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Islam Under Scrutiny

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Exhibition Glorifies Islam

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There's a travelling exhibition - Australia's Muslim Cameleers, Pioneers of the Inland - which perpetuates the myth of Muslims' huge contribution to Australia and touts their supposedly superior ethical values. Currently at Melbourne's Immigration Museum until 19th September, it was initiated by the South Australian Museum in 2007,and the wide range of locations will ensure maximum exposure.

Naturally, it comes with an education kit and list of online resources, ensuring our kids can be suitably indoctrinated: Museum of Victoria

And let's not forget the teacher Personal Development programme, which will explain how to successfully brainwash young minds:

 " The exhibition offers an opportunity for students to engage with the diversity of individual experiences in our nation’s history and the contribution to the Australian identity and values in relation to issues of respect, tolerance and social harmony. " (source)

Philip Jones eulogises these "pioneers":

In 1952 a young Bosnian Muslim and his friends, newly arrived immigrants, pushed open the high gate of the Adelaide mosque. As Shefik Talanavic entered the mosque courtyard he was confronted by an extraordinary sight... six or seven ancient, turbaned men...the last of Australia's Muslim cameleers...Shefik ministered to the needs of the old cameleers.... Each had travelled light during his lifetime, and none had accumulated possessions... But Shefik soon came to understand that there was another legacy, extraordinary in its scope and significance, but largely unappreciated by a wider public. The cameleers pioneered a network of camel-pads and tracks that later became roads across outback Australia. The homesteads, mines, missions and townships linked by this network depended upon the cameleers for their viability, during the course of five decades or more.

From the 1860s to the 1920s it is estimated that at least 2000 cameleers reached Australia from their homelands in Afghanistan, Baluchistan and other provinces in the region of north-western India (now Pakistan). 'Afghan' and European entrepreneurs imported more than 20,000 camels...he great majority of the cameleers returned to their homelands... Of those who remained, a small proportion formed relationships with Aboriginal or European is these families that retain living memories of their contribution.

One thinks of the energy and resources directed towards preserving the records and memory of Australia's Chinese pioneers who provided commercial infrastructure for the Victorian goldfields, or the heritage associated with the contribution made by the post-war migrants to the Snowy River Scheme. How is it that the legacy of the cameleers has been so neglected?

It would be easy to suggest the oversight had to do with the cameleers' adherence to Islam, through their dress, daily prayer, and rigid observance of halal practice. But the cameleers did not come to Australia to proselytise... Despite occasional frustrated references by explorers to their cameleers' zealous adherence to halal butchering practice, their religious observances rarely impinged on their remarkable capacity to deliver goods intact across vast distances of the Australian interior. For these achievements they earned the general respect of their European neighbours.

Little remains of the heritage of Australia's Muslim cameleers. Many of these fine men 'died in the jungle' with little recognition or understanding from the wider community. Leading their camel strings bearing wool, minerals, water, stores and equipment, they had walked thousands of miles up and down Australia's desert tracks and roads...Theirs is a fragmentary history of an era that has almost slipped from view, but which has been critically important in Australia's national story. (source)

Bill Seager, curator of South Australia's Museum, writes:

...camels in Australia today are labelled a pest, in some cases of plague proportions. There was a time, however, when they were the backbone of Australia's outback economy. The building of the Overland Telegraph Line, Trans-Australian railway, and services to outback communities and properties all depended on them. This exhibition leaves no doubt that camels, cameleers and Australia's first Muslim community helped shape Australia's outback.

The cameleers spoke their own languages in Australia and religion was their common bond. Many returned home to the families they had left behind while others stayed and married, building families and new communities. Many of those who stayed married into Aboriginal families. Their stories are scattered throughout the exhibition and... integrate a history of Indigenous Australians that is interpreted outside of the typically marginalised and violent confines of the colonial frontier.

Each story attempts to give the cameleers equal recognition to the Europeans and stresses an interdependent relationship. A lovely hand compass presented to Bejah Dervish on Queen Victoria's birthday in 1896 illustrates this. Part of the Calvert expedition, Dervish searched for and rescued two members of the party and expedition leader LA Wells stated 'we would never have got through alive without him'. (source)

Sydney journalist Emma Young is also a fan:

More than one million feral dromedary camels are wandering around the Australian outback, stripping vegetation and knocking down fences. They're viewed as pests, and there are plans to cull them. But their ability to flourish in some of the harshest, driest conditions in the world was the very reason their ancestors were brought here.

Unlike horses and bullocks, the camels could trek long distances without food and water, which made them indispensable for exploration...On 9 June 1860, 24 camels and three cameleers arrived at Port Melbourne, to join the pioneering Burke and Wills expedition.

While the expedition successfully made it from the south coast to the north, through the heart of Australia, Burke, Wills and others lost their lives on the return journey. “Disastrous as it was, it was quite certain that Burke, Wills and King could not have made the north-south continental crossing without camels,” Philip Jones says.

...the camels were indispensable for the development of central Australia. Their keepers walking beside them, they carted food and water to gold mines, and took produce to the railheads. They were also crucial to the construction of the Overland Telegraph, and carried wire for the rabbit-proof fences.

“The expression 'Australia rides on the sheep's back', which was current during the early 20th century, was probably due to the camel's back, and to the men who had the skills to manage and load the camel,” Jones says. (source)

Interesting how Muslims' contribution is emphasised as part of the fabric of Australia. It is even implied that they share with Aborigines the claim to be the indigenous people, unlike the racist White people.

"The exhibition ends with a 2003 work by Aboriginal/Afghan artist Ian Abdulla titled Afghanistan Blood in Him like Me. It is a work that seeks to reconnect Abdulla with his Afghan past. The image reminds us of the exhibition's relevance for Australian visitors today." Bill Seager


And there's nothing like Government reinforcement of this message:

Muslims in Australia have a long and varied history that is thought to pre-date European settlement. Some of Australia’s earliest visitors were Muslim, from the east Indonesian archipelago. They made contact with mainland Australia as early as the 16th and 17th centuries.

Fishermen and traders from what is today the Macassar region of Indonesia arrived on the northern coasts of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland. The Macassarese traded with local Indigenous people and fished for ‘trepang’ (commonly known as sea cucumber), which they sold as a delicacy on the lucrative Chinese market.

Muslim immigrants from coastal Africa and island territories under the British Empire came to Australia as sailors and convicts in the early fleets of European settlers during the late 1700s. The first significant semi-permanent Muslim population was formed with the arrival of Afghan camel drivers in the 1800s...who were vital in the early exploration of inland Australia and in the establishment of service links.

One of the major projects involving Afghan cameleers was the development of the rail link between Port Augusta and Alice Springs, which became known as the Ghan. The rail line was extended to Darwin in 2004. Cameleers played an equally important role in the development of the overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin during 1870 and 1872, which eventually linked Australia to London via India.

However, the advent of the motor vehicle and the introduction of motor lorry transportation signalled the end of an era for the cameleers. While some returned to their homelands, others settled in areas near Alice Springs and other parts of the Northern Territory. Many married local Indigenous people. Descendants of the Afghan cameleers have since played active roles in numerous Islamic communities in Australia.

Since the 1970s, Muslim communities have developed many mosques and Islamic schools and made vibrant contributions to the multicultural fabric of Australian society. (source)

I wonder who wrote this paeon to Islam. And what vibrant contributions is the Government referring to - the vicious gang rapes of teenage girls, or maybe the uber-violent bikie gangs, or even the push for polygamous marriages. Vibrant indeed, if by vibrant you mean the colour of the wounds inflicted on victims.

Perhaps the most astonishing feature of the exhibition is the whitewash of the first terror attack in Australia (see Dan Zaremba, The Battle of Broken Hill) The display cabinet exhibits 2 firearms used by Gool Mahamed and Mullah Abdullah in their attack on the picnic train passengers near Broken Hill on 1st January 1915. But lest we think they were terrorists (they were!), we are told:

After Federation in 1901, negative sentiment towards ‘coloured races’ was expressed in the White Australia Policy. Under the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), cameleers entering Australia required exemption from a dictation test. Sympathetic

Europeans provided references.
These factors, and the alignment of Ottoman Turkey against Britain during the First World War, help to explain the extraordinary events at Broken Hill on New Year’s Day, 1915. On that morning, two cameleers flying the Turkish flag fired on a picnic train as it left the town. At the close of the resultant gun battle, six people, including the two assailants, lay dead.

So it was our racism that caused them to feel alienated and kill people!

The exhibition notes that:

1. Muslim cameleers travelled through Aboriginal country, and an exchange of skills, knowledge and goods developed. Some cameleers helped to convey goods, including red ochre or the narcotic plant pituri, along ancient Aboriginal trade routes such as the Birdsville Track, employing Aboriginal men and women to assist them. This resulted in enduring partnerships, and several marriages.

2. The first settlements were simple ‘camel camps’...Gradually they added elements from their own homelands: mosques and religious teachers, halal butchers, vegetable gardens and date groves.
... allowing the Muslim cameleers to live and work according to their own religious and social conventions...Whether single or married, the cameleers arrived alone, without their womenfolk. If the cameleers did marry in Australia, their wives were European or Aboriginal.
These families brought up their children in the Islamic faith, but with the passing of the elderly cameleers during the mid-20th century, the younger generation merged more fully with Australian mainstream society.

3. Entering the Australian outback as a tiny Muslim minority, the cameleers and their
distinctive customs were initially accepted by Europeans. But as outsiders in colonial
Australia, they also encountered adversity and discrimination. Tensions developed over access to water and competition with bullock-drivers. As Australian nationalism strengthened during the 1890s, ‘anti-Afghan’ movements emerged. Regulation of camel grazing and of unlicensed halal butchers increased the strain.

4. Australia’s Muslim cameleers are well remembered by their descendants, but have
been largely forgotten or misrepresented in the historical record. Their pioneering
roles are often overlooked, in favour of picturesque, oriental images. Later, less flattering newspaper images depicted the cameleers as untrustworthy and cunning.

5. Question asked in 1901 in Federal Parliament aimed at classifying Muslim cameleers as "official aliens" subject to deportation.
Cameleers received a certificate exempting them from the dictation test. If applicants failed the dictation test, they could be refused entry. This official screening of immigrants was undertaken under the White Australia Policy until 1958.

6. Most successful expeditions of the late 19th century relied on Afghan cameleers.
In an era of heroic exploration, the Muslim cameleers were rarely given adequate credit for their achievements. Expedition diaries confirm that several of these men deserve the status of explorers.

A feel-good film was shown, telling of their great contribution to the development of the outback, and how they were well liked and known for their honesty. But some narrators gave clues as to a darker side - keeping to themselves, refusing to give up their old customs, fanatical about their religion, insisted everything be done in accordance with the Qur'an and refused to carry pork.
Sounds like they integrated very well, just like today!
The exhibition describes some colourful Muslim characters:

In 1880 Mohammad Bux left Lahore and landed as a stowaway in Melbourne and became a hawker and merchant. He opened several shops in Perth, where he made his fortune, and returned to Lahore a rich man.

I did some research and found that Samina Yasmeen had written about the family:

The descendants of Mohammad Bux living in Perth are an example of this continued connection to the land of Australia. They also represent the phenomenon of globalised links between diaspora and their active role in connecting lands far apart. They are active participants in both Australian and Pakistani societies...

Mohammad Bux arrived in Australia and built up a successful business career in Western Australia...he was able to call his father and cousin to join him in Perth. The process of facilitating the arrival of his extended family members did not cease: he supported a number of other cousins ... Mohammad remained the most successful of the Bux family due to his sharp business acumen, high standards of business ethics and a willingness to take chances.

During these years, he brought his wife and a seven years old daughter to live with him above a shop in Fremantle. As a practicing Muslim woman and in line with the customs of the days, his wife observed purdah and did not come out in public. The practice got him into trouble when some neighbours reported him to the police for imprisoning a woman. Only when an English man well versed in Islamic law explained to the court did the judge dismiss the case. The judge ordered that Mahomed Bux would take his wife daily for a walk at night! The wife returned to Lahore and Mohammad Bux auctioned off his business to return to India. When ready to return to Australia, he asked his wife to accompany him. She refused and suggested that he marry a second wife while she stayed back in Lahore.
Mahomed Bux married again.... His second wife accompanied him to Perth.

Throughout the three decades of his life in Perth, Mohammad Bux retained his Muslim identity... The pride in his Muslim identity did not cause him to isolate himself from the wider community...The spirit of serving the community also helped his country of origin. When back in Lahore, he helped build the Australia Mosque. He also realised the need for economic improvement of those unable to gain employment at the turn of the 19th century. Hence, he always willingly supported his relatives and friends who wanted to come to Australia and try their luck in the lucky country. (source)

Shocking to hear that even back then a dhimmi judge thought it was alright to imprison a wife because it was Islamic law. Purdah must NEVER become acceptable in Australia!

And if Bux came here to make money, then took it back to Lahore, how did this contribute to Australia? He also came here illegally and should have been deported. Instead, he brought hordes of his relatives here.

It's about time the truth were told:

  •  Islamic values, including purdah (imprisonment and torture of women), polygamy and beating women are an affront to our egalitarian values.
  • Many Muslims come here illegally, yet we allow them to flout our laws for fear of being thought of as "Islamophobic".
  • Public money is being used to whitewash and promote Islam.

Say NO to Sharia!

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 May 2010 15:01  

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