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History of Islam in Australia

Updated on July 14, 2017

Islam Came to Australia From Indonesia

Islam is a minority religion in Australia. Around 2 percent of the population of Australia practise Islam. The religion came to Australia from Indonesia much before the arrival of Europeans. Historians believe that Bugis and Macassan traders from Indonesia brought Islam to the northern part of Australia.

Around 2.2 Percent of the Population in Australia are Muslims

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Most of the Muslims Who Came From Coastal Africa Were Laborers

Muslims from coastal Africa came to Australia along with British settlers. Most of them were laborers. The later part of the nineteenth century saw the arrival of the famous Afghan camel drivers (most of them were Muslims) to Australia. Even though they were popularly known as Afghan camel drivers, they came from different countries.

Afghan Camel Drivers Came to Australia in the Nineteenth Century

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First Group of Camel Drivers Reached Melbourne in 1860.

The first group of these camel drivers reached Melbourne in June 1860. There were eight members in the group and they came for the Burke and Wills expedition. The next group of camel drivers arrived in the year 1866 with camels for Sir Thomas Elder (a successful public figure in Australia). These camel drivers settled in the northern part of the continent (like Alice Springs). Many of them married the members of the local population.

The Ghan Is Named After Afghan Camel Drivers

The Ghan, a passenger train operating between Adelaide and Darwin, is named after these Afghan camel drivers. The first mosque was built in South Australia in the year 1861. The Great Mosque of Adelaide was built in the year 1888 by the camel drivers.

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Albanian Muslims Built the First Mosque in Melbourne

The White Australia Policy (1901 to 1973) intentionally restricted the immigration of non-whites to Australia. Only Albanian and Bosnian Muslims managed to settle in Australia during this period. Albanian Muslims built the first mosque in Melbourne in the year 1963. Many Bosnian Muslims settled in Melbourne.

Albanian Muslims Built the First Mosque in Melbourne in 1963

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Australian Government Accepted Many Muslims From the Balkan Region

Australian authorities recognized the need for population growth in the middle of the 20th century. The government accepted many Muslims from the Balkan region during this period. Thousands of Turks settled in Australia as part of an agreement between Turkey and Australia. Most of them settled in Melbourne and Sydney.

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Lebanese Muslims Form the Core of Australian Muslim Population

Muslims from Lebanon started arriving in Australia in 1975. Their numbers increased during the Lebanese civil war (1975 - 1990). Lebanese Muslims form the core of Australian Muslim population. Sydney has the most number of Muslims in Australia. Many Somalis migrated to this great continent in the 1990s due to civil war in their country.

Sydney Has the Most Number of Muslims in Australia

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Australia Is a Secular Country

Today one can find Muslim settlers from various countries (like Lebanon, Bosnia, Turkey, Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Fiji, Albania, Sudan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh) in Australia. Ed Husic, Fehmi Naji, Bachar Houli, Irfan Yusuf and Osamah Sami are some famous Muslims from Australia.

Shias and Sunnis in Australia

In Islam, there are two main strands: Shia and Sunni. In Australia, Sunnis and Shias have a long history of peaceful co-existence — and many in Australia's Muslim community don't like people coming in and stirring the pot. Australian Muslim leaders say that any stirring up of sectarian tensions goes against long traditions of tolerance and harmony in Australia.

In Australia we have been very successful in both the Sunni and Shiite community in coexisting because the dominant culture in Australia is of co-existence.

- Professor Mohamad Abdullah, director of the Islamic Centre for Thought and Education at the University of South Australia

Pauline Hanson's Take On Islam

Some Australians, like Pauline Hanson, intend to ban Muslims from immigrating to Australia. Pauline Lee Hanson is an Australian politician. She is the founder of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party (PHON). “Stop Islamic immigration before it is too late,” tweeted Pauline in June 2017.

Pauline Lee Hanson

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Islamic Fundamentalism

"I gave a lecture on Islamic fundamentalism. I unpacked the violent passages from the Koran and Hadith, showed passages from terrorist masterminds such as Sayyid Qutb and Osama bin Laden, and discussed Anglo-European activ­ity in the Middle East and ­Africa across the past 100 years to explain the modern phenomenon of ­terrorism.

My classes have Christian and Muslim students. And you know what? We all got through it. We had great discussions and I walked away with a richer appre­ciation of these movements. I hope my students did as well," said Stephen Chavura, a historian and political theorist.

Stephen teaches history and politics at Macquarie University, Campion College, Sydney, Australia, and at the Lachlan Macquarie Institute, Murrumbateman, New South Wales, Australia.

Stephen's articles have been published in journals such as the Australian Journal of Political Science, History of European Ideas, and Journal of Religious History.

His first book, Tudor Protestant Political Thought, 1547-1603, was published in 2011, and he is working on two other books, one on secularism in Australia (ARC-funded) and another on freedom of speech. He lives in Sydney's Inner West.

Australian Muslims Oppose Violence and Terrorism

Australian Muslims condemn violence. "All acts of terrorism and extremism are vile criminal acts that are completely unjustifiable," said Imam Inam-ul-Haq Kauser, National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Australia.

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Islamophobia

If you saw a woman being verbally abused by a man in the street, what would you do? The answer is easy and obvious. But a disturbing report indicates that if the woman being attacked is wearing a hijab, three out of four times Australians look the other way.

This disturbing statistic emerged in new analysis of Islamophobic-fuelled attacks reported to the Islamophobia Register of Australia in a 14-month period between 2014-15.

Women wearing a hijab or other Islamic head coverings are victims of public Islam hate attacks — and the overwhelming majority of the attacks are perpetrated by men.

Significantly, evidence presented in the report suggests that Islamophobia is not rooted in Islamic terrorism as previously thought but rooted in Muslims’ presence in Australia.

— Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor, Charles Sturt University

Religions in Australia

Religion
% of population
Christianity
61.14
No religion
22.30
Not stated
8.55
Buddhism
2.46
Islam
2.21
Hinduism
1.28
Other religious affiliation
0.81
Other religions
0.78
Judaism
0.45

Australians have a free spirit and an ability to think outside the box, and that is why I like Australia so much.

— Brian Schmidt

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