Prof. Mohamad Abdalla is the Director of the Centre for Islamic Thought and Education (CITE), School of Education at the University of South Australia. Prof. Abdalla is one of Australia’s most prominent and respected Muslim leaders, combining the roles of an academic scholar, public intellectual, community leader and commentator. Over the last 20 years, Prof Abdalla played a leading role in establishing Islamic Studies (Research and Teaching) as an academic area of study in Australia. He also played a key role in establishing Islamic Studies as a Major across three well-known universities in Australia namely the University of Melbourne, Griffith University and the University of Western Sydney. Prof. Abdalla recently paid a visit to SQU and singed a Letter of Agreement with the College of Education at SQU to promote cooperation in teaching, research and other areas of mutual interest between his Centre and the College of Education.
Could you shed light on the activities of the Centre for Islamic Thought and Education (CITE) at the University of South Australia?
CITE aims to be the leading knowledge hub for Islamic thought and education in Australasia. CITE will achieve this in ways that benefit communities nationally and globally, building on Islam’s long tradition of scholarship and awareness of the modern context. CITE’s philosophy is to promote empirical research informed by Islamic methodologies, philosophies and pedagogies, cognizant of the unique Australian context. CITE’s deep conviction is that academic research and teaching must positively affect engagement with community, media, government and non-government organizations. It must empower vulnerable and disempowered communities. This is at the heart of CITE’s philosophy.
What differentiates CITE from other seats of learning across the world that are specialized in teaching and research of Islamic thought and civilization?
Bringing together researchers specializing in Islamic civilization, psychology, ethics, leadership, management, finance and education, CITE’s staff has extensive academic experience in Islamic studies, and importantly, substantial understanding of the needs and aspirations of the Australian Muslim communities. CITE’s staff have actively participated in the affairs of the community for the last two decades and are well placed to explore issues that affect them, and engage with them in a holistic and grounded way. The Centre has major, ongoing impact on the deeper understanding of Islam and Muslims, and their place in Australia and the modern world. The Centre provides a model for research, teaching and community engagement that are supported by a comprehensive understanding of Islam and Muslims based on Islam’s sacred traditions and contemporary realties.
What are the major research focus areas of CITE at present?
CITE focuses on a number of key research areas including domestic and family violence (DFV) in Muslim and culturally and linguistically diverse or faith-based communities; Islamic school renewal; Islamic finance; and leadership and its processes in Islamic organizations. Our Centre engages with academics, journalists, politicians, and the wider community in order to inform, educate, and build bridges of understanding, and to promote a spirit of interconnectedness.
How would you comment on the academic and research ties between CITE and SQU?
The Centre started its academic relationship with SQU from 2016 when Director of CITE and colleagues visited SQU to discuss academic collaborations. We visited SQU again in 2017 and 2018. The existing collaboration has led to a number of important initiatives, including: signing of an MoU between the two universities; enrolment of three Omani PhD students at UniSA’s School of Education to undertake research in early childhood education; three of SQU’s academic staff listed as adjunct scholars with CITE; and SQU staff participated at CITE’s Annual Islamic Schooling Conference. Representatives from both institutions engaged in strategic discussions about sustainable academic collaborations including joint research projects, staff and student exchange programs.
Why do you think that strong partnership between SQU and UniSA is important? What are the prospective areas of research collaboration that you foresee for the next few years?
Over the centuries, Oman was positively engaged with various civilisations such as the ancient Persian and Mesopotamian. Importantly, Oman has been able to create a unique multi-cultural and multi-religious society. Oman and its people have earned a noble reputation in the world today for being tolerant, respectful and gentle. These are important attributes in today’s conflict driven-world. This is consistent with CITE’s vision and philosophy.
The prospective areas of research collaborations between UniSA and SQU are many, including Islamic education, Islamic pedagogy, early childhood education, curriculum development and teacher training. Other collaborations could include staff and student exchange programs, and hosting and participation in conferences of mutual interest.