Oz Deputy PM opens International Centre for Muslim-non-Muslim Understanding

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New Delhi, Sep.2 (ANI): Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard, today announced in New Delhi that the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, located at the University of South Australia, will step up its cooperation with Indian partners.

Inspired by former Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, the new research centre was announced at the University of South Australia (UniSA) in 2008 at a special ceremony attended by the former PM.

The Centre is dedicated to research that seeks to define, understand and transcend the divide between Muslim and non-Muslim cultures and has already attracted $10 million (Rs40 crore) in funding support from the Australian Government and the South Australian State Government.

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the launch of the Centre in India would help to encourage more of the world's top researchers and thinkers to engage with its important research agenda.

Ms Gillard said "faith and culture have been paramount in the development of India; one of the world's largest and most linguistically and culturally diverse democracies. Holding the international launch of the Centre here in Delhi is appropriate because India is a nation that lives with difference on a grand scale and thrives."

She said "There is expertise here and in many countries across the Asian region that we can learn from. The goal is to build a worldwide community of outstanding scholars with a commitment to understanding and exploring the cultural and sociological factors that influence Muslim and non-Muslim relationships,"

She said the Centre would emphasise international engagement, with an international Advisory Board and a Council of Distinguished Scholars (including Indian representatives). Former Australian PM the Honourable Bob Hawke is an ex-officio member of the board.

UNESCO Chair in Transnational Diasporas and Reconciliation Studies and UniSA Pro Vice Chancellor and Vice President for Education Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, who is leading the foundation of the Centre, said the research agenda goes far beyond religious differences.

"We also want to build the Centre as a place of engagement, so that the work we do is accessible to governments and societies. This supports a guiding principle of the research Centre - to analyse effective rapprochement between Muslim and non-Muslim communities informed by principles of social justice and reconciliation."

Ahluwalia said the 10 international PhD scholarships, worth more than Australian dollars 26, 000 (Rs10 lakh) each plus relocation expenses would help to attract some of the brightest minds to the Centre.

"I am hoping to welcome strong applications from India that can build long lasting bilateral research relationships between Australia and India in this vital area."

Ms Gillard is also Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. (ANI)

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