The first mosque in Queensland was a tin shed situated in Cloncurry, which served the needs of the Cameleers and other Muslims in the area at the time.
In the late 1880s Muslims of Afghan and Indian origin settled in the Mt Gravatt/Holland Park area. They regularly met on a small block of land on the corner of Crest Street and Logan Road for prayers and religious festivals. By 1908 the local Muslim community had raised enough funds to build a mosque, a wooden Queenslander that looked like many of the other houses in the area at the time.
The establishment of this mosque was a historical event that was very important to the people of Queensland. It was the first established mosque on the East coast of Australia. There was no opposition to its establishment. In fact, it became a landmark in the Mt Gravatt area as a mosque is essentially a first step towards fostering unity amongst people, and consequently is a powerful force in our endeavours to unite mankind.
It became the meeting place of Muslims on the East coast of Australia. It catered to the needs of seasonal Indian workers, Muslim hawkers, and important dignitaries who wished to participate in prayers, festivals, and connect with people of their own culture and language.
The early congregations were small as there were only a small number of settled families, but the numbers swelled for religious festivals. The mosque had a small adjacent building to house travelers and elderly men for a short period of time. No one felt lonely, as the members of the community were often present at the mosque.
The children loved visiting the mosque, playing under the mango tree and watching the men cook curries on the wood stove. Eid festivals would bring all the families together for presents, delicious food and interaction. Some would spend hours commuting from the Gold Cost, Hope Island, and even Lismore
In spite of the White Australia Policy and discrimination at the time, the Muslims were a happy, hard-working group. The white population accepted their presence with the knowledge that they were productive members of the community and small in number.
The Queenslander mosque, the only one of its kind in Australia, went through many renovations over the years to cater for the growing population. The migration of Muslims after World War Two and later the end of the White Australia Policy, when business migrants were allowed to migrate led to an increase in numbers and plans were developed to build a larger brick building.
The original mosque was not demolished until the new two-storied brick mosque was completed in 1966. Many would feel the loss of the unique Queenslander, but it couldn’t cater to the needs of the growing population of Muslims.
Most of the Muslims lived around the mosque due to the need to attend Friday prayers as well as to connect with people of their faith and culture. The majority of these Muslims were Sunni. Now people come from all over Brisbane as many of the local Muslim families can’t afford the spike in Holland Park house prices.
Our early imams were usually voluntary. The longest voluntary imam, the late Haji Rane, served thirty years and traveled the state when needed for weddings and funerals. He was Australian born, self-taught, and the only Australian born imam of this mosque.
This mosque is now the oldest established continuous mosque in Australia and celebrated its centenary in 2008 with an open day and street fair welcoming all levels of government, other religious people, and members of the public. Holland Park is considered to be the Queensland 'mother' mosque as there are now close to twenty mosques and prayer rooms in the Brisbane area, as well as mosques in major regional towns.
Several new buildings have now been purchased by the mosque - two halls and a house across from the mosque. The hall adjacent the mosque now has a small museum opened on 12 March 2017 to preserve the history of Muslims in Queensland.
We thank the dedicated Muslims who had the foresight to build the first mosque on the East coast of Australia.
The Mosque Next Door begins Wednesday 8 November, 8.40pm on SBS, and continues on Wednesdays. Episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere, for free via SBS On Demand.