Forced into a kind of non-existence, over a long period of time is enough to move anyone to search for a sense of worth. For some, this search ended in their conversion to Islam. Below, are the voices of Indigenous Australianss, which give an insight into there search, and the treasure that they have found:
Justin – a 20 year old law student at the University of Technology, Sydney.
“I feel that in Australia, I don’t have the right to exist as a human being. Islam gives me the faith to think that I ‘m a man… It gives me strength to endure, and not lash out at all the things that we’ve been through…It gives me the strength to think: “Yes I am a man, I am a human being. You’re no better than what I am and there’s nothing you can do to me”
Culture and belief system destroyed, many indigenous Australians were left with a feeling of worthlessness, which led them into a life crime, and hence prison. One such person was Rocky Davis (Shahid Malik), who converted to Islam as an inmate after studying the writings of Ahmed Deedat, and Malcolm X. He said:
“The appeal that it [Islam] condemned drugs, alcohol, invasion, land theft, mass murder and all the things that Christian colonization meant to me as an Aboriginal person. So it was a liberating religion for me and I knew that it would uplift me, because over time, I didn’t even really feel like myself any more, I felt like a new person, like I’d been changed somehow through this religion, and it wasn’t until I got out into the mainstream population that prisoners that used to think that I was violent and the guards, that I was violent, they realized that I changed and changed dramatically, and Aboriginal men that saw me change dramatically changed also. And I never really – I couldn’t articulate intellectually Islam, I knew what it meant, but it took me ten years to really be able to intellectually or orally communicate Islam from a cultural Aboriginal point of view.
“I have Muslim ancestors just like a lot of Aboriginal people do. Whether they know about it or whether they want to accept it, but from Moree a group of unbelievable Muslims came from India, and one of them was named Muhammad Ali, not the fighter, and his brothers Ibraham Ali and a lot of Aboriginal people according to an Aboriginal story called Noeleen Briggs, because Aunty Noeleen wrote a book about it and she said the majority of the Camorro people from Moree and Boggabilla and Walgett, they’re all descendent, or the majority are descendent of Muslims. From that actual family and what they did was miraculous. How they converted I could never hope to do it because they didn’t actually do anything except they validated the truth, and they fought oppression, that’s why Aboriginal people became Muslim originally, even though they were missionaries, they were missionary Christians since the time in 1820, they accepted Islam”.
Shahid Malik is now the founder, counselor, and spokesperson for the Indigenous Australians Muslim Association.
Some indigenous Australians are able to assimilate into the mainstream, but with a price tag. Anthony Mundine, was once such person, who became a famous boxer, found life to be good, but his soul empty. After retirement converted to Islam:
“Islam has given me a new perspective on the hereafter and what life is about. It’s black and white and pure. We’ve got to ask the question, ‘Where are we going and why are we here?’ If you have a faith and belief in God there’d be less suicide, stress and sickness. You have a feeling and a purpose, and if you will take one step He will take two steps to you. Islam is my life, it’s helped every aspect of it. Every time you see my life, my sporting successes, know that Allah is the greatest.”
Information Technology worker, Eugenia Flynn, 24, was raised as a Catholic, had the following to say:
“My issue is that people like to stereotype black Muslims as angry militants who did jail time and left behind a life of crime and violence. The more typical story is an indigenous person was searching for a spiritual way and found Islam to be incredibly liberating.
“I think a lot of people think indigenous spirituality is based around animalism but in Aboriginal culture there is a creator God, and the way I express my spirituality is through Islam. I don’t see the two as mutually exclusive. For me I choose Aboriginality as my culture and Islam as my faith.
“Some Aboriginal people appreciate that Islam gives them strict guidelines on how to live their lives, especially for those who have been forced to move off their lands. Traditional indigenous culture also has codes and ethics that members are expected to follow for the betterment of the community. Those identifying with Islam have not only found some direction in their life, they are following a faith that shares many cultural overlaps with their Aboriginal identity.”
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