Revulsion and Reflection

The Coloured and White Muslim in Australia's Print Media from the Late Nineteenth to the Early Twentieth Century

  • Katy Nebhan Charles Sturt University
Keywords: Islam, Muslims, Converts, Interfaith, Australian Media


Since the 1980s, much has been made about the lives of Australia’s first Muslim settlers, the ‘Afghan cameleers’, their pioneering achievements and the suffering they endured through Australia’s discriminatory policies and immigration laws. However, little, if any, academic attention has been given to the converts to Islam during this same period, many of whom were striving to rid the Australian public of misconceptions surrounding their new faith to end this discrimination and ignorance.

This article briefly looks at the way Australia’s news media presented and perceived Australian Muslims from the arrival of the first cameleer settlers in the 1860s to the first few decades of the twentieth century when ‘White’ converts were increasing and unwittingly propelling Islam onto the public stage. While protectionist policies, particularly leading up to Federation, saw numerous unfavourable images of ‘coloured’ Muslims in the Australian print media, there was a subtle but significant change at the turn of the twentieth century. While the White Australia Policy stood in the face of Australia’s Asiatic Muslims, it was largely irrelevant to the growing number of European and Australian converts who sought to subvert it in order to lift the Australian Muslim community of which they were part.