The Tasmanian Muslim Association estimates the state’s Muslim population has doubled since 2016. Launceston could have its first mosque by the end of the year. At present, there is no mosque in Launceston.
Mr Seleem is a medical specialist working at the Launceston General Hospital, and his wife, Mariam Eissa, is an electrical engineer. Life with four children – all under six – is busy, but the family is enjoying the slower pace in Tasmania. “It’s more peaceful here, it’s quiet, there’s no traffic so we spend more time as a family,” Ms Eissa said.
But one aspect of their life has changed dramatically since making the move south. In Brisbane, the family lived right next to a mosque. “When we came here, the first thing we asked was if there was a community centre – a mosque where we could go and meet people,” Mr Seleem said. “When we heard there wasn’t [a mosque in Launceston], it was devastating news.”
Tasmania’s Islamic population is growing, and growing.
The Tasmanian Muslim Association estimates its population has more than doubled since the last census in 2016, which found there were 2,498 Muslim people in Tasmania. But the state has only one mosque, which is in Hobart. “When we came here, the kids started to ask when we would visit the mosque,” Ms Eissa said.
Bart Idris moved to Tasmania from Malaysia nine years ago and enjoys working on a farm at Deloraine. Bart Idris says thousands of people gather in mosques in his home country of Malaysia, and he’d like to be able to do the same in northern Tasmania. “There’s a lot of hustle back home, traffic jams everywhere — [Tasmania] is a pretty nice and quiet place to live,” he said.
He is one of many that comes to a small room at the University of Tasmania in Newnham to pray every Friday. Some people come from as far as St Helens on the east coast, about 160km or more than a two-hour drive away, to pray at the university. But the room is far too small for this growing community.
Dr Rabiul Islam, a lecturer at the university, says he has seen the Islamic community change dramatically in the past eight years. “I came in 2013 and in that time we had about 40 to 50 families – now we have 500 families so no way is this space enough,” he said.
The Islamic community in Launceston has signed a contract for a building in Kings Meadows, which they hope will soon become the region’s first mosque. Mr Seleem said the mosque would be a gathering point for the community, and would benefit the region as a whole. “One of the major reasons people would want to come and stay permanently, particularly highly skilled people, is if there was a community centre,” he said.
“The local community would finally have a place where they can meet, greet, socialise and talk to each other – a place where they can belong to. “The Muslim community has great values, great people and a lot to offer.” Ms Eissa said fundraising is now underway to pay for the building and hope to see the mosque open before the end of the year. “I keep going for a drive around the building with the kids and show them what will be the mosque, and they can’t wait until it’s open,” she said.