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Our Brothers and Sisters from Distant Lands: Muslim Aborigines

For many of us, the long history intertwined with the Islamic culture and religion of the Aborigines remains largely unknown. These indigenous brothers and sisters, known as Aborigines, have been engaging in trade, marriage, and social interactions with Muslim communities for 300 years. Now, the relationships between fishermen opening a route from Makassar, a city in Indonesia, to Australia have evolved beyond trade, transforming into a religious heritage.

Three-Century Long History

The relationship, starting with fishermen in the 1700s, has also left its mark on their mythology and rituals. The dream figure found among the natives of Elcho Island reflects the phrase of Allah in our religion. The first settled Muslims were nomadic Bedouins who migrated from Afghanistan. The partnerships initiated with the local people in the 1860s developed over time and were solidified through marriages. Hence, surnames like Khan, Sultan, Mahmud started being used among the Aborigines. The influence of Malaysians working as paid laborers also played a role in the increase of Muslim numbers.

Islam Reconnects Us to Our Indigenous Roots

Aborigines say that the broad similarities between their native traditions and Islamic beliefs have warmed them to Islam. The majority even claims that Islam has reconnected them to their indigenous roots. For example, the prescribed roles for women and men in Islam are similarly observed among them. But the similarity doesn’t stop there; just as directed by our religion, they also value and avoid wasting nature, water, and all kinds of blessings.

Islam Bizi Yerli Koklerimize Kavusturuyor

Change Your Actions, Not Who You Are

One of the features of Islam that warms their hearts is that it does not force them into a uniform structure, unlike Christian missionaries. Missionaries imposed white culture on them, considering them ‘angry blacks’ needing to be civilized, and attempted to force Christianity upon them. However, as stated in the Quran, recognizing that people, regardless of their different tribes and races, are equal in creation makes the Aborigines feel free and happy.

Healing Psychological Wounds

Not only the Aborigines but also black and Afro-American communities claim to owe the healing of their deep wounds and the pursuit of a meaningful and peaceful life to Islam. Some even assert that, in contrast to missionaries, colonizers, and those denying their identities, they found respect and belonging in Islam. Süleyman, who converted to Islam, says:

“Considering the treatment I faced, I could have easily become a terrorist…
Islam entered my life and always told me to be calm, there’s no problem, justice will prevail eventually. This belief changed my life.”

In this community, the benefits of Islam for women are observed in a different dimension. While women, who were seen as commodities in tribal life with low social status due to their gender, protect themselves with hijab, Islamic rules elevate them to a noble position. Additionally, the rules of our religion aimed at protecting the family have made families seeking a safe and stable life for their children happy.

Dr. Asmi Wood

An Individual Illuminated by Islam: Dr. Asmi Wood

Dr. Wood, born on Torres Island, embraced Islam 12 years ago, influenced by Malcolm X’s writings. Let’s learn about his journey in his own words:

“There was a religion that accepted the Aboriginal identity long denied in Australia, and I knew it was beneficial for me. It demolishes and rejects racism. Of course, there are racists among Muslims, but for them, it’s merely a residue of the struggle for limited resources.”

He acknowledges that the acceptance of Islam was neither easy nor fast:

“When I worked as a barista, I often got angry at the world and would sit down to drink. Now, I’m a Muslim. I still sometimes doubt for trivial reasons. But life is a journey, and Islam helps me find my place in this universe.”

Anthony is another individual who has been honored by Islam. Besides the influence of his circle of friends, Malcolm X’s advocacy for the black cause and Muslim views played a significant role in his conversion.

Looking at these beautiful examples, we can confidently say that our religion, which meets both the spiritual and social needs of humanity, seems to further magnify its light in this indigenous community.

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