ACU announces new Chair in the study of Islam

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

31 October 2007: Australian Catholic University (ACU) has appointed Dr Ismail Albayrak as its inaugural Fethullah Gulen Chair in the Study of Islam and Muslim-Catholic Relations.

Dr Albayrak will be located within ACU’s Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue (APCID) at the Melbourne Campus (St Patrick’s).

Fethullah Gulen Chair

The Fethullah Gulen Chair is a newly created position aimed at providing academic leadership in research, teaching and community engagement in relation to the study of Islam. The Chair has been founded with full recognition of the plurality and diversity of Islam itself. The appointee to the Chair will conduct leading-edge, internationally competitive research, assist in developing academic programs, and work towards promoting greater mutual understanding between Muslims and Catholics both in Australia and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

The Chair is named in honour of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish–born scholar, educator, spiritual and social leader, and renowned advocate for inter-religious dialogue and peace. Gulen’s interpretation of Qur’anic teaching seeks to enable Muslims to live their Islamic faith in modern situations and make a positive contribution to the transformation of society. The author of more than 60 books (many of which have been translated into English), Gulen is especially noted in Catholic circles for his private audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in 1998, which marked an important step forward in Muslim-Christian relations.

The appointment of the Chair is for an initial period of three years. The role will be funded through a partnership with the Australian Intercultural Society, a non-government organisation aimed at promoting greater dialogue between Australia’s various faith communities.

Dr Ismail Albayrak

Dr Albayrak was born in Ankara, Turkey, and is currently an Associate Professor at the School of Divinity, within the Department of Basic Islamic Studies, at Sakarya University in Turkey. He holds a doctorate in Qur’anic narrative from the University of Leeds, England, and is the author of Approaches to the Qur’an in Classical Modernism (2004). He has also authored numerous book chapters and refereed journal articles in English and Turkish, and was co-editor of Re-reading Orientalism: Islamic Studies in the West (2003).

ACU Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Sheehan AO said, “On behalf of the University, I am delighted to welcome Dr Albayrak to ACU and in particular to the position of the Fethullah Gulen Chair. Dr Albayrak’s strong academic background, his experience of teaching and research in the study of Islam, and his understanding of interfaith principles make him a very worthy appointee to this important new role.”

“Recent world events, from September 11 to the Cronulla Riots, continue to reflect the unrest and tension between followers of different faiths. In promoting greater interfaith dialogue through focused teaching, research and community engagement, the Fethullah G�len Chair will play a key role in tackling this issue locally. I look forward to Dr Albayrak’s contribution to APCID and to the University generally.”

Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue (APCID)

APCID was established in August 2006 as a national initiative of Australian Catholic University. The Centre’s mission is to promote dialogue, mutual understanding, respect and collaboration between Christians and other religious communities in the Asia-Pacific region, through the provision of research and scholarship, teaching and learning, and community engagement.  APCID’s aims include include furthering inter-religious dialogue from the perspective of the Catholic intellectual tradition; promoting international research in inter-religious dialogue and co-operation; and developing co-operative links with Australian and international organisations working in the area of inter-religious relations.

The Fethullah Gulen Chair will support the work of APCID by developing inter-faith programs in the area of Muslim-Catholic relations and fostering links particularly with Muslim communities in Australia.

Australian Catholic University (ACU) – established as Australia’s only Catholic, national, publicly funded university – is open to all. The University empowers its students and staff with a strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the moral and ethical dimensions of their study and their professional and personal lives.