Professor Abdullah Saeed AM
Professor Abdullah Saeed.
COURSES on Islamic studies are now commonplace at Australian universities, but Melbourne University Professor Abdullah Saeed recalls it was not always thus. ''Most universities in Australia started taking an interest in Islamic studies after 9/11,'' he said.
Their task was to build a program focused on contemporary Islam, yet with a solid grasp of its historical roots.
Professor Saeed has been made a member of the Order of Australia for ''significant service to tertiary education in the field of Islamic studies, and to the community, especially through promotion of interfaith dialogue''.
Born in the Maldives, he studied in Saudi Arabia before coming to the University of Melbourne where he obtained a PhD in Islamic Studies in 1992. Now the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Melbourne University and a Fellow of Australian Academy of Humanities, his work focuses on Islam and human rights, Islamic law reform, Muslim communities in Australia and freedom of religion.
He said the biggest misconception about Islam was homogeneity, ''the idea that Muslims are just one lot of 1.6 billion people effectively functioning the same''.
Professor Saeed attended interfaith meetings with the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and said the search for common ground was always enlightening.
''It is how we understand our own religion too,'' he said.