Islam in Australia
|Islam by country|
Islam in Australia is a minority religious group. 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%), no religion (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. 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 Demography
- 2 Chronology
- 3 Notable Australian Muslims
- 4 Organisations
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
The following is a breakdown of the country of birth of Muslims in Australia from 2001:
- Australia: 36%
- Lebanon: 10%
- Turkey: 8%
- Afghanistan: 3.5%
- Bosnia-Herzegovina: 3.5%
- Pakistan: 3.2%
- Indonesia: 2.9%
- Iraq: 2.8%
- Bangladesh: 2.7%
- Iran: 2.3%
- Fiji: 2.0%
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.
When comparing top three religious affiliations of residents in the top 15 countries of birth of migrants to Australia compared with that of Australian residents born in those countries (2006 census), the following results relate to Islamic population proportions:.
|Country of origin||Proportion of people with Islam or Muslim as their religious affiliation in country||Proportion of Australian residents born in that country with Islam or Muslim as their religious affiliation|
|India||13% are Muslim||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|Philippines||5% Islam||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|Greece||1.3% Muslim||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|Germany||4% Islam||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|South Africa||1% Islam||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|Malaysia||60% Islam||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation. Malaysia has a 60% Muslim population, but only 5% of Malaysian-born Australians cited Islam as their religion.|
|Netherlands||6% Islam||Islam not in top 3 responses for religious affiliation|
|Lebanon||60% Muslim||40% Islam|
Contemporary Australian society
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. Turkish Muslims are not far behind, in fact, statistics show that the Turkish Muslim population in Australia will surpass the Lebanese Muslim population in the next decade or so. 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, However there are also a small number of adherents to the Ahmadiyya sect. 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.
There are also Somali populations scattered throughout Australia who fled their country from the start of the Somali civil war in 1991. 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.
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.
There is a deep split within the Australian Muslim community. Many of the Muslims in New South Wales are Arabs but there are also Turkish and Bosnian Muslim communities, while Victoria has predominantly Bosnian, Turkish or Albanian Muslims.
There are developed trade links between Australia and several Muslim countries, particularly Middle Eastern, for instance through the export of halal meat. The meat export industry is regulated in Australia and managed by the Meat and Livestock Association.
Unemployment rates amongst Muslims born overseas are higher than those born in Australia. Average wages of Muslims are much lower than those of the national average, with just 5% of Muslims earning over $1000 a week compared to the average of 11%.
Relations between Muslim Australians and larger Australian society has flared on several occasions. In 2005, race riots occurred following the 4 December attack on Surf Life Savers at Cronulla Beach.
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. 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.
Between 1860 and the 1890s a number of Central Asians came to Australia to work as "Afghan" 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.
The first attack planned against Australian civilians to be motivated by political Islam 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 murdered four Australians before being killed by the police.
In the early 20th century, Muslims of non-European descent were banned from emigrating to Australia under the provisions of the White Australia policy.
However, some Muslims still managed to come to Australia. In the 1920s and 1930s Albanian Muslims were accepted, whose European heritage made them compatible with the White Australia Policy. Albanian Muslims built the first mosque in Shepparton, Victoria in 1960 and the first mosque in Melbourne in 1963.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 forums and meetings have been held about the problem of extremist groups or ideology within the Australian Islamic community. Politicians and the media have taken a robust approach to tackling militant Islam at home and abroad. Jamaah Islamiyah’s bomb attack on the Bali tourist resort in Indonesia on 12 October 2002, killed 88 Australians. Some 20 Australians were killed on 9/11. Australia’s Prime Minister, John Howard, was in Washington on 9/11. Australia immediately committed special forces to the war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
A 2004 report from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission showed that many Muslim Australians 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.
After 7 July 2005 London bombings, Mr Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group and said that no radicals would be invited to join. When al-Hilali (the Mufti of Australia) suggested Holocaust denial, Andrew Robb, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism, said he would not be reappointed to the group. Peter Costello (Mr Howard’s deputy) warned that, if the radical Muslim cleric Abdul Nasser Ben Brika really wanted to live under Sharia law, he might choose voluntary deportation to Iran.
In 2005, an attack on Volunteer Surf Life Savers by Lebanese Australian Muslims and verbal abuse of the local women with phrases such as ‘You’re a slut’, ‘you Aussie slut’, ‘you should be raped’ caused the 2005 Cronulla riots.
In October 2006, Muslim cleric Taj El-Din Hilaly compared women who do not wear the Islamic veil to "uncovered meat", implying that they were responsible for gang rapes perpetrated by Muslims; "if the meat was covered, the cats wouldn't roam around it". Hiali's comments echoed earlier comments placing the blame on women for rape made by Sheik Feiz Mohammed. Angry responses to the comments were made from Muslim women as well as non-Muslim figures. A similar incident occurred in January 2008, when cleric Samir Abu Hamza, leader of the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia, told his male followers they can beat and rape their wives if they're disobedient. He also denounced Australian culture as one of beer, gambling, and prostitutes. These comments were condemned by both the Muslim community and the public at large; Prime Minister Kevin Rudd demanded an apology for the comments, saying "Australia will not tolerate these sorts of remarks. They don't belong in modern Australia, and he should stand up, repudiate them and apologise". 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 face hurdles both from within the Muslim community and from the wider community.
In March 2011, Imam Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly denounced Feiz Mohammad. He called Feiz Mohammad dangerous, and insisted that he be banned from delivering sermons to young Muslims. He said his preaching "can lead young people to move away from their family and community [and] to distance and isolate themselves." He added, "If religion had something like the Australian Medical Association, or a trade authority, they would not allow him to be preaching, they wouldn't give him a licence ... I haven't seen a change in him."
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. 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. Sydney's Muslim leaders, including Keysar Trad, have condemned the actions of the suicide bombers and denounced ISIS.
A number of Australian Islamists have been arrested. One Australian arrested 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. One jihadist was pictured, with along with his son, holding decapitated heads. There was public outrage.
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. 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 fuelling the threat to Australian nationals.
Notable Australian Muslims
- Randa Abdel-Fattah
- Aziza Abdel-Halim
- Adeeb Kamal Ad-Deen
- Fawad Ahmed
- Ameer Ali
- Waleed Aly
- Abdul Nacer Benbrika
- Muhammed Dawood - former Muslim
- Ahmed Fahour
- Mamdouh Habib
- Abu Hamza
- Sheik Haron
- Taj El-Din Hilaly
- Bachar Houli
- Ed Husic
- Nazeem Hussain
- John Ilhan
- John Ibrahim
- Usman Khawaja
- Bilal Khazal
- Rashid Mahazi
- Hazem El-Masri
- Feiz Mohammad
- Anthony Mundine
- Fehmi Naji
- Aamer Rahman
- Jack Roche
- Osamah Sami
- Keysar Trad
- Samina Yasmeen
- Irfan Yusuf
A number of organisations and associations are run by the Australian Islamic community including mosques schools among others.
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