Islam in Australia
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Islam in Australia is a minority religious affiliation. According to the 2011 census, 476,291 people, or 2.2% of the total Australian population, were Muslims. This made Islam the fourth largest religious grouping, after all forms of Christianity (61.1%), irreligion (22.9%), and Buddhism (2.5%). Demographers attribute Muslim community growth trends during the most recent census period to relatively high birth rates, and recent immigration patterns. Adherents of Islam represent the majority of the population in Cocos (Keeling) Islands. The vast majority of Muslims in Australia belong to Sunni denomination, with sizeable Shia and Sufi minorities.
While the Australian Muslim community is defined largely by religious belonging, the Muslim community is fragmented racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically. Members of the Australian Muslim community thus also espouse parallel non-religious ethnic identities with related non-Muslim counterparts, either within Australia or abroad.
- 1 History
- 2 Contemporary society
- 3 Organisations
- 4 Demography
- 5 In literature
- 6 In film
- 7 Notable Australian Muslims
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Prior to 1860
Muslims generally are not thought to have settled in Australia until 1860, however, some scholars have pointed to trace elements of Islam in Australian Aboriginal society and culture in North Australia, attributed to the Makassan contact with indigenous Australians, as evidence of a pre-modern introduction of Islamic religion and culture to Australia.:10
A small number of Muslims arrived during the convict period. A number of "Mohammedans" were listed in the Musters of 1802, 1811, 1822 and the Census of 1828.:10
1860 to 1900
Among the early Muslims were the "Afghan" camel drivers who migrated to and settled in Australia during the mid to late 19th century. Between 1860 and the 1890s a number of Central Asians came to Australia to work as camel drivers. Camels were first imported into Australia in 1840, initially for exploring the arid interior (see Australian camel), and later for the camel trains that were uniquely suited to the demands of Australia's vast deserts. The first camel drivers arrived in Melbourne, Victoria, in June 1860, when eight Muslims and Hindus arrived with the camels for the Burke and Wills expedition. The next arrival of camel drivers was in 1866 when 31 men from Rajasthan and Baluchistan arrived in South Australia with camels for Thomas Elder. Although they came from several countries, they were usually known in Australia as 'Afghans' and they brought with them the first formal establishment of Islam in Australia.
Cameleers settled in the areas near Alice Springs and other areas of the Northern Territory and inter-married with the Indigenous population. The Adelaide, South Australia to Darwin, Northern Territory, railway is named The Ghan (short for The Afghan) in their memory.
During the 1870s, Muslim Malay divers were recruited through an agreement with the Dutch to work on Western Australian and Northern Territory pearling grounds. By 1875, there were 1800 Malay divers working in Western Australia. Most returned to their home countries.
1900 to 2010s
In the early 20th century, immigration of Muslims to Australia was restricted to those of European descent, as non-Europeans were denied entry to Australia under the provisions of the White Australia policy. In the 1920s and 1930s Albanian Muslims, whose European heritage made them compatible with the White Australia Policy, immigrated to the country. Albanian Muslims built the first mosque in Shepparton, Victoria in 1960 and the first mosque in Melbourne in 1963.
Notable events involving Australian Muslims during this early period include what has been described either as an act of war by the Ottoman Empire, or the earliest terrorist attack planned against Australian civilians. The attack was carried out at Broken Hill, New South Wales, in 1915, in what was described as the Battle of Broken Hill. Two Afghans who pledged allegiance to the Islamic Ottoman Empire shot and killed four Australians and wounded seven others before being killed by the police.
Increased immigration (1960s onward)
The perceived need for population growth and economic development in Australia led to the broadening of Australia’s immigration policy in the post-World War II period. This allowed for the acceptance of a number of displaced Muslims who began to arrive from Europe mainly from the Balkans, especially from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Between 1967 and 1971, approximately 10,000 Turkish citizens settled in Australia under an agreement between Australia and Turkey.
Also, from the 1970s onwards, there was a significant shift in the government’s attitude towards immigration. Instead of trying to make newer foreign nationals assimilate and forgo their heritage, the government became more accommodating and tolerant of differences by adopting a policy of multiculturalism.
Larger-scale Muslim migration began in 1975 with the migration of Lebanese Muslims, which rapidly increased during the Lebanese Civil War from 22,311 or 0.17% of the Australian population in 1971, to 45,200 or 0.33% in 1976. Lebanese Muslims are still the largest and highest-profile Muslim group in Australia, although Lebanese Christians form a majority of Lebanese Australians, outnumbering their Muslim counterparts at a 6 to 4 ratio.
By the beginning of the 21st-century, Muslims from more than sixty countries had settled in Australia. While a very large number of them come from Bosnia, Turkey, and Lebanon, there are Muslims from Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran, Fiji, Albania, Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, the Palestinian territories, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, among others. At the time of the 2011 census, 476,000 Australians (representing 2.2 percent of the population) reported Islam as their religion.
Anti-Arab backlash (1990-91)
A number of Australian Arabs experienced anti-Arab backlash during the First Gulf War. Newspapers received numerous letters calling for Arab Australians to "prove their loyalty" or "go home", and some Arab Australian Muslim women wearing hijab head coverings were reportedly harassed in public. The Australian government's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission included accounts of racial harassment experienced by some Australian Arabs in their 1991 report on racism in Australia.:11-13
Riots and general disturbances (2000s and 2010s)
On a few occasions in the 2000s and 2010s tensions have flared between Australian Muslims and the general population. The Sydney gang rapes was a much reported set of incidents in 2000; a group of Lebanese men sexually assaulted non-Muslim women. In 2005, racial tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims in the Cronulla area of Sydney led to violent rioting; the incident resulted in mass arrests and criminal prosecution. In 2012, Muslims protesting in central Sydney against Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Islam film trailer, resulted in rioting.
Aftermath of Sydney hostage crisis (2014)
In the aftermath of the Sydney hostage crisis on 15-16 December 2014, where an Islamist took seventeen hostages in a cafe ending in the deaths of the gunman and two hostages, there was an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment, including a threat made against a mosque in Sydney. However, the Muslim community received wide support from the Australian public.
Relations with broader Australian public
Since the 2001 World Trade Center attacks in New York, and the 2005 Bali bombings, Islam and its place in Australian society has been the subject of much public debate. A number of issues have been highlighted in the general media concerning Muslims and the Islamic community.
- Social disadvantage – Australian Muslims have historically been disadvantaged socially and economically, to some extent, owing to their status as a non-British, minority racial and ethnic group. After the White Australia immigration laws were replaced with multicultural policies the social disadvantage of Muslims was thought to have been decreased. Some sources, however, note that Muslims now face some disadvantages on account of their religion.:15-16
- Cultural resistance – According to Michael Humphrey, a Professor of sociology at the University of Sydney, much of Islamic culture and organisation in Australia has been borne of the social marginalisation experiences of Muslim working class migrants. This "immigrant Islam" is often viewed by the host society as a force of "cultural resistance" toward the multicultural and secular nature of the general Australian culture. Muslim practices of praying, fasting and veiling appear as challenging the conformity within public spaces and the values of gender equality in social relationships and individual rights. The immigrant Muslims are often required to "negotiate their Muslimness" in the course of their encounters with Australian society, the governmental and other social institutions and bureaucracies.
- Muslim Community Reference Group – After 7 July 2005 London bombings, Prime Minister Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group to assist governmental relations with the Islamic community. The Prime Minister stated that no radicals would be invited to join.
- Perceptions of prejudice – A 2004 report from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission pointed to many Muslim Australians who felt the Australian media was unfairly critical of, and often vilified their community due to generalisations of terrorism and the emphasis on crime. The use of ethnic or religious labels in news reports about crime was thought to stir up racial tensions.
- Broader Muslim community – There are developed trade and educational links between Australia and several Muslim countries, particularly Middle Eastern ones. One notable export is that of halal meat (meat from animals slaughtered according to Islamic law). Halal meat and meat product exports to the Middle East and Southeast Aisa have greatly increased from the 1970s onwards; this expansion was due in part to efforts of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.:151 Muslim students from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are among the thousands of international students studying in Australian universities.[quantify]
Concerns and contemporary issues
A number of various of concerns and contemporary issues face the local Australian Muslim community including rates of unemployment, the rights of women, concerns over Islamism and/or Islamic radicalism among others.
- Unemployment – As of 2007[update], average wages of Muslims were much lower than those of the national average, with just 5% of Muslims earning over $1000 a week compared to the average of 11%, and unemployment rates amongst Muslims born overseas were higher than Muslims born in Australia.
- Women's rights – As part of the broader issue of women's rights under Islam (particularly in light of the misogynistic statements by Islamic leaders) the perceived gender inequality in Islam has often been the focal point of criticism in Australia via comparisons to the situation of women in Islamic nations. Muslim women can face hurdles both from within the Muslim community and from the wider community.
A number of incidents in the 2000s and 2010s have highlighted the issue of Islamic militancy and Islamic militant extremism in Australia.
- Domestic terror plots – A number of instances of domestic terror inspired by political Islam include plots by Faheem Khalid Lodhi, Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Joseph T. Thomas.
- ISIL-related incidents – In 2014, two Australian Islamic extremists made a promotional video encouraging Australians to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a militant Sunni group which has been proscribed by Australian authorities as a terrorist organisation. The Australian Government has said it believed, "150 Australians have been or are currently overseas fighting with extremists in Iraq and Syria," with some of their activities said to be possible war crimes. One jihadist, Khaled Sharrouf, posted a picture of himself, and another of his son, holding a decapitated head. There was public outrage. In July 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) announced, an Australian suicide bomber killed three people in Baghdad. He was followed by another Australian who detonated his suicide bomb near a Shi’ite mosque, which killed 5 and injured 90 people. The Attorney-General Senator George Brandis has expressed concern that those fighting jihad, then returning from the Middle East, represent, "the most significant risk to Australia’s security that we have faced in many years." ASIO is concerned that Australians fighting jihad may return home to plan terror attacks. In October, 2014, ISIL published an online video in which a teenage Australian Jihadi, Abdullah Elmir, threatened the United States and Australia, naming US president Barack Obama and Australian prime minister Tony Abbott as targets.
- Arrests – A number of Australian Islamists have been arrested on charges of conducting terrorist activity. One Australian citizen, arrested in Lebanon, had links with a Lebanese Islamist group Fatah al-Islam and reportedly commanded 300 militiamen. Another, arrested for terrorist activity, was a Lebanese-Australian cleric, with links to al-Qaeda. Another, said to be an, "Australian religious extremist", boasted he had travelled to the Middle East to join jihadists, but was arrested in the Philippines.
- Reactions and responses – A number of forums and meetings have been held about the problem of extremist groups or ideology within the Australian Islamic community. Sydney's Muslim leaders, including Keysar Trad, have condemned the actions of the suicide bombers and denounced ISIS. Psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed has examined underlying causes and has identified the significance of issues relating to 'family' and to 'denial'. He has said, "Muslim youths have unique difficulties in coming to terms with their identity, especially when they have conflicting value systems at home compared with school or work". Academic Rodger Shanahan has said that it is Muslim community leaders who have the greatest responsibility for defeating the ideological component that is fueling the threat to Australian nationals.
A popular Sydney based internet forum by Australian Muslims, MuslimVillage Forums, was established in 2001. The site was later chosen to be archived for its cultural value. Members of the Australian Muslim community have used the MuslimVillage forums to discuss news stories involving Muslims and have posted their reactions to the stories, in support or in opposition of the persons involved and the portrayal of Muslims by the press.
A number of organisations and associations are run by the Australian Islamic community including mosques, private schools and charities and other community groups and associations.
A number of organisations within the Muslim community are focused primarily on the needs of Muslim women. These organisations provide assistance and support for Muslim women in need.
Some organisations are broader community associations representing large segments of the Australian Muslim public. These organisations are usually termed "Islamic councils."
During the 1980s the Australian Muslim population increased from 76,792 or 0.53% of the Australian population in 1981, to 109,523 or 0.70% in 1986. In the 2011 Census, the Muslim population was 479,300 or 2.25%, an increase of 438% on the 1981 number.
The general increase of the Muslim population in this decade was from 147,487 or 0.88% of the Australian population in 1991, to 200,885 or 1.12% in 1996.
In 2005 the overall Muslim population in Australia had grown from 281,600 or 1.50% of the general Australian population in 2001, to 340,400 or 1.71% in 2006. The growth of Muslim population at this time was recorded as 3.88% compared to 1.13% for the general Australian population.
The following is a breakdown of the country of birth of Muslims in Australia from 2001:
The distribution by state of the nation's Islamic followers has New South Wales with 50% of the total number of Muslims, followed by Victoria (33%), Western Australia (7%), Queensland (5%), South Australia (3%), ACT (1%) and both Northern Territory and Tasmania sharing 0.3%.
The majority of people who reported Islam as their religion in the 2006 Census were born overseas: 58% (198,400). Of all persons affiliating with Islam in 2006 almost 9% were born in Lebanon and 7% were born in Turkey.
Many Muslims living in Melbourne are Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Turkish Muslims. Melbourne's Australian Muslims live primarily in the northern suburbs surrounding Broadmeadows (mostly Turkish) and a few in the outer southern suburbs such as Noble Park and Dandenong (mainly Bosniaks).
Very few Muslims live in regional areas with the exceptions of the sizeable Turkish and Albanian community in Shepparton, Victoria and Malays in Katanning, Western Australia. A community of Iraqis have settled in Cobram on the Murray River in Victoria.
Mirrabooka and neighbouring Girrawheen contain predominantly Bosniak communities. The oldest mosque in Perth is the Perth Mosque on William Street in Northbridge. It has undergone many renovations although the original section still remains. Other mosques in Perth are located in Rivervale, Mirrabooka, Beechboro and Hepburn.
There are also communities of Muslims from Turkey, the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) and South-East Asia, in Sydney and Melbourne, the Turkish communities around Auburn, New South Wales and Meadow Heights and Roxburgh Park and the South Asian communities around Parramatta. Indonesian Muslims, are more widely distributed in Darwin.
According to Australia's 2011 census, 1,140 people identify as Aboriginal Muslims, almost double the number of Aboriginal Muslims recorded in the 2001 census. Many are converts and some are descendants of Afghan cameleers or, as in the Arnhem Land people, have Macassan ancestry as a result of the historical Makassan contact with Australia. In north east Arnhem Land, there is some Islamic influence on the songs, paintings, dances, prayers with certains hymns to "Allah" and funeral rituals like facing west during prayers, roughly the direction of Mecca, and ritual prostration reminiscent of the Muslim sujud. As a result of Malay indentured laborers, plenty of families in Northern Australia have names like Doolah, Hassan and Khan. The boxer Anthony Mundine is a member of this community. Many indigenous converts are attracted to Islam because they see a compatibility between Aboriginal and Islamic beliefs, while others see it as a fresh start and an aid against common social ills afflicting indigenous Australians, such as alcohol and drug abuse.
Lebanese Muslims form the core of Australia's Muslim Arab population, particularly in Sydney where most Arabs in Australia live. Approximately 3.4% of Sydney's population are Muslim. Adherents of the Sunni denomination of Islam are concentrated in the suburb of Lakemba and surrounding areas such as Punchbowl, Wiley Park, Bankstown and Auburn.
Although the first Somali community in Victoria was established in 1988, most Somalis began to settle in the country in the early 1990s following the civil war in Somalia. Somalis are active in the wider Australian Muslim community, and have also contributed significantly to local business.
Turkish Muslims are a significant segment of the Australian Muslim community. Some statistical reports forecast the Turkish Muslim population in Australia surpassing the Lebanese Muslim population in the 2020s and 2030s. The majority of Turkish Muslims in Sydney are from Auburn, Eastlakes and Prestons. Despite still having a large Turkish population in Auburn and Eastlakes, many Turks moved out of these areas and moved to Prestons to be close to the new and growing Turkish private school, Sule College which is run by people closely affiliated with the worldwide Feza Foundation.
Adherents of the Shi'a denomination of Islam is centred in the St George region of Sydney, Campbelltown, Fairfield, also Auburn and Liverpool, with the al-Zahra Mosque being built at Arncliffe in 1983, Of these, there are approximately 20,000 Alawites from Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese backgrounds. They have at least one school called Al Sadiq College, with campuses in the Sydney suburbs of Yagoona and Greenacre.
There are communities of Sufis, most notably the Ahbash, who operate under the name Islamic Charitable Projects Association. They run Al Amanah College, as well as a mosque and a community radio station in suburban Sydney.
There are a number of notable works in Australian literature that discuss the Muslims during the "Afghan period" (1860-1900).:10
- The Camel in Australia, by Tom L. McKnight
- Fear and Hatred, by Andrew Markus
- Afghans in Australia, by Michael Cigler
- Tin Mosques and Ghantowns, by Christine Stevens
- Veiled Ambition is a documentary created by Rebel Films for the SBS independent network following a Lebanese-Australian woman named Frida as she opens a shop selling fashionable clothing for Muslim women on Melbourne's Sydney Road. The documentary follows Frida as she develops her business in Melbourne while juggling a husband and home in Sydney and a pregnancy. Veiled Ambition won the Palace Films Award for Short Film Promoting Human Rights at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival.
Notable Australian Muslims
- Randa Abdel-Fattah, novelist
- Aziza Abdel-Halim, female political activist
- Adeeb Kamal Ad-Deen, poet
- Fawad Ahmed, cricket player
- Ameer Ali, academic and political activist
- Waleed Aly, radio and television presenter
- Abdul Nacer Benbrika, Muslim cleric, convicted on terrorism charges
- Ahmed Fahour, CEO of Australia Post
- Mamdouh Habib, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, anti-war activist
- David Hicks, convicted on terrorism charges
- Abu Hamza, community activist
- Taj El-Din Hilaly, Sunni Imam and Mufti
- Bachar Houli, football player
- Ed Husic, Member of Parliament
- Nazeem Hussain, comedian
- John Ilhan, businessman
- John Ibrahim, businessman
- Usman Khawaja, cricket player
- Bilal Khazal, convicted on terrorism charges
- Rashid Mahazi, football player
- Hazem El-Masri, rugby league player
- Feiz Mohammad, Muslim preacher
- Man Haron Monis, aka Sheik Haron, terrorist
- Anthony Mundine, boxer and former rugby player
- Fehmi Naji, Muslim Imam and Mufti
- Aamer Rahman, comedian
- Jack Roche, convicted on terrorism charges
- Osamah Sami, actor
- Keysar Trad, community and political activist
- Samina Yasmeen, academic
- Irfan Yusuf, author
- Religion in Australia
- Islam by country
- Islamic organisations in Australia
- Terrorism in Australia § Militant Islamist incidents
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This sense of the compatibility of Aboriginal and Islamic beliefs is not uncommon, says Peta Stephenson, a sociologist at Victoria University. Shared practices include male circumcision, arranged or promised marriages and polygamy, and similar cultural attitudes like respect for land and resources, and respecting one's elders. "Many Aboriginal people I spoke with explained these cultural synergies often by quoting the well-known phrase from the Koran that 124,000 prophets had been sent to the Earth," says Stephenson. "They argued that some of these prophets must have visited Aboriginal communities and shared their knowledge."
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