بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
I begin in the name of Allah, the Most Gracious the Most Merciful, I thank Allah for bringing us together and I ask Allah to send blessings and salutations upon His messenger Muhammad, his family, his companions and all those who follow his guidance.
I would like to thank the OIC study group for organizing this auspicious event. I would like to acknowledge my fellow speakers and express the honour I feel in being invited to be among such esteemed company.
It is with great pleasure that I stand with you representing the peak Muslim body in Australia, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, a body that represents all the mainstream Muslims of Australia and has been doing so since 1963..
No matter what one feels about Covid 19, it is indeed a crisis that is reshaping the world before our eyes, it is changing the way we greet each other, the way we interact, the way we pray and the way we work. It has impacted every aspect of our lives. Citizens in different countries have felt the effects of Covid 19 in different ways to others. In that sense, it has certainly highlighted the difference in governance and which models provide for the welfare of the people well and which are failing their people.
The teachings of Islam with respect to epidemics have been very helpful in locations where these teachings could be practiced, however, Muslims in many parts of the world do not have the luxury of upholding some of these teachings. For example, Muslims in Gaza who don’t have sufficient access to water sanitation are not in the same position as the first world countries that do including and especially the rogue occupying Zionist state. Failing states like my home country Lebanon have shown just how unprepared their governments are to deal with emergency situations. Muslims in Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, East Turkistan just to name a few places feel the impact of Covid 19 and suffer more than people in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Canada, Australia and similar nations.
Last Saturday, the city of Melbourne increased its restrictions to “hard lockdown”, more than 3000 people in 9 public towers were forced to remain indoors, prisoners in their own homes for almost a week all because when the restrictions were reduced, many injected themselves into large gatherings where they contracted the virus and spread it unwittingly.
We believe in the promise of Allah that with every hardship comes ease, but we’re still in the middle of Covid 19 and we have no idea how long it will take before any form of normal returns.
Normal is unlikely to be the same norm that we lived before Covid 19. Many groups are lobbying for a different kind of normal. Many of these groups have Muslims in their midst who have not been able to find another vehicle to pursue their concerns.
We, the Muslims leaders need to plan now to ensure that our Islamic vision is represented and that it is given the opportunity to compete with other ideas for the betterment of humanity.
Whilst we may have presence in some fields, we still don’t have the potency to deliver ideas with the impact necessary to place those ideas on a level field.
Along with developing ideas, we also need to develop the ability to amplify our voice so that it can be potently asserted.
The post Covid 19 world is going to be different because Covid 19 has allowed governments the world over to pass very restrictive laws that diminish many freedoms that had been protected for a long time. Such laws will need to be wound down and we must ally with groups that work to remove these restrictive laws.
We must also reassert our values in the humanitarian arena, especially in ending violent conflicts and oppressive sanctions many of which have caused tremendous loss of especially Muslim lives.
How will we address the situation in Kashmir, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Myanmar post Covid 19? How will we address the deterioration of the environment, global warming and Islamophobia?
Do we have a shot at Muslim unity? Our division has been the most effective tool to weaken us and marginalize our contributions, do we have the courage to improve our unity and become a block again?
We must develop the courage and stamina to rise to the challenges that have been raised by Covid 19. We must ally with partners who will help us achieve unity, not through harsh predatory measures as some do, but rather through respectful consultation and cooperation.
فَبِمَا رَحْمَةٍ مِّنَ اللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ الْقَلْبِ لَانفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ وَشَاوِرْهُمْ فِي الْأَمْرِ ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ – 3:159
So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].
Covid 19 has given us the opportunity to show compassion for one another, my organisation has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to member societies to help them cope with the impact of COVID 19. Just this week, we organised for 720 sanitary hampers for the hundreds of families locked up in the public towers facing the “hard” lockdown. Let COVID 19 be the catalyst to force us back on the path of reclaiming our lost unity. In many aspects of life, we’re changing with the rest of the world, in this area, we are yet to properly plan beyond the odd conference. The cost of unity is not high, it starts with the will to unity, then with Du’a to Allah, Ta’ala and then the will to keep this unity and protect it.
If we can succeed in regrouping and rebuilding our unity, then we will succeed in achieving all our priorities and everything else that is on our wishlist.
Dr. Rateb Jneid
President, Australian Federation of Islamic Councils