This study was commissioned by The Challenging Racism Project of Western Sydney University (WSU) and the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia (ISRA) affiliated with Charles Sturt University (CSU) to investigate the experiences and perceptions of ordinary everyday Muslims in Sydney and whether the perceptions of incompatibility and disaffection of Muslims are true, and whether this affects participation in Australian society. There has been a great deal of scholarship about Muslims living in western societies, but too much of that research has focused on the difficulties which some Muslims experience, such as the challenges that some youth face. Researchers and political commentators have outlined the current difficulties of Muslims living in western countries. Two dominant branches of scholarship are evident in this discourse: one branch examines Muslims’ experiences of racism, and its negative consequences, and the other assumes Muslim incompatibility with `western values’, thus focusing on radicalisation to violent extremism. However, one can argue that both these branches of scholarship sample at the deeper-end of disaffection, reproducing discourses of non-integration. For virtuous reasons, the scholarship assumes that Muslims are being prevented from belonging through mechanisms of social exclusion, and thus it would follow that they are at risk of losing faith in the prospects of harmony and the social compact around religious diversity. Both sets of scholarship therefore help build assumptions that the experiences and perspectives of a small proportion of Australian Muslims are shared by the majority.
There is good evidence of Islamophobia in Australia, it is not universal across society, but social science has shown that it is too common. But there is little empirical evidence for widespread alienation among Australian Muslims, as our findings show. This report also examined whether Islamophobia felt and experienced has been reflected in a lack of confidence in multiculturalism by Australian Muslims. Has the encounter with Islamophobia led to a response of alienation or resilience, hence cultural intolerance or counter-intuitively stronger attachment among Australian Muslims? What evidence is there that exclusion generates disaffection, despondency and non-belonging? While there is evidence that disaffection can lead to a sense of non- belonging, the extent and scale has to be carefully measured and considered in the case of Muslims. The research reported here collected evidence as to whether incompatibility (radicalisation, etc.) and disaffection are as widespread as the research and inquiries to date infer. It is vitally important to know as much as possible about disaffection and alienation where it occurs and for governments, specific agencies and communities to be vigilant for those at risk of radicalisation. However, there is a danger in taking that risk, and the minority of people to whom it pertains, and generalising across whole communities. By empirically investigating the attitudes and experiences of the Australian Muslims, the present study provides evidence contrary to previous research and generates an alternative vision of Muslims in Australia.
Western Sydney University conducted a survey together with the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA) in 2011. ISRA volunteers collected 585 surveys at Sydney Mosques, Islamic centres, and Eid festivals. By expanding and randomising the sample, the research did not focus upon a more limited group of Muslims among whom it was known that there was disaffection. The surveys did test for incompatibility and disaffection among Muslims in Australia, as well as testing for the opposite – for settledness and belonging. The project eschewed the a priori focus on exclusion, and was anchored within the emerging scholarship on ‘ordinary cosmopolitanism’