Imams have been told to include Australian values such as a fair go and tolerance when leading Friday prayers and speaking to Muslims. The instruction is part of a $55,000 federal training program that arose out of concern about Muslim integration into mainstream society. Program facilitator Hass Dellal, head of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, said religious leaders had received training in civics, core values and media awareness. "There's always been a concern about not hearing enough of the right Muslim voices," he said. Dr Dellal said the Immigration Department program urged imams to find passages in the Qur'an that matched core Australian values and convey those to their members. "We'd be encouraging them to sustain that over a period of time, particularly when they're delivering messages to young people and on leadership," he said. "Particularly when they're delivering messages to newer communities about the concepts of fair go, integrity, respect and responsibility." Dr Dellal said it was striking how easily they could do that because the Koran had many suitable texts. A survey of Australia's Islamic leaders was conducted by Advertiser in the wake of the Federal Government training program to find out what their concerns are. One of their primary concerns was the limited availibility of non-Interest financing. Imam Yusuf Parker, from the Alhidayah Centre in Perth, said that Australia should consider recognising sharia law as it applied to finance and family law matters. He said that Islam forbade the charging or paying of interest "so finding interest-free loans will again help Muslims to practice their Islam better". "Other than the two major issues mentioned, I don't see other sharia law that Muslims would seek to have legally recognised," he added. Sheikh Burhaan Mehtar said the issue of sharia law was often raised to scare non-Muslims, but a dialogue would lead to better understanding. "Islamic banking and the non-slavery of humans is a classic example. Interest is slavery," he said. Islamic Council of Victoria board member Nazeem Hussain said that currently there were legal and tax barriers preventing local banks from offering Islamic products. "That's a massive market that the Australian Government has identified (and) we'd encourage the Government to seek ways to tap into that market," he said. Another issue was the "burqa" question. Sheik Mohamadu Saleem, a spokesman for Board of Imams Victoria, accused some MPs of trying to get political mileage out of the burqa issue. "It is mere political expediency," he said. Victorian imam Abdinur Weli said: "If only Muslims are the people who are told what to wear, then it is discrimination."
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