This Perth Mosque Has Welcomed Muslims in Australia for 120 Years

Muslims have been in Australia for more than 200 years. They now make up 2.2 percent of its 20-million population, according to 2016 consensus.

Coming from India, Egypt, Turkey, and Afghanistan, many Muslims prayed for decades at homes or makeshift mosques.

It was only 120 years ago when Perth Mosque was established to serve the Muslim community. Now, it is the second-oldest continuously operating mosque in the country.

“Their Muslim identity was cemented in the Perth Mosque … and the mosques that they built in the remote outback,” journalist and filmmaker Saad Khalid told The National.

The mosque dream came true at the hands of Hassan Musa Khan, a prominent member of the early Australian Muslim community who arrived in Australia from Karachi, India in 1896.

This Perth Mosque Has Welcomed Muslims in Australia for 120 Years - About Islam
Afghan cameleers with visitors, Australia, c 1891. Image courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

He was a nephew of Khan Bahadur Moradkhan, the first South Asian supplier of camels to Australia, who served as an arbitrator in an important 1899 court case involving camel importation to Western Australia.

He set up shop as a bookseller then established the Perth mosque in 1904, throwing his energies into having the building completed within two years. Prior to that, Muslims in the area typically prayed at home or gathered in informal congregations.

This Perth Mosque Has Welcomed Muslims in Australia for 120 Years - About Islam
Mohammed Shakeeb at Perth Mosque. Giovanni Torre for The National

Growing Community

Today, the mosque serves around 500 people on Friday prayers, with up to 100 visiting on other days.

“The Perth Mosque really is a central part of the community, it’s always frequently used,” Mohammed Shakeeb, the current imam of Perth Mosque, said.

“It was the only mosque for such a long time [and] there are a lot of community memories attached to it. Growing up as a kid you’d go into the city to go to the mosque.”

The mosque also serves as a hub for Muslims from across the city.

“This is a great spot for people working and passing through, for taxi drivers, for uber drivers, for the uber eats delivery workers. We had ten bikes locked up here, I had to say ‘it’s a place of worship, not an uber stop’,” Shakeeb laughs.

According to the 2016 census, almost 50,000 Muslims now live in Perth – eight percent of the Australian Muslim population.

Islam is New Zealand’s second-largest religion after Christianity.