Visiting Indonesian Muslim leaders discover that Australia seems to be a haven of tolerance and religious freedom.
Mohamad Rapik, said to be prominent in Indonesian Muslim youth organisations, and a lecturer in Islam Studies at Universitas Jambi, says he is struck by the climate of religious freedom in Australia.
Rapik is in Australia along with the head of the Pondok Pesantren Modern Assalaam in Solo, Bambang Arif Rahman, and the Director of the Pusat Muslim Moderat (CMM), Muhammad Hilali Basya, as part of an Australian Muslim-Indonesian Muslim exchange/study program.
He said many Indonesians had the impression, drawn from the period of John Howard's rule, that Australia was no different from other western countries in enmity to Indonesia and the Islamic world.
Happy Australian Muslim tv presenter on "Salam Cafe".
However from his observations and talks with Australian Muslims he found that, for example, Muslim women were free to wear the jilbab without any disapproval from the government, that Muslims had full religious freedom, and even had their own television program, "Salam Cafe", on a government owned station, SBS.
Bambang Arif Rahman from Solo agreed and said he now had a much better, more proportional view of Australia:
I had no idea that there were so many Muslims here, so many Middle eastern restaurants, Indian and Indonesian restaurants, and so many mosques. And the jilbab is allowed here, unlike in France.
However the head of Islam Studies at Melbourne University, Professor Abdullah Saeed, of uncertain nationality, said there were some problems, such as in the Sydney suburb of Camden, where local people were vociferously opposed to the building of an Islamic school. republika