Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop has praised the work of the ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies (CAIS) as she launched a new book edited by centre Director Professor Amin Saikal.
The book, The Arab World and Iran: A Turbulent Region in Transition, details the changing social and political dynamics in the Middle East.
Ms Bishop said Professor Saikal and CAIS had been providing high-quality work to inform debate on the Middle East for 20 years.
She congratulated Professor Saikal on the publication of the timely, well-reasoned book, which she said would make a great contribution to how Australia will manage its interests in the region. The Minister said that the collaboration between CAIS and the government on the challenging and contentious issues of the region is highly regarded.
Ms Bishop explained that the Australian government was expanding its presence in the region with a recently opened embassy in Doha, Qatar and another embassy soon to open in Rabat, Morocco. She also outlined the developing relations between Australia and Iran following the recent lifting of sanctions from that country.
Professor Saikal thanked Ms Bishop and said the recent rise of Islamophobia and protectionism in Western democracies makes the work at CAIS, to promote a better understanding of Islam and the Middle East, more important than ever.
"I am very proud of the dedication of our Centre and its highly qualified and productive staff in this respect," Professor Saikal said.
"Islam today commands some 1.6 billion followers in the world. It is wrong to blame the religion for the mischievous behaviour of a tiny minority that has used the religion for their notional and apocalyptic purposes.
"This book, The Arab World and Iran, encapsulates my deep concerns about the turbulence that has beset the Middle Eastern and North African region and the uncertain direction that awaits it."
ANU Chancellor, Professor Gareth Evans, said Professor Saikal is an outstanding scholar with great academic entrepreneurial skills.
"The ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, as the leading Centre of its kind in Australia, indisputably holds a unique role in contributing to the debate on the affairs of the Middle East and the wider region," Professor Evans said.
"The contributors to the book have provided a deeply informed analysis which is an outstanding contribution to the knowledge of the dynamics of a problematic region."
ANU Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian Schmidt, thanked both the Minister and the Government for the continued support of the University.
The book has been published through Palgrave Macmillan and is available for purchase here - http://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137561244