A survey of Muslims living in Sydney, Australia's most populous city, f0und that a considerable majority -- 57 percent -- had experienced some form of bigotry or racism. According to researchers, that incidence rates for such anti-Muslim prejudice were three to five times the national average.
The study, conducted by Western Sydney University, Charles Sturt University and the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy, surveyed 600 Sydney Muslims. Its key findings were itemized by Australia's ABC network:
- 57 per cent had experienced racism
- 62 per cent had experienced racism in the workplace or when seeking employment
- 1 in 10 Sydney Muslims had "very high" rates of exposure to racism
- 86 per cent believed relations between Australian Muslims and non-Muslims were friendly
- Unemployment was higher among those surveyed (8.5 per cent) than the general Sydney population (3.7 per cent)
The hardening of attitudes toward Muslims, said researchers, was possibly a consequence of the rising jihadism in the Middle East, which has led to some radical Australian Muslims joining the Islamic State militants. Last year, Australian authorities conducted a series of raids on suspected local Islamist terror cells. At one point, there were an estimated 250 Australian nationals in the ranks of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
"Because of things that are happening in the world and the various representations of Muslims," explained the survey's lead author, Kevin Dunn, "it means that some people unfortunately feel more emboldened to say things and do things which are prejudicial and which are hurtful towards Muslims."
Yet Dunn emphasized "the strong sense of belonging" that many Muslims feel in Australia, despite the growing climate of Islamophobia. Moreover, the study finds that 97 percent of Australian Muslims believe in living within a multicultural society -- a figure higher than the national average, and which belies the stereotype of Muslim communities being intolerant of other traditions in their midst.
Nine in 10 Muslims who took part in the study said it was important their children be accepted as Australians, and two-thirds said they mixed socially with non-Muslims, according to the Guardian.
It's all worth bearing in mind given the polarized conversation about Islam and Muslims elsewhere in the world, including in the United States, where Muslim groups warn that their communities are being scapegoated, particularly in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks.