Muslim Identity

In Australia we have many young Muslims, born in Australia but living between two worlds. At home they are the obedient Muslim, who might speak Arabic, Dari or Bengali to his or her parents yet outside the home, he or she is another person altogether, who doesn’t speak about religion or culture, dresses and acts like his/her mates and shortens his/her name or Anglicises it altogether. Mohamed becomes Mo, Semiha, Sue and Rabih – Robbie and so on.

The issue is complex but it is one that many adolescents invariably experience on some stage in their development. Yet, for Muslim kids it’s becoming increasingly different with the rise in Islamaphobia and anti-Islamic sentiments filtering through the media and into politics and society. An ‘us and them’ mentality amongst Muslims can arise and hence, many youth prefer to stay within their comfort zones, where their accents wont be mocked, they wont be stared at or ridiculed and where they feel accepted.

Muslim identity is emerging as a unique blend of Australian and Islamic culture and finding its niche in Australia. Australian Muslims are quite isolated from the broader problems in the world and tend to have a more relaxed outlook on life. Sometimes referred to as Aussie Mossies, these young people were born in Australia, had a generally easy upbringing not facing the same level of racism as their parent’s generation and have also been encouraged to discover their Islamic-ness through access to mosques, Islamic schools, organisations and through on-line sources.

While there have been many issues raised through the media and the so-called ‘War on Terror’ declared by the USA, this has drawn more people to research Islam and to understand it more while many people have felt their faith under attack and reasserted their approach to Islam making it more overt and determined. Therefore we have also seen an emergence of interfaith dialogue, Islamic activism and Muslims in the media.

Young Australian Muslims (Aussie Mossies) are now educated in fields of law, medicine, human rights, sociology, psychology and journalism among others and have taken leadership in various fields.

Muslim identity is still an issue, however, there is a strong likelihood that young Australian Muslims will blend into the mainstream and be uniquely Australian in their own right.

There are other problems facing Muslim youth which is associated with socio-economic disadvantage and social isolation. There are many Muslims who come from new and emerging communities who are still struggling with poverty and learning to live in Australian society. They tend to be isolated by the way they dress, the language barrier and geographically be situated in Western Sydney or Western Melbourne for example.
Muslims still experience racism and discrimination in various contexts such as at the workplace as well as in public services such as in hospitals, shopping centres and public transport.

However, Australian Muslims have been determined to change these attitudes and to take some control over their future in this land. Young leaders are emerging from various sectors of the community and creating opportunities to break down barriers and increase cross-cultural dialogue and activities. Muslims have also entered the field of media and the arts including comedy, which has done a great deal to build more positive attitudes towards Aussie Mossies. It is important to continue engaging and creating a dialogue for fruitful and constructive change.