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AMAN Policy Brief – Counter education

The research below suggests that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment is both highly prevalent and unable to be remedied, while terrorism concern levels are high due to the conflation of terrorism and Islam in the media and our law.

AMAN is focused on sustainable and long-term solutions to this problem that lift the burden off individual Muslims and the Muslim community to continually prove their humanity and educate the public that their religion does not support terrorism or other terrorist crimes like sexual slavery.

Therefore, we are directing our efforts to change the messages from the most authoritative speakers: law enforcement, ASIO and the Government.

We seek to remove the legal and administrative category of ‘religiously motivated terrorism’. ISIS and other self-declared Islamic organisations involved in terrorism are ideologically or politically motivated. For more information, see the legal paper and media opinion.

Research on the prevalence of Islamophobia and constraints in countering it

Terrorism concern and persistence of negative
attitudes towards Islam and Muslims

“Knowledge about Islam and Muslims is a key component of interventions aimed at reducing anti-Muslim prejudice, such as school programs, training courses and media campaigns (Moritz et al., 2017). One of the main assumptions that underpin these social interventions is that increased knowledge about an outgroup is associated with lower levels of outgroup prejudice (Pettigrew and Tropp 2008; McBride 2015; Mak et al. 2017). In this article, we propose that heightened concerns about terrorism that are often incorrectly conflated with Islam might hinder the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing anti-Muslim prejudice that is based on knowledge of Muslims and Islam

We found that terrorism concerns moderate the relationship between anti-Muslim prejudice and knowledge of Islam, wherein individuals with higher levels of terrorism concern have high anti-Muslim attitudes regardless of their levels of knowledge [about Muslims or Islam].

This study demonstrates how terrorism concerns, which can be heightened by content circulating in the media, can hinder the effectiveness of such interventions. In other words, this study’s findings suggest that education programs aiming to reduce anti-Muslim prejudice can be more effective in contexts where the baseline levels of socially constructed concerns about terrorism are low. In environments where the threat perception and concern levels are politically framed to be high, the positive effects of prejudice-reduction interventions based on outgroup knowledge may be lessened. Taken together, the empirical findings reported in this article highlight the critical importance of responsible political
leadership and nuanced media reporting, which can have a strong impact on terrorism concerns and consequently on the attitudes towards minority groups whose identities are conflated with the source of the perceived terrorism threat.”

Citation: Matteo Vergani, Fethi Mansouri, Liliana Orellana (2022) Terrorism concern and persistence of negative attitudes towards Islam and Muslims. Community and Applied Social Psychology. Volume 32, Issue 6. Download the full paper here.

Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies (CRIS) – Issue Paper – Countering Islamophobia in the Victorian Population

This policy brief summarises the findings of the Countering Islamophobia in the Victorian Population Issue Paper by CRIS and the data collated from surveying 4019 Victorians and feedback from community and government stakeholders.

Alarmingly, from the survey:

  • Just under a half of the respondents would accept living near a mosque (48.4%).
  • One-third (33.7%) agreed that women should not be allowed to wear the hijab in Australia, this rose to 48.9% when asked about wearing the niqab or burqa.
  • The survey also included disappointing data in relation to views on Muslim immigration and compatibility with Australia.
  • Nine (9%) of respondents held blatantly supremacist and hostile views towards Muslims.

The issue paper breaks down the strands of Islamophobia present in Victoria and what current policy needs to do to improve and to tackle the perception of Islam.

The issue paper identifies 5 groups and the approach to reducing anti-Muslim sentiment within these areas.

1.Islamophobic 9% – This group are on the extreme end of islamophobia and are indoctrinated in their anti-Muslim beliefs. The issue paper notes that the prospect of changing the minds of this minority is unlikely and the best approach to tackle this group is ‘containment and proscription’ by intervention from ‘law, policing and security’, publicly denouncing the actions of this group and preventing them from making islamophobic statements. This group would therefore be best addressed by comprehensive religious vilification laws creating protections for Muslims.

2.Islamophobic with assimilationist tendencies 23% – This group is also very vocal, however in contrast to the extreme minority addressed above, this group are of the belief that Muslims can be accepted if they commit to the ‘traditional’ Australian identity/culture. Generally speaking, members of this group are predominantly Christian, this paper therefore submits that the goal in addressing this group is to promote interfaith dialogue in order to reduce assimilationist ideology to stop misinformation and correct ill-conceived ideas or perceptions of Muslims.

3.The Undecided 17% – This group are either not opinionated on the matter or informed to provide a stance on what they think of Islam. The issue paper suggests that more research needs to be done on this group to determine their stance, however, the focus in addressing this group is to promote the normalisation of Muslims in Australia and place emphasis on the similarities between Muslims and non-Muslims. This would be promoted by increasing representation of Muslims in sports, media and within community events/participation.

4.Progressive with concerns about Islam 32% – This group are for the most part in favour of Islam, however have some misgivings or anxieties towards the religious group, likely in part due to the legacy of the assimilationist ethos. Education and stopping misinformation would be the best course to increase advocacy and approval from this group.

5. Progressives 19% – this group are in favour of Islam and are critical of assimilationist ideology. The goal in addressing this group is to promote advocacy amongst allies, improving the engagement of this group to be proactive, promoting positive messages, public perception and education on Islam.

Kevin Dunn et al, ‘Countering Islamophobia in the Victorian Population’ (Issue Paper No 3/2021, Centre for Resilient and Inclusive Societies, July 2021). Download the full paper here.