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Indigenous Muslims Exist!

Written by Marium Khan

• 

Posted on July 07 2021

Commonalities Between Indigenous People and Muslims

As Indigenous History Month has come to an end, I thought it would be great to share some history about something most of you may not know, and that is that there actually are Indigenous Muslims! To my surprise and I’m sure yours too, there are actually a group of Indigenous Muslims residing in Australia.

Indigenous Muslims in Australia

Indigenous Australians and Muslims have a surprisingly long history. For three centuries, while some may see these two groups as an unlikely pair, they have actually maintained relations through trade and marriage. From the start of the 1700s, Muslim fisherman from Indonesia would travel to the Australian coast for sea slugs (trepang) which created a trade between Muslims and Indigenous people. The beginning of this relationship further developed when Muslim settlers began residing in Australia starting from the 1860s. Muslims created lasting associations with local Indigenous people especially through marriage. Some of their shared surnames include Khan, Sultan, Mahomed, and Akbar. 

Similarly, Muslim Malays (an Austronesian ethnic group) ventured to north Australia as labourers in the pearl-shelling industry. This group formed strong relationships with Indigenous people and many married local Indigenous women. 

So what exactly brings these two groups together? According to the article posted by The Conversation, Indigenous muslims find commonalities between their culture and Islam’s teachings. The attachment stems from the fact that many Indigenous people feel that Islam brings them back to their Indigenous roots. Some shared practices include polygyny (men having more than one wife), the emphasis on gender roles and their individual importances to society, and protecting the environment by limiting waste alongside other habits. 

The Quran also acknowledges the existence of various nations and tribes and does not force everyone to conform to one culture. There is also a strict moral and ethical framework that Islam guides people by, which can allow for Indigenous people to heal from the pain that has been inflicted upon them by centuries of systemic oppression and genocide. For some Indigenous people, the adoption of a faith that demands the avoidance of alcohol, drugs and gambling has also played a positive role in their lives.

One of the things I love about Islam is the importance of inclusivity. There is a huge emphasis on equality of all people regardless of skin colour. 

‘Uqbah ibn ‘Amir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “No one is better than anyone else, except by religion or good deeds”. For Indigenous people, this can be a source of empowerment when residing in countries like Australia or Canada etc. where Indigenous individuals are made to feel like they are second to others. 

Our Duties as Muslims

A sign at a protest states, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” - Imam Hussain (AS)

Caption: A sign at a protest states, “Those who are silent when others are oppressed are guilty of oppression themselves.” - Imam Hussain (AS)

It’s extremely important for Muslims to welcome Indigenous people and stand up for them because they are our own. We have a duty in our communities, as people who live on Indigenous land to ensure the safety and peace of their community. This means that we need to be actively fighting for their justice, be it through protests, signing petitions, raising your voice when injustices are occuring, and supporting their income. The end goal is to ensure that Indigenous people are welcome in every space and have all of the resources they require. 

Local Indigenous Canadian Businesses to Support

1. DELIAESTELLE - OTTAWA, ON (@deliaestelle)

Oval Shaped Deer Antler Beaded Earrings by Deliaestelle (Alt text: A picture of oval shaped deer antler beaded earrings combined with peach gold rhinestone banding with dark grey faceted glass Rondelle beads, alabaster, white opaque seed beads, and cats eye Selenite quartz round beads for the edging)

Oval Shaped Deer Antler Beaded Earrings by Deliaestelle (Alt text: A picture of oval shaped deer antler beaded earrings combined with peach gold rhinestone banding with dark grey faceted glass Rondelle beads, alabaster, white opaque seed beads, and cats eye Selenite quartz round beads for the edging)

This deer clan and First Nation Indigenous woman business owner has outstanding beadwork and traditional designs for accessories! Find them on her website: deliaestelledesigns.com

2. LUKE SWINSON ART - KITCHENER, ON

Dibikad - Night Version of “Aki” by Luke Swinson (Alt text: Artwork of a person with long brown hair containing a night  landscape in it with a crescent moon and a rainbow of stars all in a beige background)

Dibikad - Night Version of “Aki” by Luke Swinson (Alt text: Artwork of a person with long brown hair containing a night  landscape in it with a crescent moon and a rainbow of stars all in a beige background)

Luke Swinson is a visual artist with Anishinaabe roots from Kitchener, Ontario. A member of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, Luke’s work reflects his desire to better understand and reclaim his Indigenous culture. (Source: lukeswinsonart.com)

3. CHEEKBONE BEAUTY - ST. CATHARINES, ON

Source: cheekbone beauty (Alt text: 5 women laying in a circle all smiling and laughing wearing bright colour lipstick)

Source: cheekbone beauty (Alt text: 5 women laying in a circle all smiling and laughing wearing bright colour lipstick)

Cheekbone Beauty is helping Indigenous youth see themselves in a beauty brand. The founder is an Indigenous woman in Canada named Jennifer Harper who, on top of owning a beauty brand, uses it to educate people on the Residential School System. Website: cheekbonebeauty.com

4. HAZLEWOOD - SASKATOON, SK

Michaela Michael and her family. (Alt text: 3 Indigenous women looking at camera smiling)

Michaela Michael and her family. (Alt text: 3 Indigenous women looking at camera smiling)

Hazlewood is an independently owned and operated shop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Treaty 6 Territory and the homeland of the Métis Nation. Founded by Michaela Michael in 2015, Hazlewood features vintage clothing, accessories and home goods that are thoughtfully selected for the store from season to season, with a focus on quality, design and natural fabrics that will last. (Source: hazlewoodshop.com)

Citations

Stephenson, Peta. “Long History with Islam Gives Indigenous Australians Pride.” The Conversation, 2 July 2021