Islam and Muslims have been viewed in the Western world negatively and the contributions they make to the society have been overlooked, following stereotypes that are attached to the Islam region (Akel, n.d). For instance, the Muslims are associated with “terrorist activities” and are often considered as people who don’t love peace by the Westerners (Akel, n.d). However, this is not the case. Islam and Muslims have played an important role and made many positive contributions to the development of the society (Australian Government, 2008).
Looking at the case of Australia, the Muslims have been playing an important role in the development of this society. The contributions of Muslims to the Australian society started to be realized many years ago with the coming of the first Muslim visitors who came to settle in Australia, the “afghan cameleers” (Australian Government, 2008). These people came in the 19th century. They played a very important role in the ‘early exploration of inland Australia and in the establishment of service links” (Australian Government, 2008, Para 4). Over time, the size of the Muslim community in Australia has kept on growing and basing on the 2006 census, it is indicated that there are more than three hundred and forty thousand Muslims in Australia (Australian Government, 2008). Islam and Muslims are a very important part of the Australian society; they have made very great contributions to this society in regard to economic, social, cultural and religious development.
Islam and Muslims as an important part of the Australian society and their contributions
There has been a view among people in the Western World that “Muslims are culturally incompatible, and Muslim immigrants are a potential political threat to national security” (Rane, Ewart and Abdalla, 2010, p.230). However, such a view is not factual, especially in connection with the Australian society. The Muslims are a very important part of the Australian society and have made many great contributions to this society in the course of time (Australian Government, 2008).
Right from the beginning, Muslims have been contributing positively to the Australian society (Islam for Today, n.d). For instance, the fishermen and traders, being among the first Muslim groups to arrive in the land, played a big role in promoting economic activities in the region. However, the Australian society was elevated to a higher level in all aspects of life (social, economic, cultural, religious, etc) when the “Afghan cameleers” came to settle in this land because the “Afghan cameleers” were involved in several projects (Islam for Today, n.d). One of these projects was the setting up of the railway connection between “Alice Springs and Port Augusta”. More so, the presence of the Afghan cameleers was “equally important to the development of the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin during 1870 and 1872 which eventually linked Australia to London via India” (Islam for Today, n.d, para 6). Through these developments, a number of “Ghan towns” were set up along the railway. Among these towns, there were those that had “at least one humble mosque of corrugated iron construction with a small minaret” (Islam for Today, n.d, para 7).
According to Jones and Kenny (2010), the Afghan cameleers “opened lines of supply, transport and communication between isolated settlements, making the economic development of arid Australia possible”(p.19). These people also played a major role in enriching the cultural landscape in many ways. One of the biggest contributions was the introduction of Islam faith. In the current day, there are more than three hundred thousand Australians who belong to the Muslim faith (Jones and Kenny, 2010).
However, Benmoktar (2011) points out that, the invention of motor vehicles marked the end of an epoch for the Afghan cameleers. The rise of motor vehicle transport caused these people to experience economic hardships. Eventually they had no choice but to go back to their homeland. But still, there were those who remained behind to live permanently. The descendants of these people, who remained, nowadays play an active role in the Islamic Australian society (Benmoktar, 2011).
Although the Afghan cameleers went back to their homeland, the Muslim population in Australia has kept on increasing over time (Australian Government, 2008). This increase is attributed to the multiplying of those who decided to settle in Australia and the increasing number of the Muslims who have been migrating to Australia from other parts of the world (Australian Government, 2008). For instance, according to Benmoktar (2011), when the Second World War had just ended, a large number of Muslims from Europe, especially the Turks, capitalized on the “post-war boom” and sought for better jobs in Australia. More so, the Muslim migrants from Bosnia and Kosovo landed in Australia in the course of the 1960s and they, as Benmoktar (2011) points out, “played an important part in the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity Scheme in New South Wales” (para 8). Later in time, in the year 1975, the Muslims from Lebanon also arrived in Australia in larger numbers following the occurrence of the civil war in their country. All these have been contributing to the increasing number of Muslims in Australia (Benmoktar, 2011).
The Muslims in Australia still make important contributions to the society even in the current days. In regard to the current Muslim contributions, “among the most significant contributions made by the Muslim community is by virtue of the cultural diversity within the religion” (Islam for Today, n.d, para 7). This has driven the Western world to think about issues concerning religious as well as cultural identity. The existence of Islam in the Australian society poses a challenge to the mind-set of “the Australian generally Anglo-centric society, adding to the debate on the relevance of social values which have in the past not been representative of Australia’s cultural diversity” (Islam for Today, n.d, para 8). The “Muslim community” has made positive contributions to these debates, putting emphasis on its aspiration to receive the same respect as that received by other members of the community, without being shown hostility or being treated with biasness. The Muslims in Australia have made positive contributions in nearly all fields; the religions, economic, cultural and education fields (Islam for Today, n.d).
The Islam religion and Muslims have been viewed in a negative light by the Westerners and this has led to ignoring of the important contributions the Muslim community makes to the society. However, as it has been considered, Islam and Muslims are a very important part of the Australian society. For a long time, the Muslim community in Australia has been making many positive contributions beginning from even before the 19th century. The efforts that have been carried out by the Muslims have led to economic development in Australia, as well as social, cultural, and religious development. Therefore, Islam and Muslims are an important part of the Australian society that can not be ignored and has to be held in high esteem.
Akel, B, n.d, Islam and the Western media, [Online]. Available at: http://www.islamfortoday.com/media.htm [Accessed 24 March 2011].
Australian Government, 2008, Muslims in Australia, [Online]. Available at: http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/muslims_in_australia.html [Accessed 23 March 2011]
Benmoktar, A., 2011. Muslims down under: How did Islam get to Australia? [Online] Available at: http://searchwarp.com/swa681093-Muslims-Down-Under-How-Did-Islam-Get-To-Australia.htm [Accessed 23 March 2011]
Islam for Today, n.d. A brief history of the Muslim community in Australia, [Online]. Available at: http://www.islamfortoday.com/australia.htm [Accessed 22 March 2011].
Jones, P. & Kenny, A., 2010. Australia’s Muslim Cameleers: Pioneers of the inland 1860s – 1930s, 2nd edn. Wakefield Press, Adelaide.
Rane, H. Ewart, J ,& Abdalla, M., 2010. Islam and Australian new media. Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne.