Islamic Aborigines on the rise - Fact or fiction?

Adam Possamai

A University of Western Sydney forum looking at the religious changes in Indigenous populations in Australia and New Zealand will discuss the theory that the number of Muslim Aborigines and Maoris is continuing to grow.

The conference, organised by the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies at UWS, will start at 1pm on Tuesday March 13, within the Female Orphan School Gallery at the University's Parramatta campus.

Associate Professor Adam Possamai will use census data to point out that although the number of Muslim Aborigines and Maoris in Australia is growing, the percentage of those who claim to have no religion is above that of the overall Australian population. This coincides with a fall in self identified Christians in line with the general population.

“It’s true that Islam appears to be growing among the local Aboriginal and Maori populations, especially in urban areas, but this growth needs to be taken into account with the increase of these populations in the census, and the growth of those who claim to be of ‘no religion’,” he says.

“Further, the growth of Islam does not cover the whole decrease in Christianity as the ‘no religion’ response continues to be greater than the increase in the number of Aboriginal Muslims.”

This data will be compared and contrasted with that of New Zealand and with the Pacific Islanders from both countries. This last group, contrary to the other two, has an increased number of Christians.

The study is based on 2001 and 2006 census data, with this information to be updated upon the release of the 2011 census information.

Also speaking at the conference:

  • Emeritus Professor James Cox, from the University of Edinburgh, will examine how the Rainbow Spirit Elders sought to integrate Christian teaching into their mythology by suggesting the Rainbow Spirit represents an ancient symbol of the creator God. He questions whether this is ethically justifiable on the grounds that theologians are attempting to instil in Indigenous peoples a pride in their own traditions after years of denigration from academics and theologians.
  • Dr Dominic O’Sullivan, from Charles Sturt University, will discuss reconciliation and how it affects Indigenous policy across Australia, Fiji and New Zealand in equally significant but markedly different ways. In particular Dr O’Sullivan will discuss how societies with different conceptions of religion and politics handle indigenous populations.
  • Dr Helen Onnudottir, from the University of Western Sydney, will explore the concepts of Aboriginality (claims to culture and spiritual identify), belonging (to a place, kin and ancestors) and the articulation of these with a particular notion of authentic aboriginality.

For further information, or to arrange recordings or interviews, please contact the Media Unit.


7 March 2012

Contact: Mark Smith, Media Officer