A couple of weeks ago there was a fascinating report in the Sydney Morning Herald about the rising number of Aboriginal Australians who are converting to Islam.
Anthony Mundine is the most high profile convert and the article carried a large photograph of Mundine.
The people interviewed believed that Islam was a religion free of the Missionary and Colonial baggage carried by Christianity.
As Rocky Davis, who converted while serving a prison sentence puts it,
“What does Islam stand for? Islam offers a faith untainted by colonialism and racism. It is a liberating religion,” says Davis. “Though the Bible said you shalt not kill, they killed, thou shall not rape, they raped our women, thou shalt not steal, they stole our land. Islam at its essence is pure.
My forefathers had no army and no guns and lived in Aboriginal townships and camps. That’s the difference between the Muslim and Christian faiths: one is for the oppressed and one’s for the oppressor, one’s for the coloniser and one for the colonised.”
It seems that a Islam has a particular appeal for Aboriginal prison inmates who are tragically overrepresented in our Judicial System. Many see a point of connection between their situation and the American Civil Rights activist Malcom X, who also converted to Islam while in prison.
As far as I know, the growth of Islam among Aboriginal Australians is not something completely recent. When I was studying Islamic studies at the ANU I was part of some interesting discussions in class about the number of high profile Black Muslims from the US who were touring in Australia, particularly visiting Aboriginal communities. The majority of my class mates and the lecturer were Muslim. (This was before September 11 put Islam firmly in the centre of public interest.)The main-stream Muslim communities generally regard the ‘Nation of Islam’ (Black Muslims founded by Elijah Muhammad and represented initially by Malcolm X and now Louis Farrakan) as unorthodox. In no small part for the claims by Elijah Muhammad that ‘God is a Black Man’. The ascription of any human characteristics to Allah is foreign to orthodox Islamic belief. There was no great enthusiasm for the missionary activities of this group among Australian Aboriginals.
The tragedy of reading and hearing about this as a Christian is seeing people who have been so thoroughly betrayed by our society, and by some Christians of previous generations, that they see liberation in Islam.
Yet Paul said,
For freedom Christ has set us free (Gal 5:1, ESV)
God have mercy on them and us.