Muslim in Australia is dated far before the settlement of Europeans in the country. Most of earlier visitors to Australia were Muslims from east Indonesian archipelago. In the 19th and 17th century, most visitors were fishermen and traders. They arrived through the islands of the Malay Archipelago and New Guinea (Caldwell, 1987).
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The main area that they inhabited was northern coasts of Western Australia, the Queensland and Northern Territory. They were Muslims who traded with local Indigenous and fished for sea cucumber which was nicknamed, ‘trepang’. These early coastal interaction led to intermarriage of Makassar-ese and locals.
In the late 17th century, Muslims from African countries which British had concurred came to Australia as sailors or convicts. The early significant number of Muslim immigrants was in 1800s when Afghan camel drivers arrived from the Indian sub-continent (Archaeo News, 2003).
European (English the 18th century)
The first recorded European to arrive to Australia is thought to be on March 1606; his name is Willem Janszoon (1571–1638) he was a Dutch later that year Spanish explorer Luis Vaez de Torres. They explored the country and opened trading points for their countrymen. It took until 1770 for the first British man to arrive in Australia; his name was Captain James Cook.
During the days, convicts were jailed in United States but towards the end of 17th century Britain lost to United States and needed to look for another place to jail their convict since their jails were full and crowded. From 1788 British Crown colony of New South Wales was established and on January 26. 11 ships carrying 1500 people arrived in Sydney Harbour from Britain.
The day was later referred to as Australian day. From that first successful sailing about 160000 man and women were brought in the country as convicts. Other than convicts, wool industry and the gold rushes of the 1850s attracted more European settlers in the country (Lack & Templeton, 1988).
After the world second war, countries embarked on massive globalization measures that facilitated migration form one country to another. During 1947 and 1971, Australia experienced a rise in Muslims Migrants from 2704 to 22 311. During the early years after second world war, Australia had scarcity of labor; known as the land of opportunities, it developed measures to ensure that immigrants are allowed in the country for example, under Ten Pound Poms scheme 1,000,000 British Citizens.
Today, the country’s population is expected to have a quarter of it as immigrants (Price, 1987). To admit immigrant the country adopts a three system Family migration for relatives, Skill-based migration, and Humanitarian and refugee admissions. These immigrants include student’s tourists, professional and workers from all over the world.
The country has over 200 languages but English is the official language. In 2008-2009 more than 171 000 migrants’ people have been given Visa to the country through family and skills program. Over 670 000 were given temporary Visa for short term visits like sport over the same period. In addition to these, the country admitted over 13 507 humanitarian entrants (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010).
Australian Government Policy on Immigrants
The policy is divided into three they are;
Under this category if one is a fiancé or a spouse of an Australian citizen or New Zealand citizen, then one can be sponsored to Australia under this category. On the other hand, if a one is a relative or a parent to a New Zealand citizen or Australian citizen then one can be sponsored under family policy.
Under relative it is limited to aged dependent relative and remaining relative. When it comes to a child, it extends to own dependent children, relative children depending on an Australian citizen/ New Zealand citizen, adopted children’s and orphans (Junankar, Pope & Withers, 1998).
If one has skills in a certain area, and is under the age of 45 (save to RSMS), speaks fluent English and have a provable experience in a given field of study, then one can migrate to Australia under this category.
Under this category we have Skilled Independent, these are professional who may or may not have relatives in Australia; Skilled – Australian Sponsored these are sponsored by their relatives or the government programs, Employer Nomination Scheme, and Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Nilsson, 2005).
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Humanitarian and Refugee Admissions
Australia is a signatory of various international conventions which compel a country to accept refugees from war torn countries. Australia thus accepts immigrant from that angle (Claus, 2005).
Lebanese are among the earliest immigrants into Australia. They are composed of Christians Lebanese but the greatest numbers are Muslims (Jupp, 2001). They are both Shia and Sunni branches of Islam. Census conducted in 2006 gave the number of Lebanese living and having citizenship in Australia as 74,848. Over 70% of these have their permanent residence in Sydney where they form a population of about 2.6% (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006).
According to census 2006, there are 33,494 Australians with Egyptian origin. The number of Egyptians increased in the years 1940s and 1950, when Egyptians were escaping a growing move of Arabs. The majority live in Sydney, 16,238 or Melbourne, 11,156 (United Nations Statistics Division, 2006).
Since Gulf War, an increasing number of Iraqis seeking refuge in Australia, Census of 2001 was estimated to be 24,760 Iraqis living in Australia; today the number is expected to be 80,000. They include kurds, Assyrians, Turkmens, Jews, Armenians, Turkmens and Jews and Mandeans.
Sadly there are reported cases of racisms in Australia despite the wide range of immigrants and friendly policies that allow immigration (Wiseman & Wiseman, 1998). It can be traced from early days of colonization and migration. It takes the form of discrimination and use of abusive language to those discriminated.
This is despite that according to Racial Discrimination Act (1975), racism is illegal and punishable by law. Racism takes the form of discrimination because of color, race, country of origin, religion, and immigrants refugees face discrimination (Smolicz, 1999).
In Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people were discriminated against the Europeans in the days of colonization and migration. Today, there is a direct discrimination of those people who do not speak English like the Asians. In the early days there were schools that were meant for Europeans and those for native people. Today, this is more seen in restaurant and entertainments sites where not all are welcome (Skutnabb-Kangas, 1994).
Religious racism is seen among the minority religions in the county they include Buddhism and slam which form 2.1% and 1.7% of the population respectively. The majority (over 70%) are Christians of different denominations (Gladigau & Ben , 2007). There are only 57 mosques in the entire country. Islam’s centers and schools are limited to the mosque sites.
Refugees are not spared either, they are discriminated in allocation of jobs and they face a hard time getting job permits to allow them get decent jobs in the country. They are reserved in camps and given food and other necessities from international bodies like the United Nations (Worswick, n.d).
Australian’s perspectives about Muslims
The majority of Australian population is Christians of various denominations (see appendix 2). They have for a long time discriminated the Muslims and have failed to trust them. This has been alleviated by the fight toward terror attacks where Australia is playing a major part. Australia has entered into collaborations with other regional and international agencies and countries to join efforts and fight terrorism.
For instance it has joined efforts by the United States of America to dialogue with Muslim countries to stop the terrorist attacks. It also has developed a working relationship with, Indonesia, the world largest Muslim country to fight against terrorism (Downer, 2002). Australia encourages involvement of other countries as it recognizes that this fight against terror can only be won by collaboration and other non violent interventions.
Dialogue is also another tool that the country has embarked up on. These are efforts by the central government but the local people see Muslims as a threat. They are discriminated. The country has signed international convention on Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981); the convention mandates the government to take care of Muslims in the country (Cornell & Hartmann, 1998, p. 23-67).
Leaders advocate for no racism and they are backed by law which makes discrimination an offence. Despite the fact that the law gives the right of speech, the media and local leaders’ speeches are scrutinized. Hate speech is a punishable offence according to Racial Hatred Act (National Multicultural Advisory Council, 1999, p. 13).
The local people see migrants as vulnerable people who require direct assistance; however they are not willing to interact with them freely. They see them as competitors in the limited jobs available in the country. They are reserved in refugee camps and the duty to take care of them left to the government (Religious Media Research and Information Service, 2007).
Government’ Benefits of Migrants
Migrants are involved in various businesses and thus assist in the supply of goods and services. They on the other hand consume government amenities but the net effect of the taxes they pay is to the benefit of the county. They are major source of foreign currency and they provide labor and market for local companies (Australian Market Report, 2010).
Immigrants have increased the population of the country; census of 2006 showed a total of 19.9 million with a quarter of the population having being born outside the country. The people from diverse countries have helped in building a multi cultural environment in the country; there is no one dominant culture that prevails in the country. This makes the country live in harmony within and without (Terrill, 2000).
Tourism and temporary visitors have generated substantial amounts of revenue to the central government. They have also enabled good reputation among countries and thus Australia trading with other counties has been facilitated (Pickering, n.d).
Racism is also reducing with massive immigrations since people perceive them as Australians and forget their ethnic background they interact from the same platform (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 1995).
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