Understanding is not simply a matter of developing empathy or gaining greater knowledge. Understanding also requires changing the style of thinking that initiates misunderstandings. For this reason the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding is committed to developing a distinct approach to countering the thinking and habits that lead to misunderstandings between those who are Muslims and those who are not. This means that our analytical focus is directed not towards a clash of religions or cultures but rather towards the way in which different communities encounter each other.
These encounters take place within the context of a modern, globalised world characterised by the passing of the ‘Age of Europe’ and uncertainty about the future. This passing has not only economic, geopolitical and cultural consequences but also philosophical implications. This arises from the fact that so many of our tools for understanding the world have been forged against the backdrop of a European ‘appropriation of the world’. The contrast between what was considered European, and what was not, was fundamental to the way in which the world was perceived and understood.
To create better understanding we must address how Muslims fit into contemporary communities and cultures. This requires a different perspective that re-orients the way in which we understand the world and our place in it. By concentrating on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims the MnM not only announces the subject of its concerns, or the means by which the concerns of its subjects may be addressed, but also offers us the chance to re-imagine our world.
The MnM Centre is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the South Australian Department of the Premier and Cabinet.
Honorary Doctor of the University and former International Patron of UniSA's Hawke Centre
Poverty, social injustice, ignorance, intolerance and lack of hope are among the less well-understood enemies of peace in our world. It is therefore very satisfying to see a place of learning – the University of South Australia – wishing to develop an international research centre devoted to building understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. This is one of the issues of our times that must be addressed if we are to embrace an ethical and harmonious future and I respect the university for its foresight.
Former Foreign Minister and former Prime Minister of Australia
Our nation, our region and our world comprise a rich diversity of cultures and religions. Understanding and intercultural respect are paramount issues for our future. I commend the University of South Australia for its commitment to developing a centre of excellence that will concentrate on building positive relations between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, and I ask others to do all that they can to support this aim.