Paper Summaries

A - D

Tanveer AHMED

Is Education and Work Enough for Integration?

The roots of Islamic opposition lie in a combination of antipathy from first generation immigrants combined with Islamic theology which is serving as a tool of protest for Muslims, young students included. While education and work are crucial for integrating Muslim students, it may not be enough. I will look at the roots of how modern Islam became a tool of protest and its overlap with left wing groups in the twentieth century.

Anne (Azza) ALY

Moving out of 'the other': The Opportunities of the Tertiary Experience for Forging an Australian Muslim Identity.

Since the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001, Australian Muslims as the subjects of intense media scrutiny, have found it increasingly difficult to define their Islamic identity within the parameters of the public debate on what it means to be Australian. The emerging public discourse on the so called 'war on terror' constructs the Muslim diaspora as a religious monolith with the underlying assumption that Islam is backward, secular resistant and incompatible with the ideals and values of Western liberal democracy. Australian Muslims, by association are represented as an irreconcilable, 'out of place' other (Saniotis, 2004) effectively denying them entry and representation in the public sphere which Habermas (1989) maintains is indispensable to democracy and to democratic participation. Universities have long been sites of struggle for social justice. Higher education has historically had a role in fostering democratic participation through a tradition of encouraging rational discussion. Universities have become public spheres where students can participate in open dialogue and democratic speech. As such, the tertiary experience offers opportunities for Muslim students to engage with the broader community focussing on what unites them as students and as Australians; providing an avenue for young Australian Muslims to move out of 'the other', to create new narratives of belonging and construct alternative identities that are not framed by a sense of being 'out of place' but by a shared sense of citizenship.

Neil Aykan

Developing Young Muslim Leaders

Of the many challenges we face as a nation, none is more important than that of making this society one which values and nurtures its rich cultural and religious diversity. Australia's Muslim communities, representing one of the world's great religious traditions, have much to contribute. Muslims have been integral to Australia's development since early settlement.

In recent years much has been said about a looming 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West. The 'war on terror' is being fought mainly in nations where Islam is the majority religion. Australian Muslims have themselves been subjected to powerful pressures and often les than flattering media attention. There is a need for young Muslim leaders who can speak clearly and confidently about the various issues which confront people of Islamic Faith in Australia today, and who can participate fully in shaping Australia's future.


The role of positive public and political leadership in reducing barriers

An often under acknowledged aspect of reducing (or increasing) barriers to inclusion and success is the role played by people in leadership roles. The political arena provides clear examples of this. It is impossible to deny the wide and deep social impact that occurs when senior leadership figures facilitate or encourage ignorance and antagonism towards a particular group. Conversely, the impact of sustained, genuine positive promotion of understanding and inclusion - seeking to reduce fear and misunderstanding rather than pandering to it - can also be profound. We need to insist on our public leaders playing positive affirming roles, and be more ready to criticise when they play divisive and socially destructive roles which should be seen as the antithesis of good public leadership.

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Dealing with religious diversity within universities

This paper considers religious diversity within universities. Assuming that universities should respond to religious needs, the paper suggests appropriate policies and programs.

This paper focuses on practical, organisational models responding to the religious and spiritual needs of students and staff as well trying to link this with the broader community. It suggests an appropriate policy framework within universities and proposes some practical solutions.

This paper is based on a multicultural approach and considers religion as an important part of culture. Further, the paper argues that a university as a place of culture and intellectualism has a duty to respond to the religious needs of the university community. The paper takes into account various religious groups; and attempts to create appropriate relations between different faiths and religious traditions and non-believers.


The Challenge of Religious Diversity and Revitalisation to Tertiary Education

The unanticipated rise of religious diversity and the re-entry of religion to the public sphere have radically increased the need and demand for education about religions - how they contribute to social and cultural capital - and about the management of religious diversity. The global movement of people and cultures has brought religious diversity to nearly every major city. With diversity has come a renewed interest in the religious identity of others and how to incorporate religious diversity in ways that produce social cohesion. Religious diversity has also raised interest in a values discourse where once atheistic secularity prevailed, made faith-based social and health service delivery both more appealing to governments and more difficult to deliver, and has challenged societies to accommodate a wider range of religious needs and life-styles.

Policies designed to promote social justice and peace have little chance of success without taking seriously the religious dimensions to the issues involved. This context makes clear the need for opportunities to learn about the religions in a society at all levels of education - opportunities that include direct experience of the 'other', curricula that appreciate the worlds of faith, spirituality and religion rather than demeaning them, education that provides both historical depth and local reality. Some of this education will be in school, and some in remedial work required for a generation or two of leaders who have been raised in ignorance of religion, or trained to despise it.


Transition from High School to University - Providing for special needs

An early factor in a successful university career is making a smooth transition from high school to university. However, attaining a successful university career is not the sole priority for a Muslim student. Muslim students throughout their university life face a host of challenges to observing their faith on campus when their special needs are not catered for.

Australian universities, particularly those located in the culturally diverse Greater Western Sydney region, are experiencing larger numbers of both domestic and international Muslim students. It is therefore appropriate for Australian universities to engage with Muslim students on campus in order to cater for their fundamental needs such as facilitating the sale of certified Halal food products on campus (i.e. food meeting the dietary standard as prescribed in the holy Quran, the Muslim scripture) and providing adequate prayer and ablution facilities.

It is the identification and promotion of these essential needs that has the potential to develop national standards which universities may use across Australia in making provision for Muslim students. Several Australian universities, including the University of Western Sydney, have already embraced some of the special needs of Muslim students on campus, which has not only proved to be successful in strengthening the relationship between Muslim students and the University, but has enhanced university life for Muslim students making their time and studies at university a pleasant experience.


Views from the Muslim Youth Summits on Education - local and international students

The National Muslim Youth Summit was proposed by the Australian Multicultural Foundation in 2005 to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, formally known as the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, as a way to progress some of the outcomes of the Prime Minister's Muslim Summit.

The aims of the National Muslim Youth Summit and state based summits were to bring together a range of students and young Australian Muslims to discuss issues of concern, their aspirations, and emerging trends and issues; to further build levels of civic engagement; acknowledge some of the positives and learn from them; and develop support networks for cooperation.

This paper will present the many views and solutions from these summits. 

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E - H


Understanding Muslim women

As the title indicates, this paper discusses the status of women in Islam as well as rectifying some of the misconceptions about Islam, especially those pertaining to Muslim women.

I was motivated to write this paper to discuss these issues for three main reasons. The first is based on the findings of research conducted last year by Dr Kevin Dunn who is a senior Lecturer in Geography in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of NSW.

My second reason for writing this paper was motivated by researching the core for this high level of misunderstanding and misrepresentations of Islam and finding that there are three major causes, one of which is the inability to differentiate between cultural and religious practices.

And finally, I wrote this paper to indicate that misconceptions about Muslim Women in Islam will be rectified by addressing the following issues independently:

  • Status and rights of women in Islam
  • Inheritance
  • Hijab
  • Divorce
  • The so-called honour killing
  • Clitoridectomy
  • Arranged marriages

Christie ELEMAM

Distance Education and the Muslim Student

This discussion paper focuses upon the benefits that distance education provides as an opportunity to gain university qualifications, using my own personal experience in obtaining two degrees through the Southern Cross University.

This paper will discuss:

  • The large number of Muslim students missing out on university education because of circumstances such as marriage, working, children or distance
  • The benefits of studying by distance education
  • The universities incorporation of cultural aspects into course work
  • The on-campus support facilities for Muslim students for workshops if require
  • The support and guidance given by staff to culturally diverse students
  • The policies and procedures that the university implements to ensure that discrimination of any form is not permitted in discussion sites.

Southern Cross University is also running an Islamic Law lecture series and has significant links with Islamic countries internationally, and as such, the staff have developed an understanding of and embody a respect for Muslim students attending their university, whether by distance education or on campus.


Social Inclusion Through Education

The core barrier to Muslim access to successful tertiary studies is the growing inequity of our education system in Sydney. Muslims are largely concentrated within a region that suffers socio-economic deprivation, which has been aggravated by the pronounced refugee/humanitarian concentration. The extreme dislocation, interrupted education and in many cases the preliteracy status of parents is challenging for the new African intake and means a minority of schools have to shoulder an excessive responsibility. This impacts on school morale and attractiveness, vis-à-vis other schools, eventually leading to further stigmatization.

UWS has been extremely mindful of its leadership role on these issues and has endeavoured to be proactive in fostering Islamic inclusion and academic success. Similarly, a number of Arabic based and Islamic groups have sought to promote academic success in their broader communities.

Muslim students have traditionally lacked many role models, although this is now being alleviated. Additionally they often come from families without tertiary study experience and many do not have any support mechanisms. There is a need for the youths of the community itself, whilst conceding the reality of discrimination, to avoid a victim mentality fixation and to find common cause with broader human rights campaigns and community activities.


Responding to the Challenge of Multiculturalism - Law School Experiences

Islamic Law is very much a newcomer to the Australian law school curriculum. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable to offer such a course. However, times have changed and there is a new realisation that law students need to acquire a broader understanding of the world around us, and particularly of those countries in Asia which are becoming increasingly important to our trade, security and to the formation of our harmonious multicultural society.

This paper surveys three one semester courses in Islamic law, offered at three different Australian law schools. The course has been offered at different universities in both face to face and distance mode, the latter attracting students from as far away as the Persian Gulf and Canada. The course covers those aspects of Islamic law which correspond roughly to the same fields in the common law, including family law, commercial law and Islamic banking, criminal law and evidence. 

Reactions from students have been almost entirely positive. Non-Muslim students have commented that their horizons have been broadened and many misconceptions removed as a result of taking the course. Muslim students, from a variety of traditions and backgrounds - including students from Engineering and Science faculties - have welcomed the opportunity to include an elective which has given them a greater knowledge of their religious traditions.

Muslim Australians are now an integral part of Australian society. Australian legal firms are expanding into practice in South East Asia. Lawyers who have participated in these courses will be better equipped to work in a multicultural environment at home and to be better informed citizens of the world.

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Mentoring Influences on Muslim students from High School to Uni

Muslim students currently fall into a number of different categories, primarily based on their immigrant background, ethnic background, and socio-economic status. The Muslim community is not monolithic and is substantially different across the different generations and ethnic boundaries. In this short presentation I will be focussing particularly on research relating to the current younger generation of Muslims between the ages of 18 and 25, and the sources of mentoring that have either assisted these young people to progress successfully into tertiary education, and establish competency in the mainstream community, or alternatively to become alienated and disenfranchised from the skills and the opportunities that ensure access to educational and work related prospects. Unlike their parents, Muslim students have available to them a wider network of support including family, peers from a wide multicultural background, and various mentors within the Muslim community itself, including teachers, youth workers, and peers accessed through community activities. While the internet provides another potential source of support to young people, the ability to personally access support mentors and the role models they represent, are critical to the developing confidence and future success of young Muslims. In the research that I have conducted, young people feel a strong sense of identity with their community and a profound feeling of hopelessness and frustration in the face of the ongoing media presentation of their religion and community - locally and internationally. It is their response to their representation in the media combined with the mentoring that they receive which is most likely to ensure their educational success and resultant integration into their diverse Australian community.

Naushad ILAHEE

Combating Discrimination and Prejudice Developing Young Muslim Leaders

"O you who believe: Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly. Be just; that is nearer to piety." (Qur'an 5:8)

One cannot help but wonder whether Muslims would be in the spotlight if it wasn't for September 11, 2001. The date it seems, changed the course of world politics and policies, and engraved itself to the pages of future history books. Regardless of the details of that day, the global repercussions shook the very core of social justice and religious tolerance all over the world.

Today, Muslims across Australia need to repeatedly justify their views and practices as a requisite for accepting Islam in their lives. Since 2001, the juxtaposition of 'Terror' and 'Islam' in the vocabulary of the self-proclaimed 'developed' world has created an aura of fear and misunderstanding. This mindset, when deriving into action creates prejudice, hatred and discrimination. With this in mind, 20 young Muslims packed their bags on a chilly Melbourne morning and departed for the airport. Canberra was the destination. Ahead of them would be tight schedules with Federal parliamentarians, government departments, academics, religious leaders, a high court judge as well as foreign diplomats and ambassadors.

Canberra seemed to provide a platter of Heraclitus' world of opposites. The views presented by Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews, almost always were negated by the words of Senator Kerry Nettle. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading presented clear political bias, blind justice and an inability to face constructive criticism, particularly regarding Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the war in Iraq. Conversely, the Department of Family Affairs, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs presented the issues of grassroots developments and community projects and the constant barriers faced through political and outside pressures. The bright contrast was also reflected when speaking to the academics from Australian National University. Their insight and ability to critically view an issue is far superior to most politicians, yet due to conflict of interests, political agendas often intercept recommendations proposed from academics and intellectuals. This was the view from academics, where the questions, especially regarding foreign policies and international relations remain unanswered by those in power and authority. The apparent conflict between academia and youth views against political advances or diplomacy from politicians and foreign ambassadors seem to resemble a confrontation between values of international relations driven by either idealism or realism.

Even among the religious leaders, there were was stark contrast in dialogue between the two respective parties - the Catholic Archbishop and respected leaders from the Anglican and Quakers communities. While one assumed the group of 20 youth representative - mostly from affluent middle-class, well educated backgrounds - all "arrived" from war-torn countries as refugees, the other emphasized the value of dialogue through education and emphasized that accepting each others differences, not assimilation or integration, are the only way forward in structuring a positive environment. It is through this acceptance of differences that a nation can truly create synergy and improve upon developing harmonious societies. This was the same voice echoed by the Honourable Justice Michael Kirby, a staunch defender of human rights.

There were various issues discussed among the group of 20 youth representatives and the respective hosts in Canberra. The group is still meeting together fortnightly in discussing issues on economic inequity, social justice, inter-faith as well as intra-faith dialogue, and hopes to continue community projects as well as facilitate with the government regarding community issues.

"An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab, also white has no superiority over black nor black has no superiority over white except in piety and good action,[therefore] do not therefore do injustice to yourselves." - Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH)

Geoffrey Brahm LEVEY

The Grounds for Institutional Adjustment: Fairness, Inclusion and Utility

Different arguments have been advanced in support of minority cultural recognition and accommodation. Although these arguments typically have been developed in relation to states and societies, many of them also have application to particular institutions such as universities. The paper argues that three arguments for cultural accommodation have particular relevance in a public university setting: fairness, inclusion, and utility. Fairness includes claims to equal liberty as well as to cases of direct and indirect discrimination. Inclusion signifies the importance of a sense of belonging and rightful membership. Utility considerations include the efficaciousness of teaching and learning, the achievements and productivity of staff and students, and intangibles such as a sense of pride in, and connection to, one's university. To some extent, fairness, inclusion, and utility map key aspects of Australian multicultural policy: cultural respect, access and equity, and productive diversity. The main point is that 'fairness' is only a third of the story, and not necessarily the most powerful argument for accommodation. Rather than ask what is a fair adjustment, universities should be asking what is the best way of responding to the cultural diversity of their students, all things considered. Taking into account all three issues - fairness, inclusion, and utility - supports more extensive institutional adjustment than considering reasons of fairness alone.

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M - P


Social Acceptance as a Key to Successful Integration

There has been much misunderstanding of Arab educational values. In order to provide a basis for communication and living together in a multicultural society, Secombe (1999) has referred to Kloskowska's concept of cultural valency. This involves not just knowledge of a language and culture, but positive attitude or intimate feelings of shared connections that individuals could develop to their own and any other culture they encountered in the course of their lives. Such a concept could be useful in developing mainstream education so that people brought up in the majority cultural system could be educated about the different cultures that they would almost invariably interact with in the course of their lives. An inevitable comparison was often made between Arab educational values and the taken for granted meanings and practices associated with education among the mainstream Anglo-Celtic majority in Australia. Previous research study (Maadad, 2007) showed that comments on educational values were much influenced by the public reaction to the event of 11 September, 2001. They incorporated comments on the beliefs, stereotypes, and conflicts represented in the media. The wide range of educational issues reflected the contemporary situation of Arab families living in South Australia. Their assessment of the importance of education revealed the genuine and strong feelings that have surfaced among Arab-Australians concerning the perceived damage done to Islamic and Arab peoples because of their beliefs.

Sudibyo MARKUS

Education and Multiculturalism

The population increase, the advancement of information and technology, of global communication and transportation, had created a new sphere of human interaction among people of different ethnics, races and faiths. This unintentional-created natural human communication and dialogues of people with different backgrounds, has gradually minimized the existing stereotypical misunderstanding among them.

This key note is provided in full with the conference papers.


The Government Role in Dismantling of the Barriers

The government's key role on access, inclusion and success is to implement policies, services and programmes in response to the cultural, religious and linguistic diversity of the Australian population. This approach is coordinated through whole of government national strategies to address the evolving and complex needs of diverse communities. These strategies aim to ensure everyone can take advantage of the wide range of opportunities in Australia, including access to a safe, inclusive and supportive education.

The Accessible Government Services for All framework aims to assist Australians in overcoming barriers due to cultural and linguistic factors. The framework guides Australian government departments and agencies on planning, delivery and evaluation of services that integrate consideration of cultural diversity issues and promotes a whole-of-government approach. The Living in Harmony programme helps enhance mutual respect between Australians through funded community grants and strategic partnerships with community, business and government, including anti-discrimination projects. These strategies are also supported by other measures to reduce discrimination, such as the Commonwealth Racial Discrimination Act and the work of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission.

In recent years, Muslim communities in Australia have experienced significant challenges as a result of the global security environment, in addition to challenges related to their cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In response to these challenges, a whole-of-government approach to address the specific needs of Muslims living in Australia has been developed, the National Action Plan to Build on Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security (NAP). Education initiatives under the NAP include equipping students with the skills, democratic values and principles for effective participation in society, and addressing misunderstanding and misinformation about the culture, values and beliefs of Muslims in Australia.

Marise PAYNE

The Role of Tertiary Education in a Multicultural Society

Education is the cornerstone to equipping Australians of all ages, and from all backgrounds, with the skills to assure their future and hence our country's future. Australia as a 21st century knowledge-based economy needs to ensure that individuals can learn the skills they need in this changing world and achieve their potential.

The Australian Government is strongly committed to promoting excellence and quality in Australian universities. This is illustrated by the unprecedented investment in higher education announced in the 2007-2008 Budget, which will ensure the ongoing diversity, strength and vitality of the sector.

A person's background, gender or religion should not hinder their engagement in higher education. Access to learning enables people to engage in and contribute positively to our society. 

This speech is also an opportunity to talk to you about the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies. The new Centre represents a wonderful opportunity to increase understanding of Islam in Australia today. The University of Melbourne, the University of Western Sydney and Griffith University are establishing the Centre with support from the Australian Government. We look forward to the Centre's official opening later this year.

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Q - T

Farhad REZA

Sharing Our Achievements: Symposiums on Australian Muslims

Sharing Our Achievements: Symposiums on Australian Muslims and their complementary expos was a response to a recommendation by the Family and Community Subgroup of the Prime Minister's Muslim Community Reference Group under the Ministerial Council of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs' National Action Plan to Promote Social Cohesion, Harmony and Security (NAP). The NAP was presented to the Council of Australian Governments in 2006. 

The Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs led this whole-of-government project, under the Bringing Communities Together strategic framework, with active support from the community, academia and the not-for-profit and business sectors. Eight symposiums and seven expos were organised throughout Australia between February and June 2007 to highlight the positive contributions of Australian Muslims to Australian society. The events also provided opportunities for the Muslim community to discuss issues of concern with the wider community, as well as opportunities for the latter to identify gaps in service delivery by government and non-government agencies.

Rosemary SULIMAN

Young People from Arabic-speaking background: Global Issues - Separation and Isolation

Research indicates that the achievement of minority students is directly affected by the place of the ethnic group within the broader social structures in which they live and the historical experiences of the group within the host country. A positive image of the group leads to success, while a negative image is predictive of failure for that group. Moreover, it is found that successful students are those who are able to cross the boundaries between school and home and are happy to accept school norms as well as home culture.

This paper will examine the impact of the present global situation on Arab youth, a situation leading to a 'separation and isolation' syndrome and the effect this has on their future pathways.

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U - Z


Muslim University Students in Australia - an Inside View

This contribution hopes to give a view from the inside on some of the needs and outlooks of these students, while also looking more generally at the needs and views of Muslim students at Australian universities. It begins by discussing certain erroneous assumptions underlying much of this discourse, and then moves to examination of stereotyping of Muslim youth in Australia in theory and reality. This lays the basis for establishing the social basis of the stigmatisation of these youth. Essentialising Muslims as the exotic 'Other', is to fall into the old 'Orientalist' trap, which constructs non-Anglo realities as essentially inscrutable and thus unfathomable. Yet Muslims are not qualitatively different from other human beings and deserve to be understood in all their living human complexity, instead of essentialised that is, instead of being marked as utterly different and put in metaphoric glass cases.

Discussion of the 'specific needs of Muslim students' therefore needs a framework that does not essentialise Muslim students in any manner. There is nothing extraordinary or even exotic in catering for the needs of a group in one's student body. One of the big challenges facing Australian universities is to play a positive role in helping reverse the current dangerous stigmatisation of Muslim Australian youth. Australian universities have the potential to do much good in this regard, by resolving to avoid all manifestations of essentialism. This is the precondition for achieving the stated Conference aims of 'engag[ing] the Australian Muslim community in partnership and dialogue about educational aspirations, and local involvement'. The contribution concludes by considering some elements in a practical framework for worthwhile engagement by Australian universities with Muslim students.

Joseph ZAJDA

Living Together: Globalisation, Education and Intercultural Dialogue

Globalisation has affected the nature of the debate in intercultural dialogue. It has resulted in structural and qualitative changes in education and policy, including an increasing focus on the 'lifelong learning for all', and a  'cradle-to-grave' metaphor of learning in the global culture. In this paper, it is argued that there is a need to re-assert the relevance of intercultural dialogue in an increasingly interdependent world. Comparative and international discourses surrounding other cultures and identity politics, can often lead us to target and question beliefs and assumptions that are taken for granted, by making the familiar strange and the strange familiar, and questioning the 'universality' of our values, beliefs and assumptions.

Recent global events depicting violence, conflicts, and war, demonstrate the need for a more visible paradigm of intercultural dialogue in comparative education research, which needs to focus more on emerging significant issues in intercultural and cross-cultural understanding globally, affecting identity politics, liberty and democracy. Informed and balanced intercultural dialogue can help us to define, explain and critique what is achievable, especially within the current imperatives of globalization, dominant ideologies and education reforms. It is not sufficient to depict cultural differences and ideological dichotomies in intercultural research, and there is now a need to re-discover to what degree such culturally differences can be 'generalised' across cultures. In particular, the issues to be addressed in future research should include: What kinds of roles do our perceptions concerning cultures play in intercultural dialogue and conflict analysis, and how they shape the evolving relationship between globalisation, education and emerging cultural values.


The Hijab as Social Tool for Identity Mobilisation, Community Education and Inclusion

This paper explores issues of religion and identity among tertiary-educated Muslim women, and the role of education in negotiating social inclusion. Data was derived from 25 qualitative interviews with second-generation Turkish-Australian women aged 18 to 26 years. Sixteen women were attending Australian universities at the time of their interviews, and the other nine women had completed tertiary degrees. The paper examines the adoption of the hijab in the 'presentation of self' in the Australian context. The participants communicated an overwhelming support for the hijab as a rewarding religious practice that came with specific social duties given Australia's status as a multicultural nation. The women likened the hijab to a 'flag for Islam', and so they advocated the view that Muslim women who wore the hijab literally embodied certain Islamic responsibilities, including the roles of spokesperson and educator on behalf of Islam. While they felt a sense of marginalisation from the Australian mainstream, these participants ultimately believed that the hijab provided them with an opportunity to bridge the communication gap between Muslims and non-Muslim Australians. To this end, the women's tertiary education shaped their understandings of the hijab in relation to Australia's democratic ideals and its multiculturalism. This paper argues that education represents an important avenue for promoting inter-faith understanding and in strengthening young Muslim-Australians' sense of inclusion within the multicultural nation.

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