforts to build better Muslim communities and Islamic societies are also commendable.

The Islamisation that is taking place in the modern Muslim communities had a great impact on building more than 165,845 (ABS 2006) young Muslim generations. The voices of anti-Muslim and racial discrimination are on the rise. On the other hand, AbdulKarim Galea stated that the products of private Islamic schools had recorded  excellent achievements to enable them to proceed to the tertiary levels in the fields of education, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, laws and economics. A great number had served in the public and private sectors as doctors, pharmacists, engineers,lawyers and in other professions (Galea 2008).

The Islamic curriculum and values learnt in the schools definitely shaped the mind and manners to be good citizens with strong  faith. It is also found that many Muslim students, who are the products of secular education (public school) and excel in their studies and career, find it difficult  to position themselves in the Muslim communities. They are good Australians but had failed to observe their religious duties, some to the extent of being involved in alcoholism, illegitimate sexual intercourse and gambling, which are prohibited in Islam. Going against the Islamic values put them at odds with the practising Muslims.

The positive impact of Islamisation in education can also be seen in the new generations being active within the society at large. They work hand-in-hand with the  other Australians to build a better Australia for all.
To spread the spirit of Islam which is mercy to mankind, Islamic societies play a significant role in training Muslim activists to do da’wah and clear any misunderstandings about Islam . Mosques and Islamic organisations run by young pious, energetic and creative Muslims work towards the betterment,  the Islamic way. It is in fact a global phenomena,the young leading the society.

Undoubtedly, any bad incidents caused by Muslims will tarnish the whole image of Muslims in Australia (Ata 2009, p.9). For example, in the 2002 gang rape incident by Australian-Lebanese Muslim youths sparked negative views on Muslim (Kabir, 2004, p. 295). Australian Muslim Times published AFIC’s statement condemning this malicious act and urge the media not to link them with Islam. The crime committed was acted independently and not attributed to their religious or cultural background (AFIC 2002).

There are challenges for an Islamic education system to work in the minority Muslim countries. It needs the strong support of the community to run the Islamic Centres - centres for learning and long life education programs. Parents and teachers should be  the ‘backbone’ to make it work. The Islamic curriculum should be well integrated with the national curriculum so as to make sure that the ‘products’ of the Islamic education system are ‘marketable’. Inculcating good manners, skills and knowledge will help Muslim students to be good Muslims as well as good citizens. Discourses to understand the Muslims would be beneficial in bridging the gaps between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. It will also dispel misunderstanding and negative views about Islam and Muslims. Open Mosque Day, intellectual discourses, briefings and Muslim NGOs visit to politicians and government officials would be good steps towards achieving this.

As the world changes today, the relevance of Islam is being  questioned by many. What is Islam? What does Islam do? How can Islam shape the society? These   questions can best be answered when everyone look at it with an open mind and without prejudice. Open our hearts, minds & eyes seeking the truth. Indeed,  Islamic education is of utmost importance to all Muslims. Not giving it due attention will jeopardise the future of the Muslim generations.

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