managed by M. Masjid
Background of “Saarban”
The word “Saarban” is used for the cameleers in Urdu and Persian languages. This name will always remind us about the lost generations of those Muslim cameleers.
Muslims in Australia are in a minority and make up only 2.2% of total Australian population. Australian Muslim history dates back to the 16th century when Makassan fishermen from the east-Indonesia visited Australian mainland to fish and to trade with local Indigenous people. But Islam was really established in Australia by the arrival of cameleers (Saarban) who were brought from northern British India, what today is Pakistan. These cameleers, known in Australia as Afghans, brought initially for exploring the arid interior and later for the camel trains that were uniquely suited to the demands of Australia’s vast deserts. These cameleers constructed their shanty “Ghantowns”, attempted to raise families and built ramshackle, corrugated-iron mosques. The first Mosque they built in Australia was in 1861.
However in modern day Australia, we don’t see the descendants of these cameleers. Why are not there to be found any resilient, thriving Afghan communities anywhere or at least in some of those inland towns? Why did the descendants of those cameleers lose their heritage and their identity? Why did all this happen? Why did they lose their religion? The answer to so many of these questions is very simple. Their forefathers did not establish Islamic institutions which could have played an important role in their community growth and development. Racism and intolerance could also be partly blamed for this failure.