Aboriginal Islam

A couple of weeks ago there was a fascinating report in the Sydney Morning Herald about the rising number of Aboriginal Australians who are converting to Islam.
Anthony Mundine is the most high profile convert and the article carried a large photograph of Mundine.
The people interviewed believed that Islam was a religion free of the Missionary and Colonial baggage carried by Christianity.Mundine
As Rocky Davis, who converted while serving a prison sentence puts it,

“What does Islam stand for? Islam offers a faith untainted by colonialism and racism. It is a liberating religion,” says Davis. “Though the Bible said you shalt not kill, they killed, thou shall not rape, they raped our women, thou shalt not steal, they stole our land. Islam at its essence is pure.
My forefathers had no army and no guns and lived in Aboriginal townships and camps. That’s the difference between the Muslim and Christian faiths: one is for the oppressed and one’s for the oppressor, one’s for the coloniser and one for the colonised.”

It seems that a Islam has a particular appeal for Aboriginal prison inmates who are tragically overrepresented in our Judicial System. Many see a point of connection between their situation and the American Civil Rights activist Malcom X, who also converted to Islam while in prison.

As far as I know, the growth of Islam among Aboriginal Australians is not something completely recent. When I was studying Islamic studies at the ANU I was part of some interesting discussions in class about the number of high profile Black Muslims from the US who were touring in Australia, particularly visiting Aboriginal communities. The majority of my class mates and the lecturer were Muslim. (This was before September 11 put Islam firmly in the centre of public interest.)The main-stream Muslim communities generally regard the ‘Nation of Islam’ (Black Muslims founded by Elijah Muhammad and represented initially by Malcolm X and now Louis Farrakan) as unorthodox. In no small part for the claims by Elijah Muhammad that ‘God is a Black Man’. The ascription of any human characteristics to Allah is foreign to orthodox Islamic belief. There was no great enthusiasm for the missionary activities of this group among Australian Aboriginals.

The tragedy of reading and hearing about this as a Christian is seeing people who have been so thoroughly betrayed by our society, and by some Christians of previous generations, that they see liberation in Islam.

Yet Paul said,
For freedom Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1, ESV)

God have mercy on them and us.

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7 thoughts on “Aboriginal Islam

  1. Yes, it is a tragedy. How badly Christians can screw it up. The more I see people flock to other religions, or even to other less orthodox branches of Christianity, the more of a strong critique it is of the church. How many people have been turned off Christianity because of Christian education which isn't Christian? How many Aboriginal people do we expect to love the gospel when they were being overrun and abused by 'Christian' hypocrites? It's the 'church' which so often turns people away from the concept of Jesus, because of our immorality. "Expel the sinful man from among you" – perhaps it's time the church woke up to the dangers of ignoring biblical instructions on church discipline. We need to be vigilant over who is seen to carry the name of Jesus and have the support of the church… don't we? Or do we prefer to boost the Christian self-identity of unrepentant sinners, in order to keep them in the pews in the hope they will one day repent?

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  2. A couple of thoughts:
    1 God is still sovereign, even over the evil and hypocrisy of Christians. His will is still being achieved and none of his elect are lost.
    This does not excuse our sinfulness, but its a comfort.
    2. I'm not sure that its a problem of Church Discipline. We should definitely not tolerate people who are unrepentantly sinning in our fellowship. But many of these problem have been caused by people who are not in any kind of genuine Christian fellowship at all. They have only inherited the tag 'Christian' through a cultural or institutional tie. I think this has firmed me in my commitment to the separation of Church and State. So many of these awful things have been done by governments of 'Christian' countries, not by actual Christian people. The problem has been that the Church has loaned its reputation to the state. I don't know if it can ever be recovered in some parts of the world.

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  3. Your comment, god have mercy on them us is absalutley deplorable, who are you to judge what religion people choose to seek, doesnt your religion teach you not to judge and yet this is what you do. Captain cook judged Australia to be Terra Nullius and then it went down hill for the Aborigines.

    I dont blame Aboriginal people for wanting to be religious and believe in a god and they dont want to believe in yours because of the way you treat them now and the way you treated their ancestors, why would they believe in your god, what good reason have you got to convince that your god is better than any body elses belief in god.

    God have mercy on every soul who chooses to judge other people on their beliefs.

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  4. faten,
    I'm sorry it was not my intention to be offensive. What I meant, is that I believe knowing God is truly the greatest gift a person can be given.
    As you pointed out, many Christians have treated Aboriginal people atrociously, so that they have absolutely no desire to know the Christian god. As much as my judgement is worth anything, I don't judge Aboriginal people for this stance, I judge Christians.
    My comment was meant to reflect that Christians have messed things up so badly that only God can provide the fix.
    Christians believe God is good and worth knowing, this should cause us to lead lives that will make others think God is good and worth knowing too.
    Like you, I'm deeply sad that this isn't always the case.

    d

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  5. No problem, I see where your comming from now, sorry if I appeared to be rude, I tried not to be too critical.

    Actually I didnt even realise or even thought Aboriginal people were seeking religion until I started researching Australian settlement and I remember somebody telling me that Muslims had come to Australia before the europians, so I googled that too and found some interesting facts.

    Before this week you know I had this thought that Aboriginal people should give up and accept that this is Australia and then learning more about colonisation and the impact on Australian land, I am more sympathetic to why they cant let go and frankly if it was me, I believe that I would be reclaiming my heritage as well. I am not Aboriginal so i cant pretend to know how they feel and think, I can only be sympathetic or apathetic to their cause.

    However having said all this maybe religion plays a part maybe it doesnt, I do believe that Aboriginal people do need a positive focus, like all other people, is it through the seeking of religion who knows I suppose its up to the individual.

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  6. Excellent blog! Muslims' origin in Australia can be traced back to several decades ago, when many of them came to Australia as camel trainers. They were all from the Middle East and they stayed since then. They had contributed a lot to Australian society and had been a part of it. The Australian Muslims is the second largest minority group in the country after the Buddhists.

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    1. Aboriginals have been practicing Islam prior to any Europian settlers arriving they were taught by the Indonesian Fisherman from Makassar from the early 1400's, this is documented and evedence is there look for it and you will find it, they know about Jesus and the one and only god known as Jehovah to Christians and Allah to Muslims and Christians, yes Christians from Arab decent refer to god as Allah. So to my Christian brothers don't worry that the Aboriginal brothers are becoming muslim they are still praying to the same god and they are still learning about our humble profit son of Mary…..JESUS. PEACE BE UPON ALL MY JEWISH, CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM BROTHERS.

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