In Australia, 1.5 per cent of total population is Muslim and Islam is the third most common religion after Christianity and Buddhism. Australian Muslims are a mixture of people from different ethnic backgrounds but are dominated by the Lebanese and Turkish.
In the last 30 years the religious leaders and imams have demonstrated a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm for the development of Mosques and Islamic centres. There are many Islamic societies, councils and a federation in Australia. However, the vision of these individual organisations has been limited to their own ethnic group or sect.
Even the mosques are distinguished by the ethnic background of the management of the mosque: like the Lebanese mosque, Turkish mosque, Pakistani mosque, Indonesian mosque, Bengali mosque, and so on, despite the fact each mosque has an official name.
It is quite understandable that, in Australia, as the Muslims came from different parts of the world they brought with them their own living-style, culture, social trends and political thoughts.
Nevertheless, this is not something extraordinary to the Muslim community alone; other communities do likewise. When the people of a particular community live in a multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious society their representatives have to be open-minded, diplomatic, tolerable, forbearing and communal. They must know how to live with others and how to respect the others’ culture, faith and thoughts.
Islam also teaches to respect the faith and beliefs of others. Prophet Mohammed denounced racism and sectarianism.
Unfortunately, things are no different among Australian Muslims compared to how Muslims are divided globally into racial and sectarian sections. The division within the Muslim community is not only a major cause of failing to designate a single representative but it also plays a major role with Muslims in commemorating their religious activities.
For example; almost every year, Australian Muslims of different ethnic or sectarian background celebrate the major annual festival of Eid on different days. Ordinary Muslims are helpless when it comes to uniting their leaders to celebrate their holy occasions together.
Unfortunately, the so-called leaders and heads of various societies, councils and the federation have never demonstrated that they have responsibility to unify and consolidate the entire Muslim community and lead them in a direction that identifies them as Australian Muslims rather than Lebanese, Turkish, Pakistani and so on.
These leaders spend most of their time and energy promoting themselves within their groups. If any problem or issue arises they try to cash in on the event for their own vested interest and publicity.
Many Muslims started to arrive in Australia after the abolition of the White Australia policy in the early 1970s. Since then a new Australian-born generation of Muslims has grown-up. Unfortunately, for these Australian-born Muslims there is no unified political direction that fits the needs of a multicultural Australia. Muslim leaders and imams are incapable of providing a cohesive platform - a platform where the Muslim community issues, problems and thoughts can be appropriately represented to the mainstream Australians.
Australian Muslims need a true leader for the entire Muslim community who possess a deep political sense and who can provide constructive guidelines for Australian Muslims in dealing with emerging issues in mainstream society.
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