Conferences, 4Rs 2008

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'Who's Afraid of Interfaith Dialogue': Examining the Politics and Legitimations of a Faith-Based Organisation.
Goldie Osuri

Last modified: 2008-08-31

Abstract


A 2007 issue of Newsweek reports that the phrase 'interfaith dialogue' has appeared 173 times in major international headlines since 1977--a 100 of these in the past five years (Miller 2007). Such a statistic points to the popularity of interfaith dialogue, as it generates a 'feel good' politics of learning and understanding about other faith-based communities. This meaning of inter-faith dialogue is promoted by faith-based community leaders especially in the post-9/11 climate where fears of a demonic Islam appeared to be pervasive amongst many non-Muslims (Keely 2006). If inter-faith dialogue has become a governmentally sanctioned activity, a number of critical questions need to be asked about the legitimisation of faith-based groups who claim to speak on behalf of communities which may have diverse religious, cultural and political practices and beliefs.
This paper seeks to examine the politics of one faith-based organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). In Australia, the VHP has been registered as a non-profit organisation since 1989, and is a member of the umbrella organization, the Australia Hindu Council which participates in interfaith government initiatives. In the Indian context, the VHP has been considered a radical cultural organization which has incited violence against Muslim and Christian minority groups (National Commission for Minorities 2007). Taking these differing agendas into consideration, this paper argues that it is necessary for policies and initiatives around interfaith dialogue to take into account a more transnational view of the activities of religious organisations.
Keely, Avril Anne 2006, 'Beginning Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Western Sydney: Context and Practice, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 471-482.
Miller, Lisa 2007, 'Interfaith', Newsweek, vol. 149, Issue 8, p. 14.

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