A claim by Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Australia’s Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs, that Islam has no overarching authority has been challenged by the theologian, Marc Durie.

Responding to Fierravanti-Wells’ article in ‘The Australian’, “We need mellow Muslims and moderate imams”, in which she asserts that “there is no overarching authority to establish or forbid religious practices or interpretation of the Quran,” Durie, a Shillman-Ginsburg Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, asks why she presents “Islamic dogma as incontrovertible fact”.

Durie points out that although the Australian senator was attempting to help the public debate about the challenge of Islamic radicalism by offering a list of “basic facts” on religion, she “only succeeds in promoting misinformation and multiplying confusion”. Fierravanti-Wells also misrepresents other faiths, according to Durie, by, for example, implying that all Christians accept the Catholic belief of the need for an intermediary between God and an individual.

Durie points out that the “peak religious body” in the Islamic world is the Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA). The academy was established in 1981 by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – “the UN of Islamic states” – and is tasked with issuing authoritative rulings on religious matters. The IFA is based in Saudi Arabia.

Last year the academy denounced Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria. It said that their capture “contradicts all humanitarian principles and moral values and violates the provisions of the Quran and Sunnah”.