For centuries, Muslims have contributed to the Australian landscape and advancement. Australia is a unique multicultural country, made up of Islamic communities as well as non-Muslim ones. But Islam and the Muslim community has always been welcome down under, since the time of the Macassans trading with the Indigenous in the 16th century, to the Afghani cameleers, to the present-day – Australian Muslims have existed and thrived.
More interestingly in fact, not only did Aussie Muslims preserve their identity as both Australian and Muslim, they contributed back to the land that gave them so much!
In the spirit of this blissful arrangement of mutual benefit between communities living within Australia, we’ve compiled a list of 10 remarkable Aussie Muslims doing amazing things for the community.
So in no particular order, here are the Aussies repping the Muslim community!
- Bachar Houli
Bachar Houli (born 12 May 1988) is an Australian rules footballer playing for the Richmond Football Club in the AFL.
An Arabic name meaning the one that frequently brings ‘glad-tidings’, we can see how his name has impacted his remarkable career.
A triple Premiership player and All-Australian on-field, the mark Bachar Houli’s has created with his football stretches long beyond the MCG and Punt Road.
Houli’s ability to mix the modern defensive traits of cover, rebound and provide attack for his team illustrates his versatility and flexibility.
Off the field, Bachar is the AFL’s first devout Muslim. He has helped bring to life a number of initiatives that have generated great community impact in a short time. The Bachar Houli Cup, an inter-Islamic schools football competition involving Islamic schools across Victoria, as well as the Bachar Houli Academy; established to nurture young Islamic footballers aspiring to follow in Houli’s footsteps as a footballer and person. The launch of the Bachar Houli Foundation will ensure these programs and newly created ones continue the legacy Houli and The Tigers have established.
Houli’s love of the outdoors has been brought to life with his association with Victorian Fisheries Authority. As an ambassador for the VFA, the father of three is promoting, teaching and developing fishing right across the state.
He is of Arab-ethnicity and regularly travels to Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland and other cities to positively contribute to the Muslim and non-Muslim communities therein. When Muslim men or young Muslims in general think of a role model, its hard not to think of Bachar!
- Hajjeh Maha Abdo
Maha Abdo came to Australia in the 1960s as migrants from the Middle East. Completing her education here, Maha began to realise gaps in the New South Wales (NSW) Muslim community – such as services for women – and began working on resolving them.
Maha Abdo works in Sydney’s southwest as the head of the Muslim Women Association (MWA). Established in 1983, MWA is a community-based organisation that caters to the educational, religious, social, recreational and welfare needs of Muslim women from all backgrounds. Since 1988 MWA has been operating the Muslim Women Support Centre (MWSC) to provide support services to Muslim women and their families who experience domestic and family violence. This is a refuge for women and children facing immediate danger and it also offers counselling, financial assistance, help accessing health and community services, and help finding jobs and classes, including driving lessons.
With 72 different ethnic groups represented within MWA, Maha uses the common language of faith and religion to help women and men identify violence against women within their own cultures, with a specific focus on domestic violence. The challenges and complexities of operating an association for women among a myriad of languages and cultures is compounded by misconceptions of Islamic principles. There is a perception of uncertainty around how Islam regards violence against women, which has a destabilising effect on the community. The teachings of the Qur’an unequivocally emphasise the sanctity of all life and forbid coercion. Domestic violence and, in the extreme, practices such as killing to ‘restore family honour’ violate clear and non-negotiable Islamic principles. Through the Qur’an, Maha uses faith as a means to gain clarity over uncertainty, to build confidence in each individual’s religious identity, and as a guide to empowering women to articulate their rights and make informed decisions.
- Usman Khawaja
Born in Pakistan, Khawaja moved with his family to Australia when he was a young boy, and in the 2011 Sydney Ashes Test became the first Muslim to play for Australia. Batting at No.3 in place of the injured Ricky Ponting, he made 37 and 21 and showed impressive poise, giving Australia a ray of hope in a series that had brought them little but doom and gloom. A classy left-hander in the languid style of David Gower, Khawaja won further Test opportunities from 2011 to 2013 but never quite kicked on beyond his regularly appealing starts. Dropped during the 2013 Ashes, he earned another recall in 2015 for the home series against New Zealand following the retirements of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers.
A move from New South Wales to Queensland in 2012 helped to reinvigorate his career; he declared his enjoyment of the game had ebbed away in Sydney. A serious knee injury suffered in late 2014 put him out of action for six months, but when he returned to captain Australia A on the 2015 tour of India he impressed Rod Marsh’s selection panel, and further leadership opportunities came when he was named captain of Queensland for the 2015-16 season. In the same season, he proved himself as a quality T20 player by dominating the BBL with four superb innings, including two unbeaten centuries, to guide Sydney Thunder to the title. He also established himself in the Test team in 2015-16 and played consistently well in matches at home but struggled away, particularly in Asia where lost his place in the side on tours of Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
But Khawaja’s subcontinent demons were finally slayed in the UAE in 2018 when he made an epic match-saving century against Pakistan in Dubai. He became Australia’s most senior batsman while Steve Smith and David Warner were banned following the ball-tampering scandal and settled himself in the ODI team with two outstanding tours of India and the UAE in 2019, making his first two ODI centuries to ensure selection in the 2019 World Cup squad.
Usman is a devout Muslim that observes Ramadan and his five daily prayers, as mentioned during this interview.
- Waleed Aly
Born in Australia from parents that trace their heritage back to Egypt, Waleed Aly is a common name for households that cherish their late night news show!
Being a lecturer in politics at Monash University, and a worker within the university’s Global Terrorism Research Centre, Aly has worked closely with Imams to appreciate the majority of Muslim and majority of Australians to counter Islamophobia. Previously, he worked as a commercial lawyer, and was a board member of the Islamic Council of Victoria for over four years. Waleed has risen to prominence as a young, articulate spokesperson for the Australian Muslim community, due to his considered commentary on human rights and multiculturalism within Australia. Waleed writes articles on politics, religion, community and sport which appear in newspapers all over Australia.
In 2005, he won a Walkley Award Commendation for his work. Also in 2005, he was made the White Ribbon Day ambassador for the United Nations’ international day for the elimination of violence against women, and was named one of The Bulletin’s ‘Smart 100’ in 2007. Waleed is also a commentator on radio and television, speaking on issues concerning Australia’s Muslim community and the relationship between Islam and Western values. He was one of 40 Australians selected as a youth leadership delegate to the Future Summit in Melbourne in 2005.
As an Australian and a Muslim, he is keenly aware of the role he plays in helping not just the Muslim population but other Australians to think about our country’s multicultural identity and the social and political sensitivities that this arouses.
He frequently discusses the issues of religious groups, the Australian government, political issues like Afghanistan and Iraq, Aboriginal welfare, and sectarian matters such as those between Iran and Saudi Arabia. He is currently a writer for the age and a political commentator.
- Silma Ihram
Silma Ihram (b. Anne Frances Beaumont c. 1954) is an Australian pioneer of Muslim education in the West, founder and former school Principal of the ‘Noor Al Houda Islamic College’ in Sydney, and a campaigner for racial tolerance.
She was also the Australian Democrats candidate for the seat of Auburn in the 2007 state election, and the Democrats candidate for the Division of Reid in the 2007 federal election.
Ihram is the author of two books, the producer of an educational video in Arabic, and the subject of the documentary, Silma’s School. She has been described as “Erin Brockovich in a hijab”.
Silma converted to Islam more than 25 years ago after travelling to Indonesia and has 6 children. She established the Muslim Women’s Shop and Centre in 1979, and pioneered Islamic schooling with Al Noori in 1983. She was also the Principal and founder (with husband Baheej Adada) of the Noor Al Houda Islamic College.
She holds Dip of Edu, Master of Ed Admin and is Secretary-General of the Aust Cncl for Isl Edu in Scls. She is the author of two books and the producer of an educational video in Arabic.
For the past 13 years, Silma has worked to establish the Noor Al Houda Islamic College – first in Condell Park, and then in Strathfield. Noor A Houda as such ceased to exist at the end of 2006 when it merged with the Australian International Academy. The school’s battle to survive and ongoing court case was featured in the documentary “Silma’s School” which aired on ABC Compass in 2006. Silma Ihram now teaches works as a consultant in the area of education & Muslim community relations. She is studying a research degree in ‘Understanding the development of identity in adolescent Muslim Lebanese youth’.
- Billy Dib
Bilal “Billy” Dib was born on 17 August 1985 at Kogarah Hospital in Sydney, Australia. He has suffered from chronic asthma since birth, and he spent the first six months of his life in an incubator fighting the ailment. He took up boxing at the age of 12 to try to overcome the condition. His parents had emigrated to Australia from Lebanon, and owned a small greengrocer store in Engadine. His brother is a politician Jihad Dib.
He is an Australian professional boxer. He is the former IBF featherweight champion & former IBO super featherweight champion, having won numerous bouts and received global attention.
From a Middle Eastern background, Bilal is a devout Muslim, observing Ramadan and Eid as well as his daily prayer rituals. Some have compared him to the famous Mohammed Ali – who’s a conversion from Christianity to Islam and remarkable personality stood out to all.
Billy currently focuses on training other boxers as well as spending quality time with his family. Bilal’s journey was explored in this episode of One Path.
- Dr Zac Mathews
Zachariah Matthews, a Sydney Muslim educator and community advocate, was born in Bosmont Johannesburg and attended Chris Jan Botha Senior Secondary School CJB, South Africa, where he studied Qur’an and Islamic studies as well as secular subjects. Matthews’ secular education was in Pharmacy, in which he completed B.Pharm, BSc (Hon) and Pharm.D degrees in South Africa and the United States before migrating to Australia, where he now lives. He has also completed a Master of Islamic Studies in Australia.
Matthews has appeared at a number of Islamic forums and conferences, published several papers and given media interviews on Islamic topics. He works actively with Australian youth, and is involved with/on the board of several community-based and national organizations and has contributed to various civic initiatives. Notably, he has helped to co-ordinate national statements in regard to the Australian government’s Muslim Community Reference Group, the pro-hijab campaign and others.
Matthews has lectured part-time for several years at the University of Sydney and was a former director of pharmacy at Canterbury Hospital, Sydney, NSW Australia.
For two years he was Head of Religious and Leadership Studies at an independent school. Dr Matthews actively focuses on leadership mentoring and development. He writes and publishes on subjects ranging from the ethics of disagreement to spirituality in the post-modern world.
He previously served as the president of the Australian Islamic Mission (AIM) and was a board member of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights & Advocacy Network (AMCRAN).
- Kamal Saleh
Based in Sydney, Australia, Kamal Saleh is a contributor to One Path network and Talk Islam, whose passion lays in spreading the message of Islam through multimedia avenues. He has always been someone who has loved to express himself through Art. He is known for his spoken word talents across the world and has used his poetry in order to project the religion of Islam in a positive light.
Kamal has shown the Muslim community, at large, just how powerful our talents can be in propagating the truth of Islam, whilst proving that you don’t need a degree in Islamic Studies to spread the message of Islam. He has inspired and touched both Muslim and Non-Muslims in the millions and continues to reach more audiences by travelling the world and performing poetry at events and conferences.
His videos receive frequent commentary and reactions from non-Muslims, particularly from Christian viewers. As such, he has been able to have an impact on the broader community across not just Sydney, but Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra and beyond Australia as well.
- Malaz Majanni
Malaz is the CEO and founder of One Path Network. Having been actively involved in grass-roots efforts within the Muslim community, Malaz seeks to further the message of Islam through mercy, compassion and wisdom.
One Path network currently has hundreds of thousands of followers that actively interact with their content, making it one of the biggest Islamic platforms in the world.
- Talal Yassine
Last but not least is our very own Crescent Wealth Managing Director Talal Yassine!
Born on January 1, 1972, Talal is a Lebanese Australian entrepreneur, lawyer, and philanthropist. He founded Crescent Wealth, Australia’s first Islamic wealth management company, that launched the country’s first Islamic superannuation fund, the Crescent Wealth Superannuation Fund, and the country’s first Islamic equities index, the Thomson Reuters Crescent Wealth Islamic Australia index.
He holds an Honorary Professorial Fellowship at the Crawford School of Public Policy within the Australian National University College of Asia and the Pacific. Also, he served as Chairman of the Council for Australian-Arab Relations for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), a member of the board of DFAT’s Australia Malaysia Institute, and a member of Australian Multicultural Council.
For his works, he was named Professional of the Year in 2012 and Man of the Year in 2016 in the Australian Muslim Achievement Awards. In 2010, he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his contribution to the country’s business, education, and multicultural community.
Talal has worked tirelessly to provide Halal Superannuation solutions to the Muslim community, frequently appearing on talk shows and panels during Ramadan to remind the Muslim community about the importance of ethical super investment.
And that concludes our short list on the 10 Aussie personalities you should know! We pray to Allah that these individuals continue doing the great work they do and that He increases them in goodness to further shape Australian society for the better.
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Ethical Finance and Innovation
Dr. Sayd Farook is the Executive Director of Crescent Foundation. He is Group Chief Operating Officer of Crescent Wealth and Managing Director of Crescent Finance. He previously served as Advisor to the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. In this capacity, he envisioned and executed strategic / transformation initiatives for Dubai and the UAE. Prior to that, he was the Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters, where he advised and served large corporates, multilaterals and governments in the Middle East, North Africa and South East Asia.