Interviews with Non-Participants (the ‘disengaged’)
A total of twenty (20) Non-participants, who we have termed ‘the disengaged’, were interviewed in a mixture of individual and focus group based interview formats.
The ‘disengaged’ group in the study were selected according to two criteria: one, that they self-identified as not having previously been involved in any organised ‘community harmony’ type activity; and two, they reported little or no involvement or contact with community based organisations.
Ten Muslim and Ten non-Muslims were interviewed about why they would or would not participate in local initiatives, their experiences and views of such initiatives and barriers to participation.
They were also interviewed about informal or unofficial forms of inter-cultural/interfaith engagement they have been a part of or know of, and about their views on ‘mixing’ with those of other faiths.
Top Twenty LGAs
The top twenty Local Government Areas in terms of the number of Islamic persons resident within them according to 2006 Census data are, in order of magnitude:
Table: Top Twenty councils in terms of number of Muslim residents ABS 2006 Census
4.The Muslim Community in Australia
Contrary to popular discourse, Muslims-Australians are a heterogeneous community. Muslim communities in Australia come from a range of theological traditions and encompass different cultural, sectarian, linguistic, and ethnic values. This means that Muslims in Australia practise their cultures according to the cultural traditions of their individual countries and in some cases according to different ethnic traditions within these national cultural traditions.The religious and cultural diversity of Muslim-Australians has its origins in the post-World War II national mass immigration program initiated by the Australian government to recruit immigrants for national development.
This chapter examines the heterogeneous character of Muslim-Australian communities through an exploration of post-World War II migration patterns of Muslim immigrants to Australia. The issue of social inclusion of Muslims into the wider Australian community is more than simply about development of new social policy. Muslims in Australia are in more ways than one already part of the Australian mosaic. Their integration needs to be highlighted in popular discourse and through the development of programs and initiatives, a clear and concrete path can be paved for their continued integration.
Muslims in Australia
The presence of Muslims in large numbers is a relatively recent phenomenon in Australia. However, Muslims have been linked with Australia as early as the sixteenth century, in the west and north regions, through the Macassar fishermen from the eastern islands of Indonesia (Ahmad, 1994) and then through Malay and Filipino pearl divers recruited by the Dutch colonial authorities (Jones, 1993). Due to their small numbers and the absence of a community base, these Muslims played a marginal, if any, role in Australian social and cultural life (Cleland, 2001). Subsequently cameleers, commonly known as ‘Ghans’ were brought from the Indian subcontinent during the nineteenth century to help explore the Australian deserts and establish trade and communication routes (Mograby, 1985). The Ghans established small Muslim communities called ‘Ghantowns’ (Akbarzadeh, 2001). The first ‘Ghantown’ mosque was built in 1889 in Broken Hill in outback New South Wales and the building survives today as a museum occupied by the Broken Hill Historic Society. The Afghans also built mosques in Adelaide in 1890, in Perth in 1904, and in 1907 in Brisbane, all of which continue to function as mosques to this day (Ahmad, 1994). These early mosques symbolised the initial establishment of Islam in Australia.
However, the introduction of the railway in the remote interior and the utility truck, in particular the T Ford model in the 1920s, made camel cartage redundant and hastened the demise of the camel-carrying industry (Ahmad, 1994). As a result, the ‘Ghan’ communities slowly began to disappear. Furthermore, in 1901 when all the former colonies were federated, Australia’s early commitment to the White Australia Policy barred most non-Europeans from gaining citizenship and this further marginalised the Afghans. Without citizenship and no prospect for employment many old camelmen returned to their homelands while some remained to see life through in Australia (Jones, 1993). With their numbers dwindling through repatriation and natural causes, it became increasingly ‘difficult for those who remained to retain their Islamic identity’, (Johns and Saeed, 2002: 198). Separated both religiously and culturally from the main white Anglo- Celtic society, a vast majority of this generation of Muslims abandoned their Islamic conviction resulting in the public disappearance of Islam (John and Saeed, 2002).