Report finds Sydney Muslims positive despite facing high rates of racism

Muslims playing AFL

A new Western Sydney University report has found Muslims in Sydney face high rates of racism, but the vast majority list relations with non-Muslims as positive, and believe education and employment are more important than international affairs.

The study was commissioned by Western Sydney University, the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia and Charles Sturt University to investigate the experiences and perceptions of ordinary Muslims in Sydney. It is being released at the  2nd Australasian Conference on Islam: Radicalisation and Islamophobia at the Novatel Hotel at Parramatta on Monday, November 30.

The study comprised a mix of face-to-face interviews with Muslims at religious events (345 respondents), as well as a random sample of phone interviews with Muslim households (240 respondents). Slightly more women than men participated (56% to 44%), and half the respondents were aged under 35 years old (49%).

"The study finds while there is Islamophobia in Australia, it is not universal across society, and there is little evidence for widespread alienation among Australian Muslims," says Lead Author Professor Kevin Dunn, from the School of Social Sciences and Psychology.

"The report suggests a very strong sense of belonging amongst the Australian Muslim community, which ranks education and employment as primary concerns, and feel comfortable identifying as Australian and Muslim."

"Importantly, higher levels of religiosity were positively associated with stronger national belonging and a sense of Muslim integration."

Key findings of the report include:

  • 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). This reflects the distance felt towards overseas conflicts and the "everyday" nature of the lives of Australian Muslims.
  • The majority of Australian Muslims in this study 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.

Professor Dunn says 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," he says.

"It seems that 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."


30 November 2015

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer

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