The Rumi Forum presented “Antipodean Angst: Islam in New Zealand and globalised issues of encounter” with Dr. Douglas Pratt

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Islam first came to New Zealand in the form of Chinese gold miners in the 19th century, but it was to be many years before a distinctive Muslim community, with its own forms of organisation and purpose-built mosques, would emerge. Effectively invisible to New Zealand society for about a century, it is only as a result of immigration and refugee re-settlement in recent decades, coupled with the more recent ubiquitous exposure to Islam via the media, that the presence of Islam and Muslims has surfaced within the New Zealand landscape and societal consciousness to the point of provoking a measure of anxiety if not outright hostility. This talk will review the history of Islam and the place of Muslims in New Zealand and discuss the challenges and issues faced by Muslims as well as social responses and perceptions, including evidence of a rising anxiety about all things Islamic, that have been forged more by external global issues than local factors.

Biography:

Douglas Pratt is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where he has been teaching for over twenty years. Prior to his 1988 appointment as foundation lecturer in Religious Studies he had been for four years the ecumenical chaplain of the University. He was recently the Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He also hold the post of NZ Associate of the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations – Asia Pacific. This is based at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, where he is also an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social and Political Inquiry with attachments to the Global Terrorism Research Centre and the Centre for Islam in the Modern World. He is an Associate of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and the Book Review editor of the international UK-based journal Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations. He is an ordained Anglican Priest and Canon Theologian Emeritus of the Waikato Diocese in New Zealand.

His teaching and research interests focus mainly on Christianity, Islam, Christian-Muslim relations, interreligious dialogue, and contemporary religious issues such as pluralism, fundamentalism and extremism. In respect to his recent work on religion and terrorism he has been a consultant to the Australian Federal Government and a guest presenter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and FBI Leadership in Counter-Terrorism – Pacific program. His recent publications include Civilisational Dialogue and the Philosophy of Religion (University of Malaya, 2009), The Challenge of Islam: Encounters in Interfaith Dialogue (Ashgate, 2005) and the co-authored Religious Diversity in Southeast Asia and the Pacific: National Case Studies (Springer Academic Publishers, 2010), together with several book chapters and journal articles. He is currently completing a book entitled The Church and Other Faiths: The World Council of Churches, the Vatican, and Interreligious Dialogue to be published by Peter Lang (2010). He is also a co-editor of a major re-publication series of classic texts in the field of Islamic Studies – Exploring the House of Islam: Perceptions of Islam in the Period of Western Ascendancy 1800-1945 – published by Gorgias Press, New Jersey, USA.

In 2004 he spent a term as Visiting Lecturer in Christian–Muslim Relations at the University of Birmingham, UK, and for the academic year 2005-06 he was the Visiting Research Fellow at Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, UK, and a guest lecturer in Issues in Interfaith Relations for the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oxford. He has previously studied and taught at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and has been a visiting scholar at the International Islamic University, Malaysia, and the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam, Rome.

During 2007–2008 he was the President of the New Zealand Association for the Study of Religion (NZASR). In 2007 he was honoured by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand with a Harmony Award for meritorious service to the Muslim community. Recently, he was elected the Vice-President of the Australian Association for the Study of Religion (AASR). Whilst at Georgetown, until the end of May 2010, he will be engaged in teaching and research in the area of religious pluralism and extremism as well as aspects of Christian–Muslim dialogue.

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