Muslims in Sydney face discrimination, high rates of racism

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A new study has found Muslims in Sydney experience high rates of racism, but feel a strong sense of belonging to Australia.

Muslims in Sydney face high levels of racism but believe Islam is compatible with the Australian way of life.

Researchers attending the Second Australasian Conference On Islam: Radicalisation & Islamophobia, said their studies had contradicted the idea that Islam was a spectrum with moderate Islam at one end and violent extremism on the other.

"There's a current expectation that the more religious Muslims are, the more they are prone to radicalisation or rejecting Australia," Charles Sturt University Centre for Islamic Studies director Mehmet Ozalp said.

"Actually we found the opposite. The more Muslims know and practice their religion, the more they embrace Australia and reject radicalisation."

Deakin University counter terror expert Greg Barton said there were other factors aside from Islam that were more likely to lead to radicalisation.

"If people are experiencing a sense of the personal failure or alienation or they're feeling their life is going nowhere - it's the zero to hero narrative, that you can become somebody important," he said.

"It's juvenile but it appeals."

A survey of nearly 600 Muslims in Sydney, commissioned by Western Sydney University, the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia and Charles Sturt University, was presented at the Australasian Conference on Islam on Monday.

The study found while there is Islamophobia in Australia, there is little evidence of widespread alienation among Australian Muslims. Nearly two thirds of Muslims said they had been subjected to racism, with one in 10 reporting it happened "often or very often".

Professor Ozalp said despite the high rates of visible Islamophobia, Muslims in Sydney were "comfortable in identifying themselves as Australian Muslims".

The main concerns of Australian Muslims are education and employment - just like the rest of the society, Professor Ozalp said.

"They are comfortable in identifying themselves as Australian and Muslim," he said in a statement.

Lead author Professor Kevin Dunn said the report indicated a strong sense of belonging in the Australian Muslim community.

"The fact that Muslims face high levels of racism, yet still believe Islam is compatible with Australian norms, bodes well for the future," he said.

"It seems that Australia's values of diversity and multiculturalism give hope to Australian Muslims, and makes them more resilient in dealing with the pressures of Islamophobia and racism."

The study is an Australian first, unique in its scale, random sample and specific focus on Sydney's Muslim population.

Almost 350 Muslims were interviewed face-to-face at religious events, as well as 240 phone interviews.

It comes as former soldier turned federal MP Andrew Hastie calls for a reform of Islam, which is being supported by some of his Liberal colleagues.

Muslims in Sydney:

* Face three times the level of discrimination

* 57 per cent experience racism

* 97 per cent agree with multicultural society

* Majority feel belonging to Australia

* 90 per cent say it's important their children be accepted as Australians

* Two thirds mix socially with non-Muslims

Source AAP, SBS News

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