Islam in Australia

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Islam in Australia

Auburn Gallipoli Mosque.JPG


Early history
Makasan contact
Afghan cameleers
Battle of Broken Hill
Contemporary society
Halal certification in Australia
Islamophobia in Australia


List of mosques
Auburn Gallipoli Mosque · Central Adelaide
 • Lakemba Mosque ·
Marree Mosque


Islamic organisations in Australia


Afghan • Albanian • Arab • Bangladeshi
Bosnian • Indian • Indonesian • Iranian
Iraqi • Lebanese • Malay • Pakistani •

Notable Australian muslims
Grand Mufti of Australia
Taj El-Din Hilaly • Fehmi Naji •
Ibrahim Abu Mohamed

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.[1] 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.[2][3] Adherents of Islam represent the majority of the population in Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Australia's Muslim population is expected to rise to 714,000 by 2030.[4] The vast majority of Muslims in Australia belong to Sunni denomination, with sizeable Shia and Sufi minorities.[5]

While the Australian Muslim community is defined largely by religious belonging, the Muslim community is fragmented racially, ethnically, culturally and linguistically.[6] Members of the Australian Muslim community thus also espouse parallel non-religious ethnic identities with related non-Muslim counterparts, either within Australia or abroad.[7]


Prior to 1860[edit]

Indonesian Muslim trepangers from the southwest corner of Sulawesi visited the coast of northern Australia, "from at least the eighteenth century"[8] to collect and process trepang, a marine invertebrate prized for its culinary and medicinal values in Chinese markets. Remnants of their influence can be seen in the culture of some of the northern Aboriginal peoples. Regina Ganter, an associate professor at Griffith University, says, "Staying on the safe grounds of historical method ... the beginning of the trepang industry in Australia [can be dated] to between the 1720s and 1750s, although this does not preclude earlier, less organised contact." Ganter also writes "the cultural imprint on the Yolngu people of this contact is everywhere: in their language, in their art, in their stories, in their cuisine."[9] According to anthropologist John Bradley from Monash University, the contact between the two groups was a success: "They traded together. It was fair - there was no racial judgement, no race policy." Even into the early 21st century, the shared history between the two peoples is still celebrated by Aboriginal communities in Northern Australia as a period of mutual trust and respect.[10]

Others who have studied this period have come to a different conclusion regarding the relationship between the Aboriginal people and the visiting trepangers. Anthropologist Ian McIntosh[11] has said that the initial effects of the Macassan fishermen were "terrible", which resulted in "turmoil"[12]:65–67 with the extent of Islamic influence being "indeterminate".[12]:76 In another paper McIntosh concludes, "strife, poverty and domination . . is a previously unrecorded legacy of contact between Aborigines and Indonesians."[13]:138 A report prepared by the History Department of the Australian National University says that the Macassans appear to have been welcomed initially, however relations deteriorated when, "aborigines began to feel they were being exploited . . leading to violence on both sides".[14]:81–82

A number of "Mohammedans" were listed in the musters of 1802, 1811, 1822, and the 1828 census, and a small number of Muslims arrived during the convict period. Beyond this, Muslims generally are not thought to have settled in large numbers in other regions of Australia until 1860.[15]:10

Muslims were among the earliest settlers of Norfolk Island while the island was used as a British penal colony in the early 19th century. They arrived from 1796, having been employed on British ships. They left following the closure of the penal colony and moved to Tasmania. The community left no remnants; only seven permanent residents of the island identified themselves as "non-Christian" in a 2006 census.[16][17][18]

1860 to 1900[edit]

19th-century mosque in cemetery, Bourke, New South Wales
The grave of an Afghan cameleer

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.[19]

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.[20]

The first mosque in Australia was built in 1861 at Marree, South Australia.[21] The Great Mosque of Adelaide was built in 1888 by the descendants of the Afghan cameleers.

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.

One of the earliest recorded Islamic festivals celebrated in Australia occurred on 23 July 1884 when 70 Muslims assembled for Eid prayers at Albert Park in Melbourne. “During the whole service the worshippers wore a remarkably reverential aspect.”[22]

1900 to 2014[edit]

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.

Modern-day replica of an ice cream van owned by one of the terrorists involved in the Battle of Broken Hill in 1915.

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.[23] 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.[24]

Increased immigration (1960s onward)[edit]

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.

The Chullora Greenacre Mosque

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] At the time of the 2011 census, 476,000 Australians (representing 2.2 percent of the population) reported Islam as their religion.[25]

Anti-Arab backlash (1990-91)[edit]

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.[15]:11–13

Riots and general disturbances (2000s and 2010s)[edit]

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.[26]

Aftermath of Sydney hostage crisis (2014)[edit]

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.[27] However, the Muslim community received wide support from the Australian public.[28][29]


The founding president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has said that with moderate Muslims being sidelined by those promoting more fundamentalist views, there is a need to be more careful in regard to potential Australian immigrants. Keysar Trad has said moderate Muslims need to take back control.[30]

A May 2015 article in The Australian opines, "Most Muslims want the peace and prosperity that comes from an Islam that coexists with modernity; it is a fanatical fringe that seeks to impose a fabricated medieval Islam". It describes Dr Jamal Rifi, as a brave insider who is working to assist, "the cause of good Muslims who are struggling for the soul of Islam".[4]

Schools of jurisprudence in Australia[edit]

Most Australian Muslims are Sunni, with Shia then Sufi and Ahmadiyya as minorities.[5]


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.

In Australia there are also groups associated with the "hardline" Salafi branch of Islam, including the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia[31] and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association (Australia) (ASWJA).[32] While their numbers are small,[33] the ASWJA is said to "punch above its weight".[6]

Dawateislami is "a global non-political movement"[34] with adherents in Australia. (Refer Dawat-e-Islami and Sunni Dawat-e-Islami).[citation needed]


Shi'a commemorating Ashura outside the Opera House, Sydney.

The Shi'a denomination of Islam is centred in the St George, Campbelltown, Fairfield, Auburn and Liverpool regions of Sydney, with the al-Zahra Mosque built in Arncliffe in 1983.[35] In 2008, the community numbered 30,000 followers nationally.[36] In November 2014, up to 3,000 Shi'a Muslims marched in Sydney on the annual Ashura Procession to mark the death of the prophet's grandson.[37][38]

There are approximately 20,000 Alawites from Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese backgrounds.[39] They have at least one school called Al Sadiq College, with campuses in the Sydney suburbs of Yagoona and Greenacre.[40] There is also a population of the related, though distinct, Alevis.[41]

Druze, which is an 11th-century branch of Ismaili Shiites,[42] is reported to have thousands of followers living in Australia.[43] There is also an Ismaili population of unspecified size.[44][45]


There are communities of Sufis,[46] most notably the Ahbash, who operate under the name Islamic Charitable Projects Association.[47] They run Al Amanah College, as well as a mosque and a community radio station in suburban Sydney.[48] There have been tensions between the Ahbash and other Muslim communities.[49][50]


The Ahmadiyya sect[51][52] is reported to have 3,000 followers in Australia.[53] The Ahmadiyya mosque is located in Marsden Park to the west of Sydney.[54]

Contemporary society[edit]

Relations with the wider Australian community[edit]

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.[55] A number of issues have been highlighted in the general media concerning Muslims and the Islamic community.

  • Broader Muslim community – There are developed trade and educational links between Australia and several Muslim countries, particularly Middle Eastern ones. Muslim students from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are among the thousands of international students studying in Australian universities.[quantify][citation needed]
  • 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.[62]
  • Female circumcision – It has been reported that female circumcision has been carried out in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, with a Sydney sheikh arrested in relation to alleged genital mutilation.[63][64] There are 120,000 migrant women living in Australia who have had female genital mutilation.[65] A Sydney Imam has said, "Female circumcision in its legitimate form is a personal and human right of a woman [while] genital mutilation is a horrible crime."[66]
  • Incarcerations – Muslims are over-represented in NSW jails, at 9% to 10% of the prison population, compared to less than 3% within the NSW population.[67]
  • Islamic bookshops – Concerns have been raised regarding the material distributed by some Islamic bookshops. For example the Islamic Information Bookshop in Melbourne was stocking literature "calling for violence against non-Muslims",[68] the Al Risalah Bookshop,[69] which is linked with the Millatu Ibrahim group,[70][71] was said to be "encouraging young Australians to fight in Syria",[72][73] and the Al-Furqan Bookshop[74][75] was said to be polarising members with extreme views.[76] In Brisbane, the iQraa Bookstore was said to promote extremism.[77][78] An Islamic bookstore in Lakemba is selling children's books, one of which says that, despite their small skull volume, the Australian aboriginal people are normal human beings. Another children's story says the Jews are "much conceited" and are intent on world domination.[57] Also in Sydney the Bukhari House Islamic Bookstore was selling books promoting female genital mutilation.[79] The Bukhari House Bookstore is run by the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association (Australia), and has close links to Sydney's Street Dawah preaching group.[80] Members of the Street Dawah preaching group have died fighting for ISIS.[81] It was reported in 2015 that the al-Furqan and al-Risalah bookshops had both closed, but concern has been raised that this might be the "worst thing that could happen" as they provided a place for people to go to "express their frustrations".[82] In May 2015 it was reported that the al-Furqan Centre had been re-established in a neighboring suburb.[83]
  • Learning from one another[84] – An education-resource, which provides information on Islam for Australian primary and secondary teachers and offers practical advice in regards to incorporating Islam and Muslim related content into the curriculum.[citation needed]
  • Marriage and divorce – There has been prosecutions under Australian law in regards to Islamic marriages involving underage girls.[85][86][87] It has been reported that a "growing number of Muslim men [have] multiple wives"; the same story cited Islamic Friendship Association of Australia president Keysar Trad as believing that there were "not many more than 50" polygamist Muslim families in Australia.[88] The AFIC has advocated Australian Muslims being able to marry and divorce under the principles of sharia law, saying that Australian Muslims should enjoy "legal pluralism".[89][90]
  • 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.[91] According to some scholars, a particular trend of anti-Muslim prejudice has taken place in Australia since the late 1980s.[92]
  • Saudi funding – With estimates up to $100 million of Saudi Arabian funding into Australian Islamic institutions,[93] this has generated tensions between some Australian Muslim organisations and has raised concerns within the wider Australian community.[94][95][96]
  • 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]:15–16 At times there has been opposition to the construction of new mosques in Australia. A 2014 report from the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy, University of Western Sydney, on mosques in New South Wales found that 44 percent of mosques in the state had "experienced resistance from the local community when the mosque was initially proposed". In around 20 percent of these cases opposition was from a small number of people.[97]

Islamic institutions[edit]

Australian Muslims have established a number of distinctly Islamic institutions.

  • Halal certification – A 1974 delegation from Saudi Arabia recommended that AFIC should become the sole authority in Australia to certify that meat had been killed in accordance with Islamic rites.[98] There are now close to two dozen Halal certification authorities in Australia. Halal meat and meat product exports to the Middle East and Southeast Asia have greatly increased from the 1970s onwards; this expansion was due in part to efforts of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils.[15]:151 Halal certification has been criticised by anti-Islam lobby groups who argue that the practice results in added costs, a requirement to officially certify intrinsically-halal foods and with consumers required to subsidise a particular religious belief.[99]

Muslim community concerns[edit]

A number 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, 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.[55]
  • 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.[55][112] Following a successful appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal by a Muslim lady, who believes it is a sin to be seen without a niqab, the policy of the Monash hospital is now for female doctors to attend to female patients, if requested.[113] Several Melbourne councils have women-only sessions in their swimming pools. Monash Council has provided a curtain, costing $66,000, to ensure privacy for Muslim women.[114][115]

Religious life[edit]

The Australian Muslim community has built a number of mosques and Islamic schools; a number of imams and clerics act as the community's spiritual and religious leaders. In 1988, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) appointed Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly as the first Grand Mufti of Australia and New Zealand.[citation needed] In 2007, Hilaly was succeeded by Fehmi Naji in June 2007[116] who was succeeded by the current Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed in September 2011.[117]

Sunshine Mosque located in Melbourne serves the Turkish Cypriot community.

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."

Two organisations with strong political emphasis are Hizb ut-Tahrir (Australia)[118] which describes itself as a, "political party whose ideology is Islam"[119][120] and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association (Australia) (ASWJA).[121][122] Four people associated with the ASWJA sponsored Hume Islamic Youth Centre in Coolaroo, Victoria[123] joined Islamic State, with two becoming suicide bombers.[124]

Conflict between religious groups in the Middle East are reflecting as tensions within the Australian community[125][126] and in the schools.[57]

Issuing of fatwas[edit]

Religious edicts known as fatwas based on Islamic jurisprudence provide "guidance to Muslim Australians in the personal, individual and private spheres of life"[127] and are issued by various Australian Islamic authorities.[128][129]

Militant Islam[edit]

A number of incidents have highlighted the issue of Islamic militancy and Islamic militant extremism in Australia.[130]

Domestic militant groups[edit]

"Ahmed Y" group[edit]

An Algerian man, known as "Ahmed Y," arrived in Australia in the late 1980s. Ahmed established a small militant group in Australia in 2001 and supported the idea of establishing an Islamic State in Australia and the use of violence against Australians.[131]:14

Benbrika group (Melbourne)[edit]

A group led by Algerian cleric Abdul Nacer Benbrika in Melbourne was active until Australian police arrested its members in 2005.[132]

Cheikho group (Sydney)[edit]

A group led by Khaled Cheikho was active in Sydney until the Australian police arrested its members in 2005 under Operation Pendennis.[133]

Hizb ut-Tahrir[edit]

Hizb ut-Tahrir (Australia) has called for a, "Muslim army in Australia" to impose Sharia law in Australia and has said that, "Australia's democratic government has to go".[134] It was reported that Man Haron Monis the gunman who took hostages in a siege at the Lindt Chocolate Café in Sydney, was radicalised by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir.[135] Hizb ut-Tahrir's Australian spokesman says, "the group does not rely on violent methods". It has not been linked with terrorism. Ali Mamouri, a PhD candidate said in a 2015 article on The Conversation website that Hizb ut-Tahrir "does not have any real influence on Australia’s Islamic community".[136] A speech was made in Sydney in July 2014 by the Australian leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ismail al-Wahwah where he called for a jihad against the Jewish people. This speech has become the subject of a complaint to the NSW Anti-discrimination Board.[137] In another Sydney sermon, possibly delivered in February 2015, he said in relation to the Jews that, "There is only one solution for that cancerous tumor: It must be uprooted and thrown back to where it came".[138][139]


The Lashkar-e-Taiba, a proscribed terrorist organisation operating in India and Pakistan, set up a terror cell in Australia.[140][141] French convert to Islam, Willie Brigitte, accused of planning an attack in Australia, was trained by Lashkar-e-taiba.[142]

Mantiqi 4 (Jemaah Islamiah)[edit]

A short-lived terror cell, known as Mantiqi 4, existed in Australia for several years. The group was sponsored by Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a proscribed terrorist organisation known for their attacks in Indonesia, and was established by Abdul Rahim Ayub, a member of Jemaah Islamiah.[143][144]:111 Ayub resided in Perth during the late 1990s all while being an active JI member, travelling and attending the group's leadership conferences in Indonesia.[145] In contrast to the Jemaah Islamiah's other cells in Southeast Asia, the Mantiqi 4 cell was less of a focus for the organisation.[146]:38 The activities of the Australian branch of JI included fundraising among the local Indonesian community in Australia. Jemaah Islamiah leadership also expressed intent on identifying targets in Australia to be attacked by Al Qaeda.[146]:128


The Al-Shabaab terror group is believed to have been behind the Holsworthy Barracks terror plot.[147][148][149][150] Al-Shabaab is a proscribed terrorist organisation.[151] Leah Farrall Research Associate in Counter Terrorism at the United States Studies Centre, University of Sydney has said there is a risk, following limitations on overseas travel, that Australian Al-Shabab supporters could now "turn their focus inwards".[152]

Syrian syndicate[edit]

A group referred to as the "Syrian syndicate" has been investigated for sending Australian Muslims to fight in the Syrian Civil War. Australian counterterrorism police have investigated Wassim Fayad in connection to an attempt to ram an ATM during the 2011 Auburn riots. It is suspected that the funds were to be used in connection to local efforts of involvement in the Syrian conflict.[153]

Domestic terror plots[edit]

A number of instances of domestic terror inspired by political Islam include the Holsworthy Barracks terror plot and plots by Faheem Khalid Lodhi, Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Joseph T. Thomas.

Migration of militants[edit]

The Australian government has warned of a "disturbingly large" migration of Australian Islamic militants travelling to the Middle East to partake in conflicts in the region.[154]

ISIL-related incidents[edit]


A number of incidents relating to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS/ISIL/ISIS), a proscribed terrorist organisation, have involved Australians and garnered the attention of the Australian public. ISIL is militant Sunni group which has been proscribed by Australian authorities as a terrorist organisation.[155] Notable events include the release of an ISIL recruitment video encouraging Australians to join the group,[156] The Australian Government has said it believed, "150 Australians have been or are currently overseas fighting with extremists in Iraq and Syria,"[157] and the release of pictures of an Australian and his son, holding a decapitated head.[158] The incident elicited public outrage in Australia.[159] 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."[160] ASIO is concerned that Australians fighting jihad may return home to plan terror attacks.[161][162] In 2014 a 22 year old Gold Coast woman who called herself, "a Slave of Allah" was killed within days of arriving in Syria.[163][164] 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.[165][166] Following the death of a previous ISIS recruiter another Australian has been promoted as the "chief Islamic State recruiter".[167] In November 2014 the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (ASTRAC) cancelled the registration of a Sydney company owned by the family of a convicted terrorist because, "continued registration of Bisotel Rieh may involve a terrorism-financing risk".[168][169]

The Australian Shia community has expressed their concern regarding ISIS.[37][170]

An analysis undertaken by The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence concluded that the second most popular social media contributor within the world's foreign fighter network, described as an "outspoken cheerleader for ISIS", is an Australian.[171]

In November, a young woman travelled from Melbourne to Syria where she married an Australian jihadist.[172] She said that he had died 5 weeks after their wedding and she has no interest in returning to Australia.[173]


In February 2015, Ameer Ali former president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils called on religious leaders to oppose Islamic State as, "I haven't heard so far any single imam in this country that has named IS and condemned it."[174] In February 2015 Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said more than 40 Australian women are supporting terrorist activity, including as Jihadi brides and that, "there is an increasing number of young females" joining ISIL.[164][175]

Australia has established the "Border Force Counter-Terrorism Unit", which is tasked with stopping jihadists leaving the country.[176] They are screening hundreds of people every day,[177] have intercepted 230 suspected jihadists[178] and have cancelled more than 100 passports.[179] In May 2015 it was reported that 284 potential jihadists had been offloaded from aircraft leaving Australia.[180]

In March 2015 the principal of Victoria's largest Islamic School, the Al-Taqwa College told students not to join Islamic State because the terror group is a conspiracy created by Israel and Western countries. The spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria said he did not support the comments.[181][182]

A counter-terrorism expert, Greg Barton, has said the ISIS declaration of a caliphate and the use of social media, something Al Qaeda never did, are techniques used to recruit vulnerable Australians with the "level of one-on-one predatory grooming unlike anything we’ve seen prior".[179]

An Australian who is fighting with ISIL has threatened to kill another Australian, a cleric, who is fighting with al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Jabhat al Nusra, (which is fighting against ISIL)[73][183] despite them previously praying together and attending the same Sydney mosque. The second man is said to be the most-senior Australian jihadist in Syria, has a warrant for his arrest by Australian authorities and is targeted for assassination by the US military.[184][185][186]

In April 2015 it was reported that 20 Australians have been killed fighting overseas for proscribed terror groups,[187] with 249 suspected jihadists prevented from leaving Australia[188] and with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) currently undertaking about 400 counter-terrorism investigations.[189]

A "full list of Aussie jihadis" showed most are young males who have come from a range of occupations, including students. There are eight women on the list.[190] Subsequent to that listing an Australian doctor has also joined ISlL,[191] saying that his decision to join ISIL was "very well educated and calculated".[192]

Fatima Elomar, wife of Mohamed Elomar, was arrested as she was about to leave Australia and charged with supporting incursions into a foreign state with the intention of engaging in hostile activities.[193]

In May 2015 a Melbourne man with affiliations with the Islamic State and the Al-Furqan Islamic Centre was arrested. He had planned to drive his car into a police officer and then attack and kill the officer with a knife.[194] Two other men were charged following police raids.[195]

In May 2015, Greg Barton from the Global Terrorism Research Centre estimated that within Australia there are 10 to 20 people recruiting for IS with security sources believing there could be up to 500 vulnerable to radicalisation.[196] Australians are using social media for Islamic State recruitment and to encourage local jihad activities. One is said to be a "key recruiter" and another is said to hold a "prestige position in online jihadi circles"[197][198] and is also said to be "Australia's top Islamic State recruiter" who has connected via social media with a "radical Melbourne-based sheikh" who lectures at the Hume Islamic Youth Centre.[199]

When a Queensland teenager left Australia to fight for a terror group his parents were shocked.[200] When a Victorian teenager left ISIL, intending to return to Australia he was killed, possibly beheaded.[201] It has been reported that three jihadists, including a young woman,[202] want to return to Australia. In response the Prime Minister has said, "those who have travelled to conflict zones will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed upon their return".[203][204]


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.[205] Another, arrested for terrorist activity, was a Lebanese-Australian cleric, with links to al-Qaeda.[206] Another, Musa Cerantonio, said to be an, "Australian religious extremist", boasted he had travelled to the Middle East to join jihadists, but was arrested in the Philippines.[207] It is reported that Peter R. Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London, has identified Cerantonio (now living in Melbourne) "as one of the two most important new spiritual authorities guiding foreigners to join the Islamic State".[208]

In May 2015 Melbourne police arrested a 17 year old who had prepared three improvised explosive devices that were intended to be detonated on Mother's Day. A 14-year-old was also arrested.[209] It was reported that the 17 year old regularly spoke about ISIS on his Facebook page and was influenced by "firebrand British cleric" Mizanur Rahman[210] and the radical speeches of Sheik Abdullah Faisal.[211]

Reactions and responses[edit]

A number of forums and meetings have been held about the problem of extremist groups or ideology within the Australian Islamic community.[212][213] A meeting of 60 sheikhs and leaders of community groups released a statement denouncing the federal government's proposed anti-terrorism laws as unjust, unjustified and hypocritical. A further meeting of 50 Muslim leaders ended with in-fighting and frustration.[214] Sydney's Muslim leaders, including Keysar Trad, have condemned the actions of the suicide bombers and denounced ISIS.[215]

Glenn Mohammed a Muslim lawyer has written, "Muslims need to be able to discuss these issues openly and denounce barbaric behaviour. Instead, we choose to remain silent and then criticise a government that tries to make Australia safer."[216] 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".[217]

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.[218] Peter Leahy, Director of National Security Institute at the University of Canberra and former Chief of Army said in August 2014, Australia should prepare for a 100-year war against radical Islam. Leahy said the threat was likely to worsen as radicals returned from overseas. Michael Krause, a former senior Australian Army officer responsible for planning the coalition campaign in Afghanistan, said he agreed “absolutely” with Leahy.[219] Peter Jennings, Executive Director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has said Australian Muslim leaders need to recognise that there are a "disturbing number of radicalised ideologues" who do not believe Islam is peaceful. He says, "some dramatic self-healing is needed".[220]

In May 2015, the Australian government committed a further $450 million to fight homegrown terrorism, bringing the expenditure on national security and de-radicalisation programs to well over $1 billion.[221]

Coverage in the Australian media[edit]

Statements by Islamic clerics[edit]

Islamic preachers and clerics in Australia have been covered in the Australian press on account of the messages they've delivered publicly to the Muslim community or have otherwise shared with others in public settings. In some instances, various ideas and viewpoints espoused by these preachers have been subject of public or internal debate.[222] Statements viewed as misogynistic and radically paternalistic have come under criticism.[223] Islamic organisations in Australia have condemned the actions of gunmen who massacred 12 staff at a Paris satirical magazine.[224]

  • Australian Islamic Community – In a show of disgust 14 Muslim groups released a statement through the Australian Islamic Community attacking the violence in the protest against the film on Muhammad and pleading for it to end. In the statement they added; '"insults do not provide individuals with the right to react violently against others and retaliate in a manner as was demonstrated by a few".[225]
  • Samir Abu Hamza – in January 2008, 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.[226] These comments were condemned by both the Muslim community and the public at large;[227] 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".[228]
  • Waleed Alkhazrajy –South Australian Islamic leaders have condemned the perpetrator of the Martin Place siege. President of the Islamic Society of South Australia Waleed Alkhazrajy said his community was devastated by the incident and was praying for the victims.“We are sad for the loss of life. We are sad being part of this nation for the taking of these people as hostages,” he said.“We feel for each other, this pain. We are one body, we are one Australian body."[229]
  • Taj El-Din Hilaly – Egyptian-born Islamic cleric Taj El-Din Hilaly, named Grand Mufti of Australia by the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), is one of Australia's most notable Islamic clerics. Hilaly has been covered in the Australian press on a number of occasions for making statements that were perceived as offensive to the Australian public. In 1988, Hilaly stated that "Judaism controls the world by...secret movements as the destructive doctrines and groups," and that "Jews try to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason, and economic hoarding."[230][231] In 2006, 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".[232][233][234] Angry responses to the comments were made by Muslim women as well as non-Muslim figures.[235]
  • Sharif Hussain – Sheikh Sharif Hussain the former head Imam at the Park Holme mosque in Marion, in Adelaide's south, until his departure in 2009. Sharif was investigated by South Australian police following the release of a video containing sermons of his where he made derogatory statements concerning Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. His statements were criticised by the South Australia Islamic Society.[236][237] South Australia police ended their investigation on Sharif, deciding not to charge him for hate crimes. This decision was criticised by SA senator Cory Bernardi who called for a revision of existing hate speech laws, as well as the spokesmen for the Australian Buddhist Councils Federation and a Hindu council.[238]
  • Feiz Mohammed – Australian-born and Saudi-educated Sheik Feiz Mohammed, former preacher at the Global Islamic Youth Centre in Liverpool, Sydney, has been covered in the press for his public statements on rape; Feiz blamed rape on women for dressing immodestly. His comments were received with criticism by the Australian public.[239][240] In March 2011, Imam Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly denounced Feiz Mohammad following Feiz's website posting an Al-Qaeda video.[241] He called Feiz Mohammad dangerous, and insisted that he be banned from delivering sermons to young Muslims.[241] He said his preaching "can lead young people to move away from their family and community [and] to distance and isolate themselves."[242] 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."[243]
  • Ismail al-Wahwah – The leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir (Australia), Sheikh Ismail al-Wahwah,[247] in his article entitled, "Commentary on Charlie Hebdo and the physical law of compression", said the killing of Charlie Hebdo staff by Islamic terrorists is a “cure”.[119] During a public rally in Australia he said, "where Jews thrive corruption abounds".[248]



Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1981 76,792 —    
1991 147,487 +92.1%
2001 281,600 +90.9%
2011 476,291 +69.1%

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

The following is a breakdown of the country of birth of Muslims in Australia from 2001:[249]

There were 281,578 Muslims recorded in this survey; in the 2006 census the population had grown to 340,392.[250] 48% of Australian-born Muslims claimed Lebanese or Turkish ancestry.[249]

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%.[citation needed]

The majority of people who reported Islam as their religion in the 2006 Census were born overseas: 58% (198,400).[250] Of all persons affiliating with Islam in 2006 almost 9% were born in Lebanon and 7% were born in Turkey.[251]


At the 2011 census, people who were affiliated with Islam as a percentage of the total population in Australia divided geographically by statistical local area
At the 2011 census, people who were affiliated with Islam as a percentage of the total population in Sydney divided geographically by postal area

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.[252]

Perth also has a Muslim community focussed in and around the suburb of Thornlie, where there is a Mosque. Perth's Australian Islamic School has around 2,000 students on three campuses.

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.


Circle frame.svg

Muslim population by country of origin

  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%)
  Other (23.1%)

Aboriginal Muslims[edit]

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.[253] 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.[254][255] 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.[253] As a result of Malay indentured laborers, plenty of families in Northern Australia have names like Doolah, Hassan and Khan.[253] The boxer Anthony Mundine is a member of this community.[256] Many indigenous converts are attracted to Islam because they see a compatibility between Aboriginal and Islamic beliefs,[257] while others see it as a fresh start and an aid against common social ills afflicting indigenous Australians, such as alcohol and drug abuse.[253]

Bangladeshi Muslims[edit]

Bangladeshi Muslims are located primarily in Western Sydney with a mosque at Seaton[258] and in the south-east of Melbourne, with a mosque at Huntingdale.[259] The Seaton Mosque has been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat School of Islam[260] and has hosted Hizb ut-Tahrir.[261] For Bangladeshi Muslims attending the Huntingdale Mosque, all Islamic lunar months, such as Ramadan are observed using local moon-sightings, rather than being based on Middle-Eastern, or other, timings.[262][263]

Bosnian Muslims[edit]

Main article: Bosnian Australian

Bosnian Muslims have predominantly arrived in Australia after 1992, with most of the community living in the south east of Melbourne and in the south west of Sydney. There are Bosnian Muslim mosques in Deer Park and Penshurst.[264]

Lebanese Muslims[edit]

Main article: Lebanese Australians

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.

Somali Muslims[edit]

Main article: Somali Australians

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.[265] Somalis are active in the wider Australian Muslim community, and have also contributed significantly to local business.[266]

Turkish Muslims[edit]

Main article: Turkish Australians

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, Amity College which is run by people closely affiliated with the Galaxy Foundation (formerly Feza Foundation).

In literature[edit]

Afghan period[edit]

There are a number of notable works in Australian literature that discuss the Muslims during the "Afghan period" (1860-1900).[15]: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
  • Ali Abdul v The King, by Hanifa Deen

Australia’s Muslim cameleers : pioneers of the inland, 1860s–1930s Dr Anna Kenny

In film[edit]

  • 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.[267] Veiled Ambition won the Palace Films Award for Short Film Promoting Human Rights at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival.[268]

Notable Australian Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]


  • CIA Factbook[269]
  • US State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2006[270]
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Further reading[edit]

  • Aslan, Alice. "Islamophobia In Australia"
  • Boundless Plains: The Australian Muslim Connection, By Islamic Museum of Australia. Author: Moustafa Fahour
  • Cleland, Bilal. The Muslims in Australia: A Brief History. Melbourne: Islamic Council of Victoria, 2002.
  • Deen, Hanifa. Muslim Journeys. Online: National Archives of Australia, 2007.
  • Drew, Abdul Shaheed. Muslims in Australia since the 1600s
  • Kabir, Nahid. Muslims in Australia: Immigration, Race Relations and Cultural History. London: Kegan Paul, 2004.
  • Kabir, Nahid (July 2006). "Muslims in a 'White Australia': Colour or Religion?". Immigrants and Minorities 24 (2): 193–223. doi:10.1080/02619280600863671. 
  • Saeed, Abdullah. Islam in Australia. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2003.
  • Saeed, Abdullah and Shahram Akbarzadeh, eds. Muslim Communities in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press, 2001.
  • Stevens, Christine. Tin Mosques and Ghantowns.
  • Woodlock, Rachel and John Arnold (eds). Isolation, Integration and Identity: The Muslim Experience in Australia. Special Issue of The La Trobe Journal. Melbourne, Victoria: State Library of Victoria Foundation, 2012.

External links[edit]