'Banning Muslims' Not A Solution Says Christian Islam Expert - Hope 103.2

‘Banning Muslims’ Not A Solution Says Christian Islam Expert

Support is growing for a 'close the doors to Muslims' policy, but one Christian commentator & Islam expert says it's an uninformed and unnecessary approach.

By Clare BruceFriday 22 Jul 2016NewsReading Time: 5 minutes

Listen: Dr Richard Shumack of the Centre for Public Christianity talks to Clare Bruce 

A new political divide is emerging in Australia, between supporters of multicultural immigration and those who want to “close the doors to Muslims”.

Television personality Sonia Kruger famously led the charge this week on the ‘close the doors’ front, airing her fears about radical Islam on Channel 9’s Today show.

Federal MP Pauline Hanson followed by speaking on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night about her wish to stop to Muslim immigration.

There’s Christian leaders in that camp too, including Fred Nile from the Christian Democratic Party who wrote on Facebook after the Orlando massacre about his desire to see Islamic immigrants restricted.

But other Christian leaders say a religion-based “close the doors” approach is shallow, uninformed, and unhelpful—including Islam researcher and Christian teacher Dr Richard Shumack from the Centre for Public Christianity.

Closing The Doors Policy Oversimplified and Dangerous

Women and children in refugee camp in Greece

Eidomeni, Greece – March 17, 2016: Two women walk with their children in a refugee camp. Picture: Dinos Michail / istock

Dr Shumack holds a PhD in Islamic Philosophy and has worked extensively with Somali Muslim refugees in Australia. He told Hope 103.2 that while the fears of Sonia Kruger, Pauline Hanson and their supporters are understandable, their selective-immigration approach is flawed, simplistic, and at worst dangerous.

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“It’s certainly true that you do have radicalised elements within the Muslim community in Australia already, and some are from recent refugee populations,” he said. “So I think it’s right to say there’s the possibility, and a real risk [of radical individuals emerging among Muslim immigrants].”

“But Sonja Kruger and Pauline Hanson are just overblowing the risk to ridiculous proportions that misrepresent the reality of just how dangerous things are.”

He said the debate was being oversimplified, and that the religion of Islam is far more complex and diverse than many people realise.

“You’re speaking about a religion that has close to 2 billion people in the world,” he said. “It’s very rich and it’s complex and there are people there from many different cultures and backgrounds and educations, and lots of different theologies within that. So to say that ‘all Muslims believe this’, or ‘Islam is just this’, is absolutely oversimplifying.”

What I Would Say To Sonia Kruger

Dr Richard Shumack

Dr Richard Shumack. Picture: Centre for Public Christianity

When asked what he would say to Sonja Kruger if he had a chance to meet her, Mr Shumack said he would encourage her to get to know Muslim people—especially those who had fled from violence themselves and simply want to live in peace.

“In a nutshell I think the key thing I’d say to her is you have to distinguish between ideological Islam and the vast majority of Muslims, particularly refugees who are in very very great need and who don’t buy into ideological Islam,” he said.

“You need to understand the landscape of what’s happening in Islam.

“You have to distinguish between ideological Islam and the vast majority of Muslims…who don’t buy into ideological Islam”

“Most Muslims don’t agree on what Islam even is. And so just realise that the fears are real, and of course we need to take Islamism seriously, but don’t be afraid where there’s no real need for fear.

“The vast majority of refugees, in particular, are in very great need and I’d encourage her to go and meet some of the families that I’ve spent time with and listen to their stories. And at the very least, have compassion that overrides fear.”

He quoted the Bible saying that “love drives out fear”.

“Fears are real, and the Bible says ‘don’t be afraid’ for a reason, because there are things to fear,” he said, “but I think love has to govern our fear. Love has to be the overriding expression of what it is to build a society.”

What Muslim Immigrants Have Brought to Australia

Muslim family meal

Muslims have brought many great values to Australia, said Mr Shumack, including their love of community and family, and their devotion to God. To that list he added – while admitting the superficiality of the comment – their great food.

“Most Australians recognise that one of the great strengths of Australia is its multicultural features,” he said. “Beyond food there are so many ways that we are richer because we are a mixture from so many different cultures.

“One of the key things for me in working within a Muslim community was, there’s so much we as Australians can learn in areas of hospitality, and in seeing things in a community way rather than just an individual way.

“Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity…so there’s a lot of alignment between the moral values”

“Many Muslims take their faith very seriously and are more than happy to be public faith people, things like that. There’s lots of really brilliant things about Muslim communities that I really enjoy.”

The moral values of moderate Islam are in many ways similar to Christian values, he added.

“Islam grew out of Judaism and Christianity – this is not just me speaking as a Christian, Muslims will say this too,” Mr Shumack said. “And it inherited the moral framework and the theistic framework. So there’s a lot of alignment between the moral values of Islam and Christianity.

“The vast majority of Muslims, 80 to 85 percent, are moderate in the sense that they are not ideologically Islamic, they don’t want to see Islam becoming the state religion, and they live ordinary lives, trying to live morally good lives before God and in the community. They want to just get a job and work hard and provide for their families.”

We Still Need to Uphold Freedom of Speech

On Monday night, a group of protestors rallied outside the ABC studios in Sydney to protest against “Islamophobia”, while another group rallied in support of Pauline Hanson, holding placards with statements like “multiculturalism has utterly failed”.

A strong police presence kept the groups apart and up to six people were arrested said the ABC.

One anti-fear protester told the ABC that part of their complaint was against the ABC inviting Ms Hanson to speak; Hanson supporters spoke out for freedom of speech.

“We are free to speak, I just think we need to take that freedom and speak wisely and carefully and compassionately.”

In his interview with Hope 103.2, Mr Shumack said that while not every policy suggestion was helpful, nobody should be silenced.

“Of course free speech is important,” he said, “…but from my perspective Pauline Hanson’s position is at best ignorant and at worst foolish and dangerous.”

He admitted Ms Hanson was giving voice to an important issue.

“I think we need to move that conversation beyond simplistic and unhelpful comments, but we certainly can’t shut down a conversation,” he said. “[Pauline Hanson] was responding to a very very real issue; ideological Islam is a real issue around the world. Radicalised Muslims are involved in terrorism. That’s a real thing. It’s a real risk. Particularly in Europe. So it’s foolish to shut down that conversation.

“We are free to speak, I just think we need to take that freedom and speak wisely and carefully and compassionately.”