Islam in Australia

Part of a series on
Islam in Australia


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


List of mosques
Baitul Huda Mosque · Lakemba Mosque
Auburn Gallipoli Mosque · Marree Mosque
Central Adelaide Mosque


Islamic organisations in Australia


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


National Mosque Open Day

Prominent Australian Muslims
Ibrahim Abu Mohamed

Islam in Australia is a minority religious affiliation. According to the 2011 Australian Census, the combined number of Muslims in Australia from all forms of Islam constituted 476,291 people, a figure which represents 2.2% of the total Australian population being self-identified Muslims, who despite identifying with varying denominations and sects,[1] "some estimate more than half are non-practicing"[2] cultural Muslims. That total population made Islam the third largest religious grouping in Australia, after all forms of Christianity (61.1%, also including practicing and non-practicing cultural Christians) 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.[3][4] Adherents of Islam represent the majority of the population in Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

Although the vast majority of Muslims in Australia belong to the two major denominations of Islam, the Sunni and Shia denominations, with the followers of each of these further split along different Madh'hab (schools of thought within Islamic jurisprudence for the interpretation and practice of Islamic law), there are also practitioners of other smaller denominations of Islam, including Ahmadiyya Muslim Australians of various national backgrounds, Ibadi Muslim Australians of Omani descent, as well as some non-denominational Muslims, and approximately 20,000 Druze Australians whose religion emerged as an offshoot of Islam which arrived in Australia with the immigration of Druze mainly from Lebanon and Syria. There are also Sufi (Islamic mysticism) minorities among Muslim practitioners in Australia.[5]

While the overall Australian Muslim community is defined largely by a common religious identity with "Islam", Australia's Muslims are not a monolithic community, and it is only the Qur'an that unites them. The Australian Muslim community is fragmented not only by traditional sectarian divisions of what each sect defines as Islam, but also 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

Indonesian Muslims 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

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 present

In the early 20th century, immigration of Muslims to Australia was restricted to those of white European descent, as persons of non-European heritage 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 Ottoman Empire shot and killed four Australians and wounded seven others before being killed by the police.[24]

Increased immigration

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 white European Muslims who began to arrive from other parts of Europe, mainly from the Balkans, especially from Bosnia and Herzegovina. As with the Albanian Muslim immigrants before them, the European heritage of these dispaced Muslims also made them compatible with the White Australia Policy.

Later, between 1967 and 1971, during the final years of the step-by-step dismantling of the White Australia policy, approximately 10,000 Turkish citizens settled in Australia under an agreement between Australia and Turkey. From the 1970s onwards, there was a significant shift in the government's attitude towards immigration, and with the White Australia policy now totally dismantled from 1973 onwards, 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 of non-White non-European Muslims 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. 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. At the time of the 2011 census, 476,000 Australians (representing 2.2 percent of the population) reported Islam as their religion.[25]

Since the 1990s

Trade and educational links have been developed between Australia and several Muslim countries. Muslim students from countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are among the thousands of international students studying in Australian universities.

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

On a few occasions in the 2000s and 2010s, tensions have flared between Australian Muslims and the general population. The Sydney gang rapes formed a much reported set of incidents in 2000; a group of Lebanese men sexually assaulted non-Muslim women. In 2005, 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] There was an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment in the aftermath of the Sydney hostage crisis on 15–16 December 2014, including a threat made against a mosque in Sydney.[27] However, the Muslim community also received support from the Australian public through a social media campaign.[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] An article in The Australian in May 2015 opined, "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".[31]

Schools of jurisprudence in Australia

Most Australian Muslims are Sunni, with Shia then Sufi and Ahmadiyya as minorities.[32]


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 Sunni Islam, including the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia[33] and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association (Australia) (ASWJA).[34] While their numbers are small,[35] the ASWJA is said to "punch above its weight".[6]

Dawateislami is "a global non-political movement"[36] with adherents in Australia.


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,[37] and the Al-Rasool Al-A'dham Mosque serves the region in Bankstown. In 2008, the mainstream Shia community numbered 30,000 followers nationally.[38]

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.[39][40] In November 2015 there was Ashura march in Sydney[41] and a Victorian school observed Muharram.[42]

There are also others from smaller non-mainstream sects of Shia Islam, including approximately 20,000 Alawites from Turkish, Syrian and Lebanese backgrounds.[43] They have at least one school called Al Sadiq College, with campuses in the Sydney suburbs of Yagoona and Greenacre.[44] There is also a population of the related, though distinct, Alevis.[45]

There is also an Ismaili population of unspecified size.[46][47] While Dawoodi Bohra, a small Ismaili Shia sect[48] has its Sydney Jamaat located in Auburn NSW.[49]

Additionally, the Druze, who practice Druzism, a religion that began as an off-shoot of 11th-century Ismaili Shiite Islam,[50] are reported to have around 20,000 followers living in Australia.[51]


There are communities of Sufis, estimated to number about 5,000,[52] most notably the Ahbash, who operate under the name Islamic Charitable Projects Association.[53] They run Al Amanah College, as well as a mosque and a community radio station in suburban Sydney.[54] There have been tensions between the Ahbash and other Muslim communities.[55][56]


The Ahmadiyya[57][58] community is reported to have 3,000 followers in Australia.[59] There are 4 Ahmadiyya mosques in Australia in Sydney; Masjid Bait-ul Huda, Melbourne; Masjid Bait-ul Salam, Brisbane; Masjid Bait-ul Masroor and Adelaide; Masjid Mahmood. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has its headquarters located at the Masjid Bait-ul Huda, Marsden Park to the west of Sydney.[60]

The leaders of the Ahmadiyya community condemn terrorism, support law enforcement authorities,[61] advocate speaking English and being loyal to Australia.[62] Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Australia national spokesman Aziz Omer said, "We are loyal to Australia and we want our kids to be loyal to Australia", with association members delivering 500,000 Loyalty to Homeland leaflets.[63]

Ahmadi Muslims have been subject to various forms of intra-Muslim religious persecution and discrimination.

Sectarian tensions

Saudi Arabia has been heavily involved in funding Australian Islamic institutions, with estimates up to US$100 million.[64] This has generated tensions between Australian Muslim organisations and has raised concerns in the wider Australian community.[65][66][67]

Conflict between religious groups in the Middle East are reflecting as tensions within the Australian community[68][69][70][71] and in the schools.[72]

Religious life

The Australian Muslim community has built a number of mosques and Islamic schools, and 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. In 2007, Hilaly was succeeded by Fehmi Naji in June 2007[73] who was succeeded by the current Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed in September 2011.[74]

Sunshine Mosque located in Melbourne serves the Turkish Cypriot community.

Fatwas, edicts based on Islamic jurisprudence which aim to provide "guidance to Muslim Australians in the personal, individual and private spheres of life",[75] are issued by various Australian Islamic authorities.[76][77]


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. Broad community associations which represent large segments of the Australian Muslim public are usually termed "Islamic councils". Some organisations are focused on providing assistance and support for specific sectors within the community, such as women.

Two organisations with strong political emphasis are Hizb ut-Tahrir[78] which describes itself as a, "political party whose ideology is Islam"[79][80] and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association (ASWJA).[81][82]

A number of financial institutions have developed Sharia-compliant finance products,[83] with university courses leading to Islamic financial qualifications also being established.[84] Other Australian Islamic organisations have been set up to manage sharia-compliant investments, superannuation,[85] Islamic wills[86] and zakat management.[87][88]

Halal certification

There are 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 AFIC.[15]:151 Halal certification has been criticised by anti-Halal campaigners who argue that the practice funds the growth of Islam, results in added costs, a requirement to officially certify intrinsically-halal foods and with consumers required to subsidise a particular religious belief.[89]

An inquiry by an Australian Senate committee, which concluded in December 2015, found the current system is "lacklustre" and made recommendations for improvement.[90] It found there was no evidence to support claims that the profits of halal certification are used to fund terrorism.[91][92] The report recognised that halal certification has economic benefits for Australia because of increased export opportunities.[90] It recommended that the federal government increase its oversight of halal certifiers to address fraudulent conduct, with halal products to be clearly labelled and for meat products sourced from animals subject to religious slaughter, to be specifically labelled.[93]


Concerns and contemporary issues facing the Australian Muslim community include rates of unemployment, the rights of women, concerns over Islamism and Islamic radicalism, among others.

Islamic preachers and clerics in Australia have been covered in the Australian press on account of the messages they have 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.[94] Statements viewed as misogynistic and radically paternalistic have come under criticism.[95]

Radical Sunni Islam

A number of incidents have highlighted the issues associated with radical Sunni Islam in Australia, including terrorism and militant activity.[96]

Several foreign Sunni terrorist organisations have sponsored the establishment of cells in Australia, including Lashkar-e-Taiba,[97][98] and Jemaah Islamiah.[99][100]:111[101]:38 Al-Shabaab is believed to have been behind the Holsworthy Barracks terror plot.[102][103][104][105] A man known as "Ahmed Y" established a small militant group in Australia in 2001 and advocated the idea of establishing an Islamic State in Australia.[106]:14 Groups led by Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Khaled Cheikho were active in Melbourne and Sydney, respectively, until police arrested their members in 2005.[107][108] Instances of domestic terror inspired by radical political Islam include the plots by Faheem Khalid Lodhi, Abdul Nacer Benbrika and Joseph T. Thomas.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), proscribed by the government as a terrorist organisation,[109] has targeted Australian Muslims for recruitment.[110] Making use of social media, recruiters target those vulnerable to radicalisation,[111][112] and encourage local jihad activities.[113][114] Some of those targeted have been minors, including a teenager who was arrested in Melbourne in May 2015 for plotting to detonate home-made bombs.[115] In June 2014, the government claimed that roughly 150 Australians had been recruited to fight in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.[116][117] A list released in April 2015 showed that most were young males who have come from a range of occupations, including students.[118] It was also reported at the time that 20 Australians had been killed fighting overseas for terror groups, with 249 suspected jihadists prevented from leaving Australia.[119] The Border Force Counter-Terrorism Unit, tasked with stopping jihadists from leaving the country,[120] had cancelled more than 100 passports by the end of March 2015.[112] Several jihadists have expressed the desire to return to Australia,[121] but Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that any who do would be prosecuted on their arrival.[122][123]

In December 2015 the Director General of ASIO Duncan Lewis stated that the number of Australians seeking to travel overseas to fight with groups such as ISIS had "plateaued a bit" due to better awareness of the issue among the Islamic community, few young Australians being attracted to ISIS and improvements to the speed with which passports could be cancelled. He also stated that a "tiny, tiny" proportion of Australian Muslims were influenced by ISIS. At this time the government believed there were around 110 Australians fighting with extremist groups, which was slightly lower than previous levels, and 44 Australians had been killed in Syria.[124]

In an Australia-wide survey published in November 2015, which was based on 1,573 interviews, which asked, "What is the likelihood that Islamic State will carry out a large scale terrorist attack in Australia?" 24% of the respondents said "it is inevitable", 23% said "very likely" and 29% said "likely". Greens' voters were least concerned about an attack.[125][126]


A number of forums and meetings have been held about the problem of extremist groups or ideology within the Australian Islamic community.[127] After the London bombings in 2005, Prime Minister John Howard established a Muslim Community Reference Group to assist governmental relations with the Muslim community.

Sydney's Muslim leaders, including Keysar Trad, have condemned the actions of suicide bombers and denounced ISIS.[128] The Shia community in Australia have also expressed their concern regarding ISIS.[39][129] 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."[130]

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."[131] 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".[132]

In September 2014, the external affairs secretary of Australia's Ahmadiyya muslims, urged the Islamic community to denounce ISIS, "because they know very well that ISIS is responsible for brutal, reprehensible killings of Muslims in Syria and Iraq".[133]

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".[134]

In May 2015, the Abbott Government committed a further AU$450 million to fight home-grown terrorism.[135]

Muslim leaders have criticised the current Grand Mufti of Australia, following the Muftis response to the November 2015 Paris attacks.[136] Ameer Ali has said, "The problem I have with the Mufti is he cannot communicate in English. That means he has to rely on the people around him."[137] Anthony Albanese described the Grand Mufti's contribution as "completely unacceptable".[138] Josh Frydenberg along with other senior politicians have urged moderate Islamic leaders to speak with one voice against extremism.[139]

The founder of Australia’s biggest Muslim media organisation Ahmed Kilani is seeking a "revolution" within the Islamic community and has called upon Muslim leaders to unequivocally repudiate violence conducted in the name of Islam.[140] Dr Recep Dogan of Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Islamic Sciences and Civilisation, said as Muslim leaders in Australia do not seem to be engaged at a community level.[141]

During an interview on ABC Lateline program, the authors of a book entitled Islam and the Future of Tolerance, Sam Harris, an atheist and neuroscientist, and Maajid Nawaz, a former Hizb-ut-Tahrir member, argued that Islam has failed to modernise. Harris said, "We have a task ahead of us, a monumental task ahead of us, and that is to begin the process of adapting, reinterpreting our scriptures for the modern day and age." [142] Politician Andrew Hastie has said, "Modern Islam needs to cohere with the Australian way of life, our values and institutions. In so far as it doesn’t, it needs reform."[143] Former federal Treasurer, Peter Costello has said, "Islamic scholars need to tell would-be jihadis, why these difficult sections of the Koran and the Hadiths," which may have been acceptable in the 7th century, "are not to be taken literally and not to be followed today".[144]

Former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has said, "there needs to be a concerted ‘hearts and minds’ campaign against the versions of Islam that make excuses for terrorists".[145][146]

However, Hizb ut-Tahrir (Australia) spokesman, Uthman Badar, said, "Islam is not up for negotiation or reform. Islam is what it is."[147] Australia's Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane has said that Hizb ut-Tahrir's views are, "absurd."[148]

In December 2015 the Grand Mufti of Australia and several high profile imams issued a new year's message supporting a fatwa against Islamic State. In the message they stated that "most Islamic Legal Circles and Fatwa Boards have condemned ISIS", and warned young people to avoid the organisation's propaganda.[149]

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said, "we should not be so delicate as to say ISIL and its ilk have ‘got nothing to do with Islam’. But equally we should not tag all Muslims or their religion with responsibility for the crimes of a tiny criminal minority". He also said, because ISIL is effectively using social media for its propaganda, and with anti-ISIL forces not reacting quickly enough to contradict these on-line messages, there is a need for more rapid and persuasive factual responses.[150]


According to some scholars, a particular trend of anti-Muslim prejudice has developed in Australia since the late 1980s.[151] 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.[152]

A report published in 2004 by 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.[153]

After the White Australia immigration laws were replaced with multicultural policies the social disadvantage of Muslims was thought to have been alleviated. 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.[154]

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.[155]

A poll of nearly 600 Muslim residents of Sydney released in November 2015 found that the respondents were three to five times more likely to have experienced racism than the general Australian population. However, approximately 97 per cent of the Muslim respondents reported that they had friendly relations with non-Muslims and felt welcome in Australia.[156]

In an Australia-wide survey published in November 2015, which was based on 1,573 interviews, which asked, "Are Muslims that live in Australia doing enough to integrate into the Australian community, or should they be doing more?", only 20% of respondents thought Muslims are currently "doing enough".[125][126]

A poll conducted by the University of South Australia's International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding which was released in 2016 found that 10 per cent of Australians have hostile attitudes towards Muslims.[157] The accompanying report concluded that "the great majority of Australians in all states and regions are comfortable to live alongside Australian Muslims".[158]

Women's rights

Main article: Women in Islam

As part of the broader issue of women's rights and Islam, the perceived gender inequality in Islam has often been the focal point of criticism in Australia through 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.[152][159] 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.[160] Several Melbourne councils have women-only sessions in their swimming pools. Monash Council has provided a curtain to ensure privacy for Muslim women.[161][162]

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 stating that there were "not many more than 50" polygamist Muslim families in Australia.[163]

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".[164][165] There are Sharia law based mediation centres in Sydney and Melbourne.[166] To expedite a religious divorce, Australian Muslim women often agree to sharia law principles which result in an unequal distribution of assets and rights.[167] A Melbourne based, Muslim lawyer has said, "his clients, almost all female, say they have been disadvantaged by Sharia settlements."[166]

At a major Sydney mosque women are required to remain behind tinted glass on the second floor.[168][169]

In March 2016 the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal determined that separate male and female seating arrangements at public events hosted by Hizb ut-Tahrir contravened section 33 of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act. The Tribunal ordered that all future publicity materials for public events hosted by Hizb ut-Tahrir must clearly inform attendees that segregated seating arrangements are not compulsory.[170][171]

In May 2016 the United Muslims of Australia held a conference in Sydney where genders were separated by a fence.[172]

The president of the Australian National Imams Council, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman has said that women would be "hung by their breasts in hell" and women should not look at men.[173] He has also said that women must obey their husbands to enter paradise.[174]

Children's rights

Main article: Islam and children

It has been reported that female circumcision has been carried out in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.[175][176] The act has been a criminal offence since the 1990s. The first criminal trial concerning female circumcision in Australia ended with the conviction of three members of the Dawoodi Bohra Shia Muslim community in November 2015 and in 2016 a community leader was imprisoned.[177][178][179] There are reportedly 120,000 migrant women living in Australia who have had their genitals mutilated.[180]

There have been prosecutions under Australian law in regards to Islamic marriages involving underage girls.[181][182][183] There have been allegations of failure by Australian authorities to respond to reports of child brides.[184][185]

Employment, education and crime

As of 2007, average wages of Muslims were much lower than those of the national average, with just 5% of Muslims earning over $1000 per week compared to the average of 11%. Unemployment rates amongst Muslims born overseas were higher than Muslims born in Australia.[152] Muslims are over-represented in jails in New South Wales, at 9% to 10% of the prison population, compared to less than 3% within the NSW population.[186][187]

Other issues

Promotion of antisemitism

The leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir has said that the Jews "are evil creatures",[188] and the principal of Al-Taqwa College told students that ISIL is a scheme created by Israel.[189] An Islamic bookstore in Lakemba was found to be selling a children's book that describes Jews as "much conceited" and intent on world domination.[72]

Sheik Taj el-Din al-Hilali, former Grand Mufti of Australia said, "Jews try to control the world through sex, then sexual perversion, then the promotion of espionage, treason and economic hoarding"[190][191] with Christians and Jews being, "the worst in God's creation".[192] At a Victorian university, a Muslim group held workshops based on the teachings of Islamic scholars who have recommended the death penalty for homosexuals and apostates, promoted terrorism and preached hatred of Jews and Christians.[193]

A Sheik who leads a Sydney prayer hall, told a group including children, that Jews, "don't have mercy. They don't have anything in the heart. They've got only envy (and) they've got hatred". Dvir Abramovich, a Jewish community leader, said he was deeply troubled by Sheik Hassan’s "divisive rhetoric".[194]

A Pakistani cleric who was conducting an Australian speaking tour and who had said, "when the Jews are wiped out, then the world would be purified", was deported.[195]

Promotion of extremism

Main article: Islamic extremism

Material sold at some Sunni Islamic bookshops have raised concerns. For example, the Islamic Information Bookshop in Melbourne was stocking literature "calling for violence against non-Muslims";[196] the Al Risalah Bookshop[197] was said to be "encouraging young Australians to fight in Syria";[198][199] and the Al-Furqan Bookshop[200][201] was said to be polarising members with extreme views.[202]

The Bukhari House Islamic Bookshop[203] in Auburn, New South Wales, which is aligned to the Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah Association has featured heavily in counter-terrorism raids.[204] The gunman responsible for the 2015 Parramatta shooting is said to have spent his final days under the influence of Bukhari House leaders.[205]

In Brisbane, the iQraa Bookstore was said to promote extremism.[206][207] 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".[208]

Views on homosexuality

In June 2016, the president of the Australian National Imams Council, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman participated in an Iftar dinner at Kirribilli House hosted by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said he would not have been invited Alsuleiman had he known of his position regarding homosexuals.[209] The sheikh had previously spoken about the "evil actions" of homosexuality.[210] Australia's Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed has defended Alsuleiman, saying Islam has a, "longstanding" position on homosexuality" which "no person can ever change". He said that any attempt to call out its teachings could lead to radicalisation.[211]

A guest speaker for the Imam Husain Islamic Centre, who supports the death penalty for homosexuals in certain cases,[212] voluntarily left Australia.[213][214]

Yusuf Peer, president of the Council of Imams Queensland, in referring to the sharia law death penalty for homosexuality said, "that is what Islam teaches and that will never change."[215] The Imam of Australia's largest mosque, located in Lakemba, NSW, Shaykh Yahya Safi has said, "In Islam we believe it's a major sin to have such relations between men and men, a sexual relation. We don't discuss this because it's obvious."[216]



Historical population
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. 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.

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.

The following is a breakdown of the country of birth of Muslims in Australia from 2001:[217]

There were 281,578 Muslims recorded in this survey; in the 2006 census the population had grown to 340,392.[218] 48% of Australian-born Muslims claimed Lebanese or Turkish ancestry.[217]

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%.

The majority of people who reported Islam as their religion in the 2006 Census were born overseas: 58% (198,400).[218] Of all persons affiliating with Islam in 2006 almost 9% were born in Lebanon and 7% were born in Turkey.[219]


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 Bosnian and Turkish. 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 Bosnian).

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.[220]

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 Beechboro contain predominantly Bosnian 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.


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

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.[221] 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.[222][223] 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.[221] As a result of Malay indentured laborers, plenty of families in Northern Australia have names like Doolah, Hassan and Khan.[221] The boxer Anthony Mundine is a member of this community.[224] Many indigenous converts are attracted to Islam because they see a compatibility between Aboriginal and Islamic beliefs,[225] while others see it as a fresh start and an aid against common social ills afflicting indigenous Australians, such as alcohol and drug abuse.[221]

Bangladeshi Muslims

Bangladeshi Muslims are located primarily in Western Sydney with a mosque at Seaton[226] and in the south-east of Melbourne, with a mosque at Huntingdale.[227] The Seaton Mosque has been linked to the Tablighi Jamaat School of Islam[228] and has hosted Hizb ut-Tahrir.[229] 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.[230][231]

Bosnian Muslims

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 run mosques in Deer Park, Noble Park, and Penshurst.[232]

Lebanese Muslims

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.

In November 2016, Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton said that it was a mistake of a previous administration to have brought out Lebanese Muslim immigrants.[233][234] Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop said Mr Dutton was making a specific point about those charged with terrorism offences. "He made it quite clear that he respects and appreciates the contribution that the Lebanese community make in Australia".[235]

Somali Muslims

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.[236] Somalis are active in the wider Australian Muslim community, and have also contributed significantly to local business.[237] Somalian Muslims live in Melbourne, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth and Sydney.

Turkish Muslims

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 and film

There are a number of notable works in Australian literature that discuss the Muslims during the "Afghan period" (1860-1900).[15]:10

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.[238] Veiled Ambition won the Palace Films Award for Short Film Promoting Human Rights at the 2006 Melbourne International Film Festival.[239]

Notable figures

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Further reading

External links

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