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Australia’s Proud Indigenous Muslims

Published: 14/12/2011 01:33:07 PM GMT
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MELBOURNE - Seeing Islam as a way to reconnect with their roots, the number of Aboriginal Australian Muslim converts is increasingly growing, perceivin (more)

MELBOURNE - Seeing Islam as a way to reconnect with their roots, the number of Aboriginal Australian Muslim converts is increasingly growing, perceiving a cultural fit between their traditional Indigenous beliefs and the teachings of Islam, The Conversation website reported on Wednesday, December 14.

For Alinta, an Aboriginal Australian Muslim, “Islam connects with [her] Aboriginality” because of a shared emphasis on gendered roles and spheres of influence.

“In Islam, men have a clear role and women have a clear role, and with Aboriginal people, that's how it was too,” she added.

Another Aboriginal Australian, Nazra, said that she found a shared concern between Muslims and indigenous Aussies towards environment.

“In the Qur'an it tells you very clearly don't waste what is not needed … and the Aboriginal community is the same,” Nazra said.

“Water and food are so precious you only take what you need.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.

Coming to Australia from early 1700s, Muslim fishermen from Indonesia made annual voyages to the north and northwestern Australian coast where they developed a trade with aboriginals.

The first Muslims to settle permanently in Australia were the cameleers, mainly from Afghanistan.

Nearly three thousand cameleers came to Australia between 1860 and 1930. Nineteen of every 20 were Muslims who had a profound effect on inland Australia.

From the mid-1880s, Muslim Malays came to north Australia as indentured laborers in the pearl-shelling industry.

Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.


Rejecting the idea of mono-culturalism, Aboriginals found themselves more attracted to the teachings of Islam, which made human beings into different nations and tribes who should interact to know each other.

Islam doesn't just say “you're Muslim, that's it,” Shahzad, another aboriginal, said.

“It recognizes we belong to different tribes and nations. So it doesn't do what Christianity did to a lot of Aboriginal people, [which] was try and make them like white people.”

Preaching equality between all people, regardless of skin color, Islam found a great support among aboriginal Muslims who suffered from years of racial discrimination.

According to Justin, one of Aussie aboriginals, said “before I was the typical Black angry man. I was just consumed by anger”.

For them, Islam offered an alternative system to the hurt of colonization that includes a strict code of conduct and a moral and ethical framework.

The adoption of a faith that demands the avoidance of alcohol, drugs and gambling has also played a positive role in their lives.

That framework connected them to their traditional heritage.

Sulaiman stressed that he considered terrorism before becoming a Muslims.

“I could very well have become a terrorist, without Islam, through the way I've been treated,” he said.  

“Islam came into my life and actually said hey, cool down, it's alright, justice will be served eventually.”

Reproduced with permission from

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