The Positive and Negative of Australia’s Multi-Faith/Cultural Society

Christian takes helm at Islamic school (the positive)


Guiding principal: Dr Ray Barrett with some of the pupils at Malek Fahd in  Greenacre. Photo: Peter Rae

It is Australia’s largest, oldest, and best-known Muslim school, but for the first time in its 23-year history, Malek Fahd has appointed a Christian to take on the full-time role of headmaster.

A career educationist and experienced private school inspector, Ray Barrett is supposed to be in retirement, but he has agreed to take on the top job and help the Greenacre school get back on track.

And while the appointment of Dr Barrett was a surprise choice for some, a spokesman for the school board said he was chosen for his qualifications and experience, and his religion didn’t come into it.

When he first met parents, one asked Dr Barrett how he would deal with the issue of Islamic studies. He told the parents the same way he deals with HSC physics – another subject he knows nothing about – rely on the experts.

”This is a top-performing school and you will find graduates that are doctors, lawyers and dentists,” said Dr Barrett ”The parents are aspirational. They want their kids to achieve and take the next step in life.

”This school is no different to any other, they have universal values and I want to help the kids to be the best they can.”

Malek Fahd has almost 2500 students, across three campuses – more than 2000 are at the Greenacre campus – and there is a long waiting list which has been frozen because the school has exceeded its capacity. It has received most of its funding from state and federal government grants. But it has also been the subject of controversy after the previous two principals were removed and allegations that the school had been operating for profit.The state government stopped funds to the school and ordered it repay the funding it had received since 2010. The federal government also ordered an audit of the school after allegations of mismanagement.

But Dr Barrett said auditors and investigators have spent weeks going through the school records and so far they have found everything to be in order.

Dr Barrett, who has turned around troubled schools, including a Muslim school in Canberra, said his job is to restore confidence. He said the most important thing he had learnt is that ”under the surface we are all the same”.

Shame, shame, shame’: Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher abused for taking oath on Koran (the negative)

Ed Husic, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary for Broadband, during the swearing-in ceremony at Government House with Governor-General Quentin Bryce.

 The Prime Minister’s new parliamentary secretary, Ed Husic, has been  subjected to a torrent of abuse online for being sworn in to his position with a  Koran.

Mr Husic became Australia’s first Muslim frontbencher on Monday when he was  appointed to Kevin Rudd’s new-look ministry as parliamentary secretary to the  Prime Minister and parliamentary secretary for broadband.

“This is a wonderful day for multiculturalism, and everything it stands for  in our country,” Governor-General Quentin Bryce told Mr Husic during the  swearing-in ceremony in Canberra on Monday.

Ed Husic, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary  Secretary for Broadband, during the swearing-in ceremony at Government House  with Governor-General Quentin Bryce. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

However, after receiving dozens of messages of congratulations on his  Facebook page, the comments quickly turned to disgust and outrage that he had  chosen to be sworn in on the Muslim holy book.


Some called it un-Australian and unconstitutional.

“Our allegiance should have been to Queen and Country first Ed. That means  saying the oath on the holy bible not the Koran…. Shame, Shame, Shame,” posted  one user, Ross Peace. “I am so disappointed in this government that they don’t  have the spine to stand up for the Australian way of life.”

Ed Husic, with the copy of the Koran with which he was sworn in as a parliamentary secretary.Ed Husic, with the copy of the Koran with which he was sworn in as a  parliamentary secretary. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Another user, Therese Pearce, said she was “disgusted and embarrassed” for  the Australian people.

“Hell i might just have to use snow white and the 7 dwarfs next time i take  the oath for australia,” she posted.

One user, Anna Dean, claimed his decision to be sworn in on the Koran  undermined “our culture and country and constitution in this way”.

Another user, Carrie Forrest, accused him of disregarding Australia’s  constitution and pushing for sharia.

Mr Husic has previously said that he is a moderate Muslim who does not  involve himself heavily with most of the religious customs and behaviours of the  faith.

Asked about his religion in 2010, he told the ABC: “If someone asks me, ‘Are  you Muslim?’ I say yes. And then if someone says, ‘Well do you pray and go to a  mosque and do all the other things that are associated with the faith?’ I say  no.

“I often get told that I describe myself as non-practising when in actual  fact I don’t go round saying that. Like I just say ‘I’m Muslim.’ ”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said people should respect Mr Husic’s choice. ‘‘I respect his choice,’’ he told reporters in Melbourne. ‘‘I think the  Australian people should as well.’’

President of the Anti-Discrimination Board and chairman of the NSW Community  Relations Commission Stepan Kerkyasharian said it was “a sad day for any  society” when someone is abused because of their religion.

He said Mr Husic could act as a valuable bridge between the Muslim community  and would put Australia at an advantage in the international community.

“It should be an interesting and positive milestone that someone of migrant  heritage has come to Australia and has now, through our democratic process,  reached a position of leadership,” he said.

Mr Husic, 43, the son of Bosnian Muslim migrants, became the first Muslim to  be elected to Parliament when he won his western Sydney seat of Chifley in the  2010 election with 51.58 per cent of votes, almost double that of his next  competitor.

In 2010, he was sworn into Federal Parliament alongside members from several  religions. Kooyong member Josh Frydenberg and Melbourne Ports member Michael  Danby were sworn in on the Jewish bible.

Lawyer and community rights advocate Mariam Veiszadeh said there was too  often an assumption that being a good Australian citizen and a good Muslim were  “mutually exclusive concepts”.

“You can be a devout Jew and a good Australian parliamentarian who serves  your country just as equally as you can be a practising Muslim and a good  Australian citizen and politician,” she said.

“It is ignorant for people to conflate irrelevant issues and it stems from  the Muslim bashing that has been going on in this country for a decade.”

Mr Husic played down the abuse on Tuesday afternoon by saying that people  were entitled in a democracy to question his choice to be sworn in using a Koran  and the public should not necessarily jump ‘‘because of harsh words out of dark  corners’’.

‘‘[People] may have questions and they may have concerns and people are right  to raise that,’’ he said. ‘‘But I also think you’ll have, from time to time,  people of the extremes. There are people that are definitely extreme … and  they will always try to seek ways in which to divide people. The important thing  is [that] mainstream Australia wants everyone to work together.’’

He said he had been ‘‘heartened’’ by the huge number of congratulatory  messages.

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2 thoughts on “The Positive and Negative of Australia’s Multi-Faith/Cultural Society

  1. What chances a Muslim being principal of a Christian school.


    In fact to apply to be a member of staff they want to know what you believe about gays, evolution, the rapture, sex.

    I didn’t get accepted when I told them in my interview the rapture and 6 day creationism was a load of bollocks.

  2. In our Christian school they had a questionaire for prospective staff, which included this gem :

    “What is your attitude to sport on Sunday?”

    They used to reject kids whose parents were living together and not married. Then two of the existing kids’ parents left their respective partners and formed a relationship.

    I suppose they should have expelled the kids for that.

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