Australian Catholic University has appointed Dr Ismail Albayrak to its inaugural Chair in the Study of Islam and Muslim-Catholic Relations.

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

The Fethullah Gülen Chair is a newly created position which aims to providing academic leadership in research, teaching and community engagement in relation to the study of Islam and has been founded with full recognition of the plurality and diversity of Islam itself.

Named in honour of Fethullah Gülen - a Turkish–born scholar, educator, spiritual and social leader, and renowned advocate for inter-religious dialogue and peace - Gülen’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.

Gülen 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.

Born in Ankara, Turkey, Dr Albayrak 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).

ACU National Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Sheehan said he was delighted to welcome Dr Albayrak to the university and to the new position.

“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,” Prof Sheehan said.

“In promoting greater interfaith dialogue through focused teaching, research and community engagement, the Fethullah Gülen Chair will play a key role in tackling this issue of unrest and tension between faiths, locally,” he said.