Religious diversity and the social inclusion of Muslim Australians

2017-03-01T01:02:37Z (GMT) by Woodlock, Rachel Myra
This thesis is an analysis of the experiences and social attitudes of 572 Muslims living in Victoria and New South Wales, in the context of questions about the success of Muslim settlement in Australia. It focuses on the differences—e.g. migrant versus Australian-born; residency in Victoria versus NSW; employed versus unemployed; age; sex; and approach to interpreting the role of Islam in society—that affect how religious Muslims experience integration and social inclusion. It particularly focuses on the nature of Muslim affiliation with Australian identity, their attitudes towards the contentious issue of female segregation; and their subjective and objective wellbeing. It found that salience is a reliable marker for religiosity, and that those who self-identify as religious are able to practice their faith publicly and acknowledge the religious freedom that Australia offers its citizens. As to be expected, it found that Muslims who tended towards secular attitudes had lower levels of religiosity, but that those categorised as traditionalists, fundamentalists and contextualists were more invested in their Muslim Australian identities than in contesting sophisticated interpretative differences in their daily lives. It also found that the Australian context affects religious practice, with some traditions being abandoned or adapted, and Muslims desiring local (rather than national or international) guidance to help them navigate their religious requirements. For religious Muslims, Islam is a positive influence in their lives and there was a statistically significant correlation between religious salience and agreement with being ‘good Muslims and good Australians’. Furthermore, this research found that most Muslims surveyed demonstrated resilience in the face of prejudice from non-Muslim Australians, and their subjective wellbeing was almost identical with Australians generally. There were differences between Muslims in their attitudes towards some aspects of national wellbeing with Muslims in NSW having to face greater levels of stigma, however this was associated with stronger affiliation with Muslim Australian identity. It was also found that generally, the Muslims surveyed held optimistic hopes for their children’s futures and positive perceptions of their objective wellbeing status in relation to other Australians, with some differences based on interpretative orientation. Thus, there is evidence that despite vocal criticism from some non-Muslim politicians, commentators and anti-Islam ideologues, and the existence of anti-Western rhetoric from isolationist-fundamentalist Muslim actors, Muslim social inclusion in Australia is healthy and an affirmation of Australian multiculturalism.