The Muslim Communities in Australia: the Building of a Community

Author: 
Prof. Abdullah Saeed
Publication: 
Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and Jane I. Smith (eds.), Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible. California: Altamira Press
Publication Date: 
2002

Although small, the Australian Muslim community represents the second largest religious grouping in Australia after Christianity. Although now largely settled and generally accepted among the broader Australian public, the Muslim transition to Australia has been fraught with difficulties. This chapter from the book Muslim Minorities in the West: Visible and Invisible discusses the history of Muslims in Australia: the Afghan cameleers of the 19th century; Turkish and Middle Eastern migrants in the mid-twentieth century; and Australian converts and recent migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.Central to the history of Australia’s Muslim communities has been the challenge of establishing the social institutions that serve as the cornerstone of Islamic life. Johns and Saeed describe the difficulties of building and administering mosques; the emergence of Islamic councils and societies in the 1970s; the challenge for migrant leaders to match religious knowledge with knowledge of Australian society; and the development of Muslim educational facilities and other institutions. The problem of reconciling Australia’s publicly secular society with the need for Muslims to outwardly express their religion through prayer, dietary restrictions or dress is discussed. Today, Australian attitudes to Islam range from latent resentment and distrust, fuelled in part by politically loaded stereotypes in the media, to a significant level of acceptance and increasing interaction and cooperation with many church communities and heads of faith, as well as a growing awareness in the broader community. Muslims today are generally accepted as equal partners in the post-1945 diversity of Australian society, and there is much to suggest that this diversity will in fact help people to more clearly perceive shared core values.