Australia is home to more than half a million Muslims, of which an estimated 40% were born in the country while the rest are immigrants from more than 70 different countries.
Muslims in Australia
Malaysians travelling to Australia might be surprised to find Malay restaurants, serving home-sweet-home specialities, and a vast Malay network, fuelled by a rapidly growing number of students and work immigrants. Actually, Malay Muslim communities in Australia find being called “an emerging community” a misnomer as Malays have been a part of Australia since 1984 when Cocos (Keeling) Islands voted to become part of the country.
Aside from the Malay Muslim community, there are also large Muslim communities made up of many other ethnic groups from Bangladesh, Turkey, Lebanon and Sudan, to name a few.
Australia and Muslim tourists
Tourism organisations in Australia have put effort to woo Muslim tourists through a number of initiatives and campaigns. In 2015, Tourism Australia issued a visitor guide for Muslim tourists and added a Muslim-friendly website section, covering halal restaurants in the biggest cities. Regional tourism agencies have also taken an active approach in promoting Australia as a Muslim-friendly tourism destination, for example, Australia’s Queensland state that promoted the Gold Coast as a perfect destination for a cooler Ramadan.
Halal food in Australia
There is a wide range of halal and Muslim-friendly food options in the country: from simple kebab joints to upscale places, and halal Australia food products in supermarkets. Muslim-friendly restaurants in Australia are plenty and prominently display the halal sign – although be mindful that they are self-certified; currently, there is no official restaurant certification body in Australia.
Have you ever watched the show MasterChef Australia? Then you might be familiar with George Calombaris. Well, his Greek restaurant in Melbourne serves halal food so Muslim patrons can happily dig into the chicken wings in smoked black Aleppo mayo, grilled squid and calamari. And you can check for more halal restaurants on Australia Tourism page. P.S. Those who are planning to study in Australia: most university campuses should have Muslim-friendly food options too, so worry not!
At the same time, Australia has a strong system of halal certification for produced food and a number of certification bodies, 7 of which are recognized by Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM). The Halal Certification Authority (HCA) was set up in 1993 and is a founding member of the World Halal Council and World Halal Food Council, and Australia’s largest internationally accredited halal certification agency ICCV Halal Certification operates across six continents.
If you are coming from Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, you must have noticed that food items in the supermarkets and even some restaurants that have their products certified by Australian halal certification bodies.
Muslim-friendly hotels in Australia
Muslim-friendly hotels can be found in any bigger city in Australia. Most of them will remove any alcohol from the mini-bar, cater halal food and provide information on Muslim-friendly restaurants in their area. Some like Rendezvous Hotel in central Melbourne and The Grace Hotel in Sydney downtown provide praying mats on request.
P.S. The links lead to Tripfez own hotel platform where hotels are rated on how Muslim-friendly they are.
Prayer facilities in Australia
Finding a prayer facility in Australia is generally not a problem. Mosques and Islamic centres can be found in all the major cities – the most prominent is the Central Adelaide Mosque and the Baitul Huda Mosque in Sydney – and prayer rooms have been established in the airports, hospitals and universities.
If a dedicated space is not available, it’s not unusual to see Muslims just praying in shopping mall nurseries when shopping, or out in the open. And no one bats an eye.
Prominent Muslim Australians
There are many prominent Muslim Australians such as Rashid Mahazi (a Melbourne-born soccer player and midfielder for Melbourne Victory), Esma Voloder who won Miss World Australia 2017, Ahmed Fahour (the former CEO of Australia Post and receiver of the Order of Australia for his contribution to multicultural relations improvement) and Ed Husic, the first Muslim to be elected to federal parliament, to name a few.
Every year the good deeds of Muslim citizens are recognized and celebrated by the Mission of Hope’s annual Australian Muslim Achievement Award that honours best community projects, role models, businesses and 15 more nominations.
And you might have read the news about an Australian doctor Sheikh Taufique Choudhury who was threatened by ISIS and put on their kill list for presenting a speech to British anti-terrorism experts in 2016. He’s a founder of Mercy Mission, an Islamic development organisation that has been involved in volunteer activities and post-emergency responses such as supplies and food provision and clean up work following floods in Brisbane. Did you know that he’s also the person behind Australia’s largest Islamic conference, the Twins of Faith, which was held in Malaysia in December 2017?
Islam in Australian society
The open-minded Australian society has truly embraced different cultures and observes their unique festivities. The Islamic Eid Festival is widely celebrated throughout Australia by Muslim communities, with the biggest celebration being The Multicultural Eid Festival & Fair (MEFF) in Sydney.
And the year 2018 will see Australia’s first Muslim reality show ‘Muslims Like Us’, a Muslim take on Big Brother, after the success of ‘Ali’s Wedding’ 2017 movie that won the audience award at the Sydney Film Festival and best film award at Western Australia’s CinefestOz.
With the help of the Victorian government’s multicultural facilities program, the Islamic Museum of Australia was opened in 2014 in Thornbury, 10 kilometres outside Melbourne’s city centre. It’s the first Islamic Museum in Australia and aims to dispel stereotypes and promote understanding of Islam’s unique heritage and its contributions to Australia. A rich collection of contemporary art by Australian Muslim artists as well as crafts and artefacts can be found here in five permanent galleries as well as one designated for visiting exhibitions. The museum also holds lectures, workshops, events, screenings and more.
Additional effort is put into fostering an interfaith religious dialogue between numerous parties in Australia. Mercy Mission provides a space for non-Muslims to learn about Islam and a voice for the Muslim community. And the Australian National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims, and Jews rotates between Jewish, Muslim and Christian venues in Sydney and hold discussions on the key points of contention between the three faiths such as the Trinity, Jihad and Zionism.
Islamophobia in Australia
Despite all, some anti-Islam sentiments do prevail in Australia. The country has – after all – suffered from terrorist attacks attributed to Muslims and increasing immigration alarms some Australians.
Anti-Islam sentiments are propagated largely by people like Pauline Hanson, an Australian senator. He encourages Australians to buy non-halal and pushing for a “burqa ban”. Parties like The One Nation create further division by claiming that money from halal products is believed to “fund terrorism”.
There are, however, also a large number of open-minded Australians who refuse to label the whole group as ‘bad and scary’. Case in point: after the Martin Place siege (a 16-hour ISIS hostage crisis and Australia’s first terrorist siege), Australians showed solidarity with Muslims using the hashtag #illridewithyou and offered to accompany Muslims that were afraid of prejudiced attacks/abuse.
So is Australia a Muslim-friendly country?
In an age of increased scrutiny and mounting economic uncertainty, we should realize that the absolute majority of Australians do not have anything against Muslims. In fact, some sincerely want to learn more about Islam.
And most importantly, always communicate.
In order to avoid misunderstandings, be clear about your restrictions (not going for parties, not shaking hands, etc). At the end of the day, Muslims must be able to live by the saying ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ without compromising on their religious requirements, core values and identity. Portraying the beauty of Islam by example is the responsibility of Muslims and not of anyone else.
A trip to Australia coming soon?
Check out some of our articles on Aussie travel: 12 Australia attractions you cannot miss and 13 ideas for your trip to Tasmania. By the way, Tasmania might be a great destination during the coming Chinese New Year holidays – because of its mesmerizing lavender fields.
And if need to book a Muslim-friendly hotel, visit our Australia travel guide for Muslim travellers that also has a Qibla map and a prayer time calendar so you don’t miss your prayer.
Those who prefer to have all the travel arrangements are taken care of instead, book Tripfez tour packages to Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast and many other famous destinations in Australia.