Research suggests more diversity, less Islamophobia

Research suggests more diversity, less Islamophobia

SBS World News Radio: Get to know your Muslim neighbours. That is the advice from university researchers looking into the presence of Islamophobia in Australia's diverse communities. 

New research has found the more diverse a neighbourhood is, the lower levels of prejudice towards the Islamic communities and the higher levels of social cohesion.

Born in Turkey, Ahmet Guler arrived in Melbourne's north-suburban Broadmeadows in 2008.

He has been serving up the culinary delights of Turkey to the local community ever since.

As he works behind the counter of his kebab shop near the train station, the locals come in and place their orders, many calling him by name.

Mr Guler says, as a Muslim man migrating during a time of global terrorist attacks, he feared the community might not accept him.

But it was a fear that quickly turned out to be unfounded.

"I was carrying the tomato boxes, and they all fell down. All the cars, they stopped and helped me. I am very happy to live in Australia."

It is an acceptance researchers did not expect to find when they set out to gauge the levels of Islamophobia in the area.

But after studying the multicultural populations of Broadmeadows and nearby Fawkner, RMIT University associate professor Karien Dekker says they were wrong.

She says she found high levels of diversity in the community actually lead to diminished levels of prejudice.

"With a different ethnic background, or a different religion or a different socio-economic status, if you know people who are different from you, you actually have lower levels of Islamophobia."

Dr Dekker says she expected to find high levels of Islamophobia in regions with a highly visible Muslim population.

But she says the research shows the opposite is true.

The research showed, where the presence of Muslims was more visible, cohesion between the Islamic and non-Islamic cultures was higher and the rate of Islamophobia was lower.

It also found, where higher levels of Islamophobia were present, a lack of education was a factor.

Islamic Council of Victoria vice president Adel Salman says the message everyone should take away from the study is, "Get to know your Muslim neighbours."

"We have the same hopes and aspirations, the same fears, the same anxieties. We may just look a bit different, or may have different-sounding names. Then I think those barriers that do tend to separate us start coming down."

Diversity is a matter of pride for many in areas like Broadmeadows.

In the latest census data, 36 per cent of the suburb identified as Muslim.

On the streets, many say the diversity is the key to their social cohesion.

(First:) "It's very multicultural. Everyone respects each other and their religion."

(Second:) "Turkish, Lebanese, Afghan, Iranian ... I'm Afghan, but, no, I find them really nice."

(Third:) "Well, I like seeing other people like that. You know, different people bring different perspectives."

Ahmet Guler, the kebab-shop owner, jokes, for his part, Turkish cuisine can cure all kinds of ills.

"I always say, 'One apple a day keeps doctor away. One Turkish coffee a day keeps stress away.' Especially at the Broadmeadows Station Kebab House."



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