Again Ali Kazak, in his piece "How is Wilders different to these?" (8/3), has unfairly attacked the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), suggesting we harbour racist sentiments against Muslims.
To assess the substance of his claims, it is necessary to provide some background information on both AIJAC and also on our accuser.
AIJAC has a long and proud history of promoting multiculturalism, interfaith dialogue, a non-discriminatory immigration policy and advocating for laws that protect people of all faiths and ethnicities from racial hatred in Australia.
AIJAC's Director of Community Affairs, Jeremy Jones, AM, was a key player in the NGO Coalition Against Racism, was the Convenor of Faith Communities for Reconciliation, is a founding participant in the Australian Partnership of Religious Organisations and the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews and established Community Alert Against Racial Violence. He has spoken in a number of mosques and Muslim schools in Australia, was invited by the peak national Muslim body to be a speaker at the launch of the booklet "Appreciating Islam" in 2003, and has engaged in constructive interreligious activities with Muslim colleagues in South East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. His advocacy of Jewish-Muslim (and other interfaith) dialogue has led to him being invited to participate in intergovernmental and other international fora on inter-religious engagement on many occasions over the past 15 years.
AIJAC National Chairman Mark Leibler, AC, served on the board of Reconciliation Australia from 2000 until 2011 and was its co-Chair from 2005 until 2011. Since 2012, he has served as Co-Chair of the Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians appointed by the Federal government.
As for myself, I served from 1997 until 2006 as a member of the Federal Government's Council for a Multicultural Australia and its predecessor, the National Multicultural Advisory Council, and helped draft key policy documents related to Australian Multiculturalism.
AIJAC has hosted a series of interfaith "Conversations" where speakers have included Muslim scholars from countries as diverse as the USA, India, Indonesia, Bosnia and Israel. Australian participants have included Sunni and Shia Muslims from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We invite, and actively promote, open and frank discussions in efforts to challenge bigotry and prejudice founded in ignorance. As recently as February 15, AIJAC hosted a function for a Jewish-Muslim relations activist, Indian Muslim academic, Dr Navras Aafreedi, Assistant Professor in History, Gautam Buddha University,
Academics, journalists, politicians and others who are investigating racism in Australia regularly consult AIJAC for our expertise in analysis of antisemitism and religious bigotry and our documentation of extremist organisations.
AIJAC did not support Geert Wilders' visit to Australia, publicly opposes his beliefs on Islam, and urged members of the Jewish community - and everyone else - not to give credence to him or provide him with oxygen. An article criticising Wilders was published in the latest issue of our magazine, the Australia/Israel Review.
Ali Kazak is an Australian Palestinian who became the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Australia in 1981 and later, when the Oslo Accords were signed in 1994, became head of the General Palestinian Delegation in Canberra. He was replaced in that role in 2006 by Izzat Abdulhadi.
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