Searching for Identity: Muslims in Australia

Author: 
Abdullah Saeed & Shahram Akbarzadeh
Publication: 
Abdullah Saeed and Shahram Akbarzadeh (eds.), Muslim Communities in Australia. Sydney: UNSW Press
Publication Date: 
2001

Although Muslims have lived, travelled and worked in Australia for over two centuries, it was only after the Second World War that large-scale settlement in Australia began. Since that time, Muslim migrants and refugees from Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific have come to settle in Australia.This introduction to the book Muslim Communities in Australia opens with an overview of the formation of Muslim identity, briefly setting out relevant historical periods and introducing the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ Islam. The material covered by the book, which explores the development of Australian Muslim identities, is then summarised. It begins with an overview of the history of Muslims in Australia, continuing with a chapter on the development of fledgling Muslim institutions and networks, and then explores the internal diversity of the Australian Muslim community and the misleading idea of a monolithic Muslim community. The empirical section of the book then begins with a number of case studies, highlighting the importance of gender in describing the different social needs of Muslims; the psychological problems faced by female Muslim migrants to Australia; and the challenges for Muslim parents in bringing up and educating children in a largely socially and sexually permissive secular society. The next few chapters discuss the importance of Muslim Student Associations in bridging cultural and ethnic gaps between Muslim youth; the challenges of dealing with differences between secular and Islamic family law; the role of Islamic banking and financial institutions in strengthening community networks; and developments in the representation of Islam and Muslims in the Australian media. The book ends with a call for greater acknowledgement of Islam’s place in Australia, in order to facilitate the development of an Australian identity among Muslims and to contribute to the wellbeing of Australian society in general.