Interfaith Dialogue



As noted by Bilici (2012) prior to September 11, Muslim religious leaders and community members in the USA were not great participants in the interfaith scene. Since September 11, there has been an awakened recognition that interfaith dialogue and outreach provides a key avenue for increasing the capacity of Muslims to become actively engaged citizens. It enables Muslims to build political and social capital with other religious and civil society organisations, to gain the attention of political parties as subjects with rights, and to increase harmony within the broader political community. In particular, Interfaith activism is used as a platform for grounding Islam in the religious landscape, addressing misconceptions about Islam found the West, and increasing the legitimacy of Islam as a Western religion. Bilici (2012) regards interfaith dialogue and action as powerful means of addressing Islamophobia in the USA, while providing a vocabulary for strengthening inclusion and equal citizenship, all of which responds to the emphasis placed on religion in US civil society and formal politics.

In Melbourne, interfaith networks have also become a popular means for increasing public and civic engagement and addressing misconceptions that lead to Islamophobia. For example, the participants in Melbourne viewed interfaith dialogue as an important vehicle for community engagement, outreach and dawah (preaching of Islam) as well as to build leadership skills and enhanced confidence in one’s faith. Participants understood individual involvement in interfaith activities to provide many benefits, primarily enhancing respect for people from different faiths and cultures, while also deepening recognition of the values that faith communities share, and providing a language through which Islamophobia might be addressed and challenged.

The first thing … we teach is family, respect parents, respect who come to mosque, also friends, and non-Muslim friends cause they study in the schools… We are teaching respect.  Our slogan is respect. We do the interfaith mosque tour… Also non-Muslim students come here when they are studying religion in year nine and ten so they go to some Greek Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, also coming here.  So we try our best to explain what we are doing here and we accept all their questions, sometimes funny, but youth you know?
— Imam Salih Dogan, Melbourne