Frequently Asked Questions


This Q&A guide is compiled by Islamic Council of Victoria. Please visit for more info.

Is it Muslim or Moslem?

It is Muslim.

Is Muslim or Australian Muslim preferred?

Australian Muslim but, again, if you can be more specific, do so. We would like to be just called Australians but if the religion NEEDS to be mentioned, then Australian Muslim.

How should I refer to an Australian Muslim individual?

Please be specific and fair. Report things as you would with any other person not from a Muslim background. If you would not mention the religion for a person from another religion then do not here. Where necessary and relevant mention the country or the group that person is from, for example, "of such and such descent," or “such and such group” or “such and such Mosque” but only if it is relevant. Remember that Australian Muslims come from many places, and have many different stances and you should include the relevant perspective. If the story is about an issue that affects a particular group, for example, don't treat other Muslim perspectives as interchangeable. It is important not to smear the whole religion or the Muslims because of the actions of the few or the individual.

What does Mohammedanism mean?

Do not use Mohammedan and its derivatives. Instead, use Islam for the religion, Muslim for a follower of the religion and derivatives of these words.

Who are Muslims?

Muslims are followers of Islam, one of the three Abrahamic faiths, along with Christianity and Judaism. Islam has members around the world and, like Christianity; most of its members are peaceful, law-abiding citizens who worship the one God. Muslims believe him to be the final Messenger of God. His message is a universal one and is the culmination of the teaching of all earlier prophets such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and David. Also as with Christianity and other faith traditions throughout history, its teachings have been used by some people to justify violence.

Do most Arab Australians belong to the same religion?

Most Arab Australians are Christian, though this varies by region. In many communities, Muslim and Christian Arabs live side by side with each other and with non-Arab religious communities. Most Arab countries are predominantly Muslim.

Is Islam mostly an Arab religion, then?

No. Only about 12 percent of Muslims worldwide are Arabs. There are more Muslims in Indonesia, for example, than in all Arab countries combined. Large populations of Muslims also live in India, Iran, other parts of East Asia and sub- Saharan Africa. Islam has a strong Arab flavour, though, as the religion's holiest places are in the Middle East, and the Quran was originally written in Arabic.

What is the Quran?

The Quran is the holy book for Muslims, who believe it contains the word of God revealed to the prophet Muhammad. The Quran, or `recitation' was revealed over a period of 22 years. Muslims regard it as the direct word of God speaking in the first person. The usage of "Koran" like "Moslem" is not favored by Muslims. The Quran is not the Muslim "Bible," because the Bible is seen as a secondary text while the Quran is a primary source of revelation. The Quran is a seal and purifier of all the previous scriptures. It speaks of distortions that crept into earlier texts and gives the message that all prophets and messengers brought in a pure and unadulterated form. The Quran recognises previous revelations like the Torah and the Gospel as well as labels together respectfully the Jews, Christians and Muslims as “the People of the Book”. The Quran has been translated into many languages, including English, and is available on the Web. Other spellings are Qur'an and Koran. Variations come from transliterating Arabic into English.

What is the difference between Islam and Muslim?

Islam is the religion, and a Muslim is a follower of the religion. It is like the difference between Christianity and Christian. The adjective form is Islamic.

What are the five pillars of Islam?

The five pillars are minimum sacred obligations for followers who are able to observe them. They are: belief in the Shahadah: the Declaration of Faith. There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah., the statement that "There is no god but One God, and Muhammad is a Messenger of God"; A person becomes a Muslim by saying and believing the shahadah: salat, or prayer five times a day; zakat, the sharing of alms with the poor; swam, the fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

What are the pillars of faith or belief?

Tawhid: Oneness of God. He has no partners nor associates.
^Anbiya^: Prophets. All prophets come with message to worship God. Only their laws (Shariah) differ due to the circumstances under which they had to deliver their message. The Prophet Muhammad is the seal of Prophets and is the last Messenger.
Kutob: [Books] Belief in the Quran and previous Scriptures such as the Torah, Psalms, Gospels, Avesta, Suhuf and others not named.
Mala^ikah: The Angels.
Yawm al-Qiyamah: Day of Judgement. This also includes a belief in Heaven and Hell and Life after death.
Al-Qadr: Predestination.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, it is a month of fasting whose end is marked with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr. During this month of self-discipline and purification, Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse from the break of dawn until sundown. At night, after sun set however, they eat and drink and pursue a normal routine. The Islamic calendar is based on the cycles of the moon and has 354 days, so Ramadan does not always occur at the same time of year according to the 365-day civil calendar.

Must Arabs make a journey to Mecca?

This relates to all who are Muslim, not all Arabs. Learn to keep that distinction in mind. Muslims who are financially and physically able to do so are expected to make the journey at least once in their lifetime.

What does hajj mean?

Al hajj refers to the pilgrimage to Mecca by millions of Muslims once each year. It is a milestone event in a Muslim's life. A man who makes the trip is recognized with the title hajji, which means the pilgrim. For women, the title is hajjah.

What is the difference between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims?

Historically, these are the two main branches of Islam, and their distinction has to do with the successor of the prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe his successors were elected religious leaders; Shi'a believe that the prophet appointed Ali ibn Abi Taleb. The answer is much more complicated than this, though, because there are other differences and new ones have arisen over the years. There also are separate groups and movements within each branch. Most Muslims worldwide and in Australia are Sunni, though Shi'as dominate in some communities. Most Muslims in Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon and the non-Arab country of Iran are Shi'a.

Who is an imam?

The leader of prayer at a mosque is usually called an imam. He might also be called a sheikh [scholar/person of Islamic knowledge]. One of an imam's responsibilities is to give sermons on Friday, the holiest day of the typical Islamic week. To journalists, an imam can be an important local community leader and a good source of information about local Muslims.

What are important Islamic holidays?

The most important Muslim observance each year is Ramadan. Muslims also celebrate Eid al-Adha on the last day of the hajj -- the pilgrimage to Mecca -- and Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan. Depending on the makeup of your area, these are worthy of consideration as news events. There are other holidays, as well, but do not assume that a holiday or practice observed at one mosque is observed by all.

What does Allah mean?

Allah means God. Arabic-speaking Christians, Muslims and Jews use the same word. Allah is not "the Muslim God," but the same God worshiped by Christians and Jews. When translating Arabic expressions; translate all the words for consistency. The translation of "Allahu Akbar," for example, would be "God is greater," or "Gpd is Great" not "Allah is greater."

What is the position of Women in Islam?

Women and Men are seen as equal but different in some ways in Islam. They are not totally identical. Under Islamic law, women have always had the right to own property, receive an education, and otherwise take part in community life. The injunctions placed on women concerning dress and social mixing apply equally to men. If a particular society oppresses women, it is in spite of Islam, not because of it. (The first person to accept the Prophet's message was his wife. The first martyr of Islam was a woman.)

What garments might a woman wear to practice Hijab?

The most accepted interpretation is that everything should be covered except hands, face and feet. Long clothing and a scarf would accomplish this and the headscarf might be called a hijab or chador. The long, robe like garment is called an abayah, jilbab, or chador. In Iraq and Saudi Arabia especially, a woman may wear a cloak that covers her head. Beneath a robe, a woman may be wearing a traditional dress, casual clothes or a business suit. The veil, in particular, has been made controversial by governments, gender politics and religious biases. Many Muslim women in Australia and around the world do not wear veils.

Why do some Muslim women dress in black?

Remember that black is a popular colour in contemporary western fashion and may not have any special significance. When it does, it may be a sign of mourning. Black, when worn in mourning, may be worn for a few days to many years by others. It is not a requirement to wear black but some women choose to do so and in fact most women wear very colourful clothes.

What is meant by the phrase "Islamic fundamentalist"?

This is complex. The term fundamentalist, whether applied to Muslims or Christians, is a largely American construct that has been used to imply politically conservatism and, sometimes, extremism. The term "Islamic fundamentalist" has been used to refer to people who use Islam to justify political actions. This has blurred the distinction between religion and politics. Because of this, acts carried out for political reasons are sometimes attributed to religion. Fairness and accuracy mean attributing political actions to the group, government or party responsible, and not to a religion, which may have millions of followers around the world. Avoid constructions like "Muslim bomb”

Is Islam a violent religion?

The Quran teaches non-violence but allows self-defence with clear limits. Throughout history, political groups and leaders have used Islam and other religions to justify many things, including violence.

Are there issues about the way Arab Australians are portrayed in the media?

Yes. In some cases, journalists seem to prefer to publish or air images of people who look different, or exotic. In trying for a more interesting image, they may emphasize the difference between Australian Muslims and other Australians. Most Australian Muslims do not wear traditional clothing. News organizations whose collective reports give the impression that Australian Muslims generally dress differently than other Australians are being inaccurate.

Is there a coverage pitfall that reporters should avoid?

Like many groups, Australian Muslims say that reporters stay away unless there is a problem to report, or if there is a national or international crisis for which they want reaction. This keeps people out of sight except when they are associated with trouble. The solution is to cover Australian Muslims consistently and continuously. By paying attention to what communities say are significant news issues, reporters offer deeper and fuller coverage.

Should I say Arab, Arabic or Arabian?

Arab is a noun for a person, and is used as an adjective, as in "Arab country." Arabic is the name of the language and generally is not used as an adjective. Arabian is an adjective that refers to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Peninsula,
or as in Arabian horse. When ethnicity or nationality is relevant, it is more precise and accurate to specify the country by using Lebanese, Yemeni or whatever is appropriate. We suggest that you hyphenate when using Arab-Australian as an adjective, as in Arab-Australian issues, but do not hyphenate when saying that someone is an Arab Australian.

Are Arabs and Muslims frequently involved in terrorism?

No more so than other groups of people. Many types of people have committed acts of terror. However, news accounts seem to more often stress Arab or Muslim connections than they do for terrorism committed by other groups. In addition, there have been highly publicized cases when Arabs were singled out, early on and erroneously, as suspects. The Oklahoma City federal building bombing in 1995 was one such case.

Who is a sheikh?

A sheikh can be the leader of a family, a village, a tribe or a mosque [masjid]. Press accounts popularized the term "oil-rich sheikh." This contributed to the misconception that the people who became wealthy from oil were sheikhs, and that sheikhs had oil money. Neither is true.

Some effects of Negative Stereotyping:

Refugees: When refugees are labeled as troublemakers and criminals their settlement in Australia is affected through racism, injustice and diminished employment prospects.
In the Courts: Although the examples given previously are not indicative of the responses or attitudes of all magistrates, they convey messages to Muslim woman suffering male violence that effectively deter them from pursuing legal intervention. One common response is "What is the point?"
On University Campuses: A phenomenon called 'stereotype-threat' has been described when minorities feel a sense of threat when in a situation where a negative stereotype applies to their group. The sense of threat in turn leads them to under-achieve. Dr. Asmar's findings demonstrated that "negative responses by their teachers and by their non-Muslim peers towards identifiable Muslims do appear to affect some of those students quite painfully."
The HREOC in 1991 said that media coverage 'was having the effect of raising tensions in the community and may have been contributing to an increase in acts of racial hostility and violence against Arabs and Muslims'.(1991)


April 24, 2019. Assalamu'alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh & Welcome to Isomer website.
Islamic Society Of Melbourne Eastern Region Victoria Australia