By Jennine Khalik
December 1, 2015
The more religious Australian Muslims are, the greater their sense of civic duty and of belonging to the nation, research has found.
The study by University of Western Sydney human geographer Kevin Dunn also found there was no empirical evidence to suggest Islamophobia caused religious radicalisation.
The finding contrasts with a claim made to this effect by ¬Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, in the wake of last month’s Paris terror attacks.
Professor Dunn led a team that interviewed hundreds of Muslims in Sydney mosques and Islamic centres and at Eid festivals. The surveys tested for ¬incompatability and disaffection among Muslims, as well as feelings of being settled and belonging. The work found that the majority of interviewees were “well integrated into Australian society” and that “higher levels of religiosity were positively associated with stronger national ¬belonging and a sense of Muslim integration”.
Religiosity was defined through a series of questions, ¬including whether children were enrolled at Islamic schools, how important religion was to the ¬interviewee and how often they prayed, attended mosque and fasted.
The study found that Muslims experienced racism at greater rates than other Australians, up to three times higher on average, but Professor Dunn said there was no evidence this in itself led to radicalisation.
“I get the political utility of that argument, that saying Islamophobia or racism (causing radicalisation) is an argument to challenge racism … but it is a disservice to Muslims as it assumes that Muslims are predisposed to radicalisation (and violence),” Professor Dunn said.
Deakin University researcher Fethi Mansouri said that in similar work he had found that Australian Muslims who followed both regular law and sharia — the latter in regard to conducting aspects of religious behaviour — did not experience a sense of not belonging. “The really practising (Muslims) are active citizens ... (involved in) civics, wanting to volunteer and do things for the community,” Dr Mansouri said. “There’s a very direct correlation with Islamic ritual and faith and ...(being a) better citizen.”
Dr Mansouri’s research, which has not been published, was jointly conducted at Deakin and at New York’s City University. It surveyed about 450 Muslims in Melbourne, Detroit, Paris and Lyon.
Professor Dunn’s research, conducted jointly with the Islamic Sciences Research Academy in Auburn, in western Sydney, found that 86 per cent of Sydney Muslims believed relations between Australian Muslims and non-Muslims were friendly, and 97 per cent supported a multicultural Australia.
University of South Australia political scientist Yassir Morsi warned that, on the question of the relationship between radicalisation and Islamophobia, the key was how the latter was defined. “If your definition of Islamophobia is a narrow, one-on-one discrimination, then yes, there’s no research that if someone picked on you, you become radical,” Dr Morsi said. “But if your definition of Islamophobia is broader and includes that sense of being labelled, being targeted, and alienated, there’s plenty of work to show that socialisation is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Dr Morsi described comments yesterday by Scott Morrison that Islam in Australia would over time “become more Australian” as “playing into the theme that Muslims are still unintegrated.”.
He said there was a perception perpetuated by political leaders that violence always came “from the outside” and that it was alien to Australian culture, values and way of life. This was “perfectly laid out in the image of the refugee and how a refugee brings their so-called bad habits and bad culture”, he said.
“What (the Treasurer) is saying is that if we spend more time in Australia we become more Australian, we become more civilised, less violent, less likely to be more problematic. It’s a fantasy, because you are as likely to become more violent here based on various conditions and exposures to ideas and forms of discrimination as a young Muslim (as elsewhere).”
Responding to claims by cabinet minister Josh Frydenberg that there was a problem within Islam itself, John Esposito, the keynote speaker at a Muslim conference in Sydney yesterday, said that politicians who issued statements about the need for more moderate Muslim voices or for Muslim leaders to speak out often had no ties with Muslim communities.
He said militant interpretations of Islam were the product of “a fraction of a fraction of one per cent”, even though the impact of this tiny proportion could be significant.