TRAFALGAR - Two Muslim and Christian women in Trafalgar, Australia, are planning a special interfaith evening in their city, to promote respect and understanding between the two faiths through a conversation on the similarities they share.
"There are so many things in our day to day lives that we can relate to each other, Arfa Khan, a Muslim resident of Trafalgar, Victoria, told ABC on Thursday, August 22.
The world is becoming so global so you can't stigmatize or stereotype people by their religion only," she says.
Meeting Sue Jacka, the town's Anglican minister, at a preschool music program, Arfa recognized that many of her neighbors know nothing about her faith.
Together with Sue, both ladies decided to change this fact, organizing a public conversation about their two religions on Friday, August 23, at the city's St Mary's church.
According to Arfa, Islam and Christianity share the same root in Abrahamic faith but differ on the belief of certain prophets.
While Muslims fast in Ramadan that is followed by their feast called `Eid, Christians too celebrate a period of fasting called Lent that is followed by Easter.
Friday's discussions would highlight other similarities between Islam and Christianity.
"We have a lot of things in common, like when you talk about, love thy neighbor, that's also the concept of Islam, that's also the concept of Christianity," she says.
The discussion would be a breakthrough in Gippsland which holds rare interfaith discussions despite it being a multicultural community.
"The Australian public is sometimes a little bit loathed to change... 'I just won't bother to find out more' some people seem to think," she says.
The interfaith discussion is also expected to correct misconceptions about Islam which followed the 9/11 attacks.
"The media started to project Muslims as being extremists and that terrorism and violence is the only [way] for Muslims to gain their means, which is not the case," Arfa says.
Both women also voiced anger over the recent campaign against halal food.
"It makes sense that if we're going to be welcoming, people that need halal food will be able to buy halal food," Sue says.
"I wouldn't say if the Christians are allowed to eat certain things I can't say they shouldn't have it and they have certain ways of eating it, I think that would be unfair," Arfa says.
The concept of halal, -- meaning permissible in Arabic -- has traditionally been applied to food.
Muslims should only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by a sharp knife from their necks, and the name of Allah, the Arabic word for God, must be mentioned.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11 Australia, Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.
A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net