New analysis reveals Islamophobia is still alive in Australia

Western Sydney University researchers have published an analysis of a national survey into the racist attitudes and experiences in Australia, offering new insights into attitudes towards the nation’s Muslim population, including strategies to counteract Islamophobia.

Lead author Professor Kevin Dunn, from the University’s School of Social Sciences and Challenging Racism Project, said the study published in interdisciplinary journal ‘Ethnicities’ provides a more nuanced insight into the sections of non-Muslim society where Islamophobia has its greatest effects.

“There is a substantial cohort of Australians who have a consistent stance on Muslims that reveals them as Islamophobic,” said Professor Dunn.

“The new analysis found that just over one-in-ten Australians are overtly and intentionally Islamophobic.”

“This group in our society do not welcome cultural diversity and do not agree with racial equality. They have negative views about refugees and people from Middle-Eastern backgrounds.”

The analysis assessed data from the Face Up to Racism: 2015-16 National Survey which attracted 6001 adult respondents. It found participants fell into four broad groups based on their perception of Islam:

  • Islamophobes: 13 per cent;
  • Those who are unsure about diversity and have some concerns about Muslims: 24 per cent;
  • Those with progressive attitudes about diversity but with concerns about Muslims: 50 per cent; and
  • Progressives who have no concerns about Muslims: 13 per cent.

In addition, the analysis found the different manifestations of Islamophobia in Australia require a diversity of anti-racist efforts. It also found a clear link between Islamophobia and anti-refugee discourses and politics.

“There is a clear cross-over between anti-Middle Eastern and Islamophobic sentiment,” said Professor Dunn.

“For example, in the survey, those who indicated concern over a close relative marrying a person of Middle Eastern background were more likely to be Islamophobic.”

“Individuals who felt negative or neutral towards refugees, and those who were unsure if they would stand up for someone discriminated against for their culture, ethnicity or religion, were also more likely to be Islamophobic.”

The research team, which included Dr Thierno Diallo and Dr Rachel Sharples from Western Sydney University’s School of Social Sciences, are calling for a renewed and more diversified approach to countering Islamophobia.

“Islamophobia is a global issue and in Australia prevalent across a cross-section of society,” said Dr Sharples.

“This analysis is an important step towards acknowledging the different perceptions of Islam in our population and moving away from a singular approach to addressing anti-Muslim sentiment.”

“More support is needed for people working day-to-day in our schools, workplaces, community and recreation venues who come face to face with the many levels and forms of Islamophobia.”

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