I was always very keen to visit Mosques located in the regional and remote areas of Queensland and know directly about the communities and leaders who are so resilient and dedicated to live by Islam and uphold its teachings in a very difficult environment and situation. Finally, from 11 June to 24 June 2021 we visited all six Mosques and communities in central and north Queensland, Australia.
Starting from Toowoomba/Brisbane we visited Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and Mareeba. In this long waited road trip we drove over 5,500km. It covered, the vast eastern part of Australia from Toowoomba/Brisbane to Port Douglas stretched over 2000km north-south plus several cruises and ferry trips to see the diverse creation of Allah.
A long-time close friend of mine from Brisbane joined my wife and me with his wife for the unforgettable and memorable trip.
This unforgettable visit took us to the scenic places like Gladstone harbour area, Eungella National Park near Mackay, Proserpine Tourist Park, magnificent sea view in Bowen, tropical city of Cairns and Green Islam, exciting mountain drive to Mareeba and Milaa Milaa Falls in Atherton Tablelands, rail journey to Kuranda scenic area and return by sky rail and cable car, open ocean views in Port Douglas and Cardwell, Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island and bright white silica sands in Whitsunday region, amazing Capricorn Caves near Rockhampton, and many other attractive places.
We had the opportunity to see first hand how the marine lives in Australia’s great barrier reef, especially the coral and other aquatic creatures, are vulnerable to global warming and undeniable climate change.
Destination #1 Gladstone Mosque
The first Mosque visited in the trip was the Gladstone Mosque on Saturday 12 June. It is a temporary Musallah in a rental property. The community is in the process of building a permanent Mosque after getting approval from the local Council and winning a court case.
This is a very well organised community under the leadership of Eng Moslem Uddin. We met him, Dr Khondoker Ashraf Islam, and Syed Midhatullah Qadri who was an Engineering student at USQ long time ago.
Destination #2 Mackay Mosque
The second Mosque we visited is the Mackay Mosque on Sunday 13 June. This Mosque was established in 1983 with the help of AFIC. The key founder of this Mosque was Br Omar Selimich (May Allah be pleased with him), a Bosnian origin Muslim who used to lived in Toowoomba and later moved to South Australia.
I made a short speech after Dhuhr prayers and joined the Monthly Community Lunch with so many members of the Community.
It was great to catch up with Dr Muntaser Musameh (current President), Dr Muhammad Ashraf (past President), Imam Mujib Ullah, Mustafa Akbar (Vice President) to mention a few.
This community is very well organised and very actively engaged within and between communities.
Destination #3 Mareeba Mosque
On Wednesday 16 June we visited the second oldest Mosque in Queensland. This Mosque was built in 1970 by the Muslims of Albanian origin who started settlement in the region in 1920’s.
I was very honoured to meet Br Binyamin Murat and Br Eskander Murat, decedents of early settlers and enjoy their company briefly. They were allowed to migrate to Australia even under the `White Only’ migration policy because they were Caucasians.
Interestingly, Br Eskander is an engineering graduate from University of Southern Queensland. A very successful farmer, who brought his wife to Toowoomba after their marriage to show her where he used to live in the Garden City.
Dr Akil Islam and his family invited us for a family dinner in his farm home. A big thankyou to the family, especially Sr Diana Murat and her lovely mother for the warmth and delicious food.
Destination #4 Cairns Mosque
The fourth Mosque we visited in our tour was the Cairns Mosque. It is also known as Abu Bakr As-Siddiq Mosque. Br Abdul Aziz Mohamed (May Allah be pleased with him) was one of the key founders and Imam of this Mosque.
This Mosque was built in 2009. Br Rafiqul Chowdhury is a Trusty of the Mosque and manages its affairs along side other active members of the community. I also met Br Aboo Auckbur and Br Rafeek Mohamed. It was exciting to meet Eng Mahmudul Hoque who was in Toowoomba and worked in the Toowoomba Second Range Project before moving to Cairns.
The Imam of this Mosque was also serving as Imam in Mareeba Mosque. He has moved to another city and the community is now in the process of hiring another Imam.
Destination #5 Townsville Mosque
On Saturday 19 June we visited the fifth Mosque on our tour, the Townsville Mosque. It was established in 1987, four years after Mackay Masjid was built. Interestingly the carpet in this Masjid looks exactly the same as that of old Toowoomba Masjid.
This Masjid was funded by Saudi Arabian Government. The community is very well organised, dynamic and active. Both Ishaa and Fajr prayers were very well attended. I was specially impressed by the number of young Muslims who joined Fajr prayers.
It was great to catch up with my old friends, Professor Dr Osman Malabu (past President), Dr Shahead Chowdhury (President), Dr Oyelola Adegboye (whom I met in University of Qatar twice), Dr Rabiul Beg, Dr Robiul Islam and a past President Dr Alok Mitra.
It was an honour to join the dinner hosted by the family of Dr Shahead Chowdhury. Very big thankyou to the family, especial wife, of Dr Shahead for their warmest hospitality. Along with delicious food we enjoyed the company of our senior colleague Dr Rabi Beg and friend Dr Rafi Uddin Ahmed, both of whom work at James Cook University.
Destination #6 Rockhampton Mosque
On Tuesday 22 June we joined a dinner in the Rockhampton Mosque. This Mosque was established about 20 years ago. We met Br Abdur Razaq (President), Associate Professor Delwar Akbar (past President), Dr Zaman and Dr Sweet along with other members of the community. It was exciting to know that Br Abdur Razaq lived in Toowoomba briefly on his arrival to Australia. This is a well established community and very actively engaged with wider community.
Associate Professor Delwar Akbar is a great host and once again his family invited us for dinner at his home. Very big thankyou to his family for the warm hospitality.
On our way to Toowoomba, we prayed evening (Maghrib and Ishaa) prayers in Ipswich Mosque on Thursday 24 June.
We were very impressed by the spirit and engagement of the Muslims in the remote and regional Queensland. They are resilient and proud to be Muslims and making great effort to live as Muslims.
The Mosques are key to the unity and future of Muslims. All this Mosques run Madrasa to teach Islam to the children and adult.
The Muslims in these communities are highly committed to their faith and genuine effort to maintain the Mosques and strengthen their communities, and engage with people in the wider community to live in peace and harmony.
We pray for everyone served/serving and supported/supporting these Houses of Allah and communities only to please Him and achieve successes in the Hereafter. May Allah bless all of them with the best in both worlds.