ISLAMABAD: Director of Centre for Muslim States and Societies at University of Western Australia, Perth, Professor Samina Yasmeen (AM), has said that Muslims enjoy religious liberty in Australia. She chaired a forum titled “Muslim Identities in Australia” organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS) with the support of Australian High Commission, Islamabad. In his inaugural keynote address, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr. Qibla Ayaz opined that among those Muslims who migrated to Australia in its early days included mostly Arabs, Pashtuns and Turks, which can still be traced from the fact that “Kahns” resides in Australia.
The issue which Pakistan and Australia shares commonly is that of extremism.
The migration of Arabs into Australia laid the foundation of Salafi School of Thought in Australia. Like the rest of the world, ISIS also became a challenge to Australia. Professor Samina Yasmeen in her keynote address noted that Muslim migration to Australia started in the 19 th Century.
In the start, Muslim population was very small but after the 1 st World War Turkish Muslims and then Lebanese refugees moved to Australia, who are still the largest Muslim community residing there. Later, large number of Muslims moved to Australia as immigrants whose number rose significantly in the 90s. According to the 2016 Census, 604200 Muslims reside in Australia which constitutes 2.6% of the total population.
Coming from 183 countries, a huge cultural diversity is found in this community. Social Media has connected Muslims of various backgrounds to each other in Australia, giving them an opportunity to learn from each other’s cultures.
The events of 9/11 has united these communities and they are now associated to their respective study circles in Australia, she added. Shia and Sunni divide has also increased in Australia with the proliferation of separate mosques of these sects. She also apprised the audience that Sufism is emerging very popularly in Australia. Australia offers rich opportunities for inclusion.
Muslim activism has started exploring new spaces such as Arts & Culture, however, a sense of lack of inclusion always opens up ways of youth joining extremist groups, she asserted. Professor Yasmeen informed the forum that broadly two types of Muslims live in Australia ones that identify themselves as Australian Muslims and then there are ones that distinctly identify themselves as only Muslims. Professor Yasmeen said that Muslim Women of Australia are stepping forward in every field to leave their mark and the Australian government is providing them every opportunity in social, political and economic realms to feel them as equal citizens of the state.