The Ordinariness of Australian Muslims Project

a group of muslim female football playersProfessors Kevin Dunn and Mehmet Ozalp (ISRA) lead a team of researchers to gather the experiences and perceptions of ordinary Muslims in Sydney. The study was commissioned by Western Sydney University (Western), the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia (ISRA) and Charles Sturt University, through a Western Partnership Grant. The research team included Research Assistants Drs Adem Aydogan (ISRA) and Virginia Mapedzahama (Western) and Rosalie Atie (Western).

The Project

There is a persistent stream of expressed public concern in Australia that Muslim immigrants are ill-at-ease with Australian ways of life, governance and law. Too much research has helped reproduce a discourse of non-integration because it focuses on the negative interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims and the personal and social morbidities associated with these. Against this background then, the aims of the project were to:

  1. Collect data on the experiences of Australian Muslims, including their experiences of racism, participation in the labour force, civics and the voluntary sector, and cross-cultural contact (including inter-faith contact).
  2. Collect data on the attitudes of Australian Muslims, including their senses of belonging and disaffection, cultural (and religious) tolerance, and views on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
  3. Analyse the links between experiences and attitudes.
  4. Critically analyse the assumption that disaffection is widespread within the Muslim Community.
  5. Critically analyse the assumption that susceptibility to radicalisation (specifically violent extremism) poses a particular threat within the Muslim Community.
  6. Consider the conceptual utility of 'everyday multiculturalism' and 'ordinary cosmopolitanism' as frames for better understanding the day-to-day lives of Muslims in Australia.


The study was aimed at gathering empirics on the normality, integration and ordinariness of Australian Muslims. A survey instrument was used to capture experiences of racism, participation in the labour force, civics and the voluntary sector, and cross-cultural contact (including inter-faith contact). The survey also collected data on attitudes, including senses of belonging and disaffection, cultural (and religious) tolerance, and views on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Data on demographics, socio-economic status, cultural background, religiosity and the religious practices of informants were also collected.  The survey was comprised of two stages. The study comprised a mix of face-to-face surveys with Muslims at religious events (345 respondents), and a random sample of telephone interviews (240 respondents). Slightly more women than men participated (56% to 44%), and half the respondents were aged under 35 years old (49%). Total combined sample n: 585.

Key findings

  • Almost two-thirds of the respondents (57%) had experienced racism. This level of discrimination and hate talk is three times the rate of all other Australians (on average).
  • 97% agreed that it is a good thing for a society to be made up of people from different cultures, compared to the average of all Australians of 87%.
  • A large majority (85.8%) of the telephone respondents felt that relations between Muslims and non- Muslims in Australia are friendly.
  • Education was the clear forerunner for issues of concern for Sydney Muslims, with a lack of concern with international affairs (2.9% ranked it as a high priority).
  • The majority of Australian Muslims not only identified themselves as Australian but also felt a sense of belonging to Australia. An even larger majority indicated that it was important for their children to get fully accepted as Australians (90%).
  • Two thirds indicated that they frequently mix with non- Muslims in their social lives, challenging the assumption that Muslims self-segregate.

survey responses

issues of concern for Sydney Muslims chart


Australian Muslims have ordinary desires and needs, and a strong sense of belonging in Australia. The fact that Muslims face high levels of racism, yet still believe Islam is compatible with Australian norms, bodes well for the future.Importantly, higher levels of religiosity were positively associated with stronger national belonging and a sense of Muslim integration. Australia's values of diversity and multiculturalism give hope to Australian Muslims, and makes them more resilient in dealing with the pressures of Islamophobia and racism.


The Report was launched at the 2nd Australasian Conference on Islam: Radicalisation and Islamophobia at the Novatel Hotel at Parramatta on Monday, November 30, and received global media attention.

"The study finds there is little evidence for widespread alienation among Australian Muslims"

"There is a very strong sense of national belonging amongst the Australian Muslim community, which ranks education and employment as primary concerns, and feel comfortable identifying as Australian and Muslim"

Dunn, K, Atie, R, Mapedzahama, V, Ozalp, M, Aydogen, A, 2015, The resilience and ordinariness of Australian Muslims: Attitudes and Experiences of Muslims Report [PDF, 3607.6 KB], Western Sydney University, Islamic Sciences and Research Academy, Charles Sturt University, Sydney, Australia.


Atie, R. and Dunn, Kevin M. (2013) "The ordinariness of Australian Muslims: attitudes and experiences of Muslims", (opens in a new window) in Gopalkrishnan N. & Babacan, H. (eds) Third International Conference on Racisms in the New World Order: Realities of Culture, Colour and Identity: Conference Proceedings, (Cairns, Australia), 30 - 31 August, pp. 2-11. ISBN 978-0-9875922-6-2.

Dunn KM., Atie, R. & Mapedzahama, V. (2016) "Ordinary cosmopolitans: Sydney Muslims' attitudes to diversity", (opens in a new window) Australian Geographer, 47(3), 281-294.

Dunn KM. & Hopkins, P. (2016) "The Geographies of everyday Muslim life in the west",(opens in a new window) Australian Geographer, 47(3), 255-260.