The University of South Australia’s Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding has been successful in securing $100,000 in funding to support the development of a DVD and education kit for schools that aims to dispel key misunderstandings about Muslims through a deepening of the link between diversity and democracy.
The DVD project – Everything you always wanted to know about Muslims but were afraid to ask – has been funded under the Attorney General’s Department Building Community Resilience Grants Program which was established to build community resilience to violent extremism and to engender cooperation and understanding.
Director of the Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, Professor Salman Sayyid, says the primary object of the DVD is educational.
“We’re aiming to produce a DVD that will empower people, especially teachers, to initiate discussion and learning about Muslims and to dispel some of those ‘urban myth’ stereotypes about Muslims,” Prof Sayyid says.
“The DVD will be a starting point to wider classroom and group debate about the factors that lead to extremism and violence, about racism, and about multiculturalism and the development of harmonious communities.”
Prof Sayyid says the project is a natural extension of the Centre’s research to address the key misunderstandings that cloud relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“Our aim will be to distil the Centre’s research into an interactive format that increases student and community engagement with the key issues that undermine community resilience,” he says.
“The DVD will provide an entry point through which often avoided subjects can be debated as part of a democratic ethos.”
He says the project will also build capacity through the development of accompanying teaching material which will provide educators and professional staff with the skills and competencies to set up interactive dialogue sessions and foster opportunities for open dialogue about issues of violence, prejudice, and extremism.
“I think it will give young adults the vocabulary to understand multiculturalism and see democracy as practice rather than just a slogan by making them more aware of the challenge of understanding citizens who happen to be Muslim,” Prof Sayyid said.
The DVD and materials will be developed over the next 12 months and are part of the Centre’s mission to enhance communication about Muslim and non-Muslim relationships.
For example, this month, in conjunction with the Australia Day Council, the Centre launched Australia’s first Award for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding.
The aim of the award is to recognise good practice, but also help generate conversations between people of faith and non-faith. The award is open to people of any or no religious affiliation and will be presented to a person or organisation that has made an outstanding contribution to furthering understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim people. Nomination forms are available online and will be received up until August 31.
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