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Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

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at Deakin Edge, Fed Square

Faith, Multiculturalism and the Community of Nations: Panel Discussion

Over four days, our 20 plus speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it means to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and the community of nations.

Across Saturday, three keynote lectures from distinguished international guests each consider the challenges posed by – and to – faith in the building of modern communities. Following the three lectures, all three keynote speakers will be in discussion with each other, exchanging and challenging one another’s views.

In ‘Faith, Multiculturalism and the Community of Nations’, UK multiculturalism advocate Tariq Modood, Pakistan-raised Quar’anic scholar Asma Barlas and US moral philosopher Susan Neiman will discuss their keynote addresses, in a fascinating meeting of minds, with Shakira Hussein as participating chair. They’ll talk about the links between religious belief and a multicultural society, the relationship between Islam and contemporary Europe, and the importance of reason in public life.

For a recording of this lecture plus transcripts and recordings of the series, visit our Faith and Culture archive.


Portrait of Shakira Hussein

Shakira Hussein

Shakira Hussein is a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Institute at the University of Melbourne.

Portrait of Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman is the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, just outside Berlin. At the interface of eastern and western Europe, it is one of Europe’s most important centres of intellectual and cultural innovation outside the university framework.

Portrait of Tariq Modood

Tariq Modood

Tariq Modood is one of Britain’s most eloquent advocates of a ‘multiculturalism of hope’. In the Guardian he wrote, ‘Respect for religion and moderate secularism are kindred spirits and are sources of hope for a multiculturalism that gives status to religious, as to other, communities’. In 2001 he was awarded an MBE for services to social sciences and ethnic relations.

Portrait of Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas

Asma Barlas is a distinguished scholar and an outspoken and esteemed public intellectual, recognised as such in Europe and the US. She has written and spoken eloquently against Western misreadings of the Qur’an, and passionately against Islamic misreadings that would appear to justify the oppression of women.

Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

For full transcripts of all lectures plus audio and video of the events, visit our series archive.

A four-day lecture series from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 June at BMW Edge, Federation Square.

A day or so after September 11, graffiti appeared on a wall in New York: ‘Dear God, save us from those who believe in you’. Despite the many-layered irony, the message is clear: temptation to murderous fanaticism may be intrinsic to religious belief. Since at least September 11, 2001, hostility to religious voices in politics has been an important reason why so many people throughout the world have embraced ‘the new atheism’. The words of the graffitist could serve as a rallying cry for its militant wing.

People who belong to the faiths most often under attack – Christians, Muslims and Jews – often do not recognise themselves in in the portraits that inform the hostility and condescension towards them. With the support of the Sidney Myer Fund, the Wheeler Centre is proud to present Melbourne’s first Faith and Culture Lecture Series.

Over four days this June, our speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it can mean to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and in the community of nations.

Curated by celebrated moral philosopher and author Raimond Gaita, the Faith and Culture lectures will aim to do justice to the depth and difficulty of the issues under discussion. Seldom are the sources of our deepest moral, political, and spiritual commitments clear to us. They are mediated by historically deep traditions in which science, art, philosophy and theology have played large, sometimes cooperative, sometimes contesting, roles. Simplifying or edifying polemic will have no place in these lectures and the panel discussions that follow them. We are set on understanding and are confident that our attempts to achieve it will interest atheists, agnostics, people of faith and the many people whose lives have been enriched by religious traditions and art, but who are not believers.

In his letter of invitation to speakers, Gaita wrote: ‘I have chosen people whose authority to speak on these matters strikes me as undeniable. Their authority lies not only in the fact that they “know their subject”, but also in the seriousness and authenticity of their engagement with it.’

Programme hashtag: #FaithAndCulture

Watch Raimond Gaita’s introduction to the series:

Raimond Gaita Introduces Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

This series was presented with the support of the Sidney Myer Fund.