Muslims in Australia

I have travelled many times – at least once a year – for the past fifteen years to Malaysia, a “Muslim” country.

I have witnessed many examples of the “stereotype” of the “Muslim culture” that we are fed through the Mainstream Media (MSM). You know the deal, the subservient wife(s) cloaked in black garb trailing two metres behind their husband in order to show “who’s boss” and remaining silent at hotel check-in counters and any other public space such as restaurant or shop, where the “husband” does all the talking.

Up until recently (the last two years or so), I have found that this is actually an “artifical veneer” which is “displayed” to “appease” conservative and/or “old fashioned” Muslims.

Today, you will find that many Muslims have dispensed with the traditional black garb in favour of a headscarf, and can be seen walking hand in hand with their partners.

My partner and I, when we travel to Malaysia regularly stay at the same hotel, we know the Muslim concierge staff by name and I always greet them with the warmth I would after missing a friend for some time. This warmth and welcoming is returned tenfold.

The fact that we are a gay couple is never an issue. While the cynic may say “that’s because they’re paid by tourists”, we have experienced similar warmth from other Muslims from all walks of life.

This has completely changed my previously held and “stereotypical” views of Muslims that we have been “fed” through the MSM and still continues to this day.

Even in Australia, it seems that Muslims, generally are regarded with fear and suspicion, something which I believe has been proactively perpetrated and nourished by the Bush and Howard years.

Our suspicion and “silent” contempt for Muslims is backed up by a report by Dewi Cooke, who recently wrote that despite being well-educated Australian Muslims are usually worse-off than their Australian counterparts.

Dewi writes:

“Australian Muslims are more socially and economically disadvantaged than their non-Muslim counterparts, despite being, on the whole, better educated and more youthful.”

“Research to be presented at a Melbourne conference shows Australian Muslims have significantly higher rates of high school completion and are also more likely to go to university than are non-Muslims.”

“But only 15% own their homes compared with 30% of non-Muslims, twice as many live in public housing and unemployment among Muslim youth is double that of non-Muslim Australians.”

“One would expect that they should be able to participate in the economic and social life as other educated people are and they are not doing so, and I think that’s nothing to do with their religious beliefs,” Flinders University sociologist Riaz Hassan said.

“That’s something to do with the larger community, whether it’s discrimination, or prejudice or exclusion prompted by other factors.”

Analysing 2006 census figures, Professor Hassan found that of 340,391 Muslims recorded on census night (1.7% of the population), 38% were born in Australia and the rest born overseas in countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Despite their higher rates of high school and tertiary education — 24% of Muslim men and 26% of Muslim women had completed year 12 compared with 15% and 17% of non-Muslim men and women respectively — Professor Hassan found Muslims were not equally represented in well-paying white-collar professions.

However, they had higher rates of work in skilled blue-collar and labouring jobs.

Overall, 52% were in rental accommodation — private or public — more than 20% higher than other Australians.

Average household incomes also tended to be lower and Muslim children were twice as likely to live below the poverty line.

“Professor Hassan said the findings were significant because of public concern about religious radicalism. He argued that radicalism was more likely to rise out of socio-economic inequality, negative stereotypes and discrimination.”

While Australia goes at great lengths to celebrate our “cultural diversity” it appears that Muslims, I believe unfairly are regarded as the “lowest of the low”.

Sure, there are Muslim “extremists” who give everyone else a bad name, but that would be like judging white Australians by the Exclusive Brethren or Americans by the Ku Klux Klan.

I demand an end to the victimisation of Muslims.



30 Responses

  1. Could it be that some muslim children live below the poverty level because muslim families tend to be large; it’s not unusual for a muslim family to have 7,8 or 9 members. If the bread winner is in a low paying blue-collar job his income won’t adequately support a large family.

    I remember reading a *report that said that employers acknowledge that muslim workers are dedicated but they were also trouble makers. Another thing that makes them unattractive as employees is the fact that they need to pray at work. Co-workers might get upset about some staff members allowed to leave the assembly line to pray while they others must remain on duty. It wouldn’t be too long before new religions were popping up with demands for pray sessions at work that might last 20 minutes or so and those sessions might be needed 5, 6 or more times a day.

    *I’ll try to find it.

  2. Sure, there are Muslim “extremists” who give everyone else a bad name, but that would be like judging white Australians by the Exclusive Brethren

    Not really. It would be like judging Christians by the Exclusive Brethren.


  3. Plight of Lebanese – Survey shows job bias
    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Saturday, July 5, 1980, Page 27
    By Susan Molloy
    Ethnic Affairs Reporter

    The Lebanese have some of the highest rates of unemployment among youth and adult males in Australia, according to a recent survey.


    The study done by the Department of Sociology at the Australian National University showed that employers in Sydney discriminated against Lebanese purely because of their alleged high accident and workers’ compensation rates. Some employees believed that Lebanese made bogus claims for compensation.


    One employer said Lebanese were good workers but they “cause more trouble that they are worth, as other employees don’t like them”.

    reb’s figures suggest that not much has changed in 28 years.

  4. Stephan… notice the use of the word “alleged”. Not fact – just allegations.

    What about smokers who disappear from my office a couple of times per hour for a quick smoke? Do they have a higher incident of illness? Do they cause resentment amongst other workers?

    Discrimination is discrimination.

  5. In fact, even that analogy is unfair. While the Exclusive Brethren are “extremists” when compared to mainstream Christians, they don’t favour violence as a legitimate means to an end as do more “extremist” Muslims.

    Perhaps judging Christians by Crusaders, or Inquisitors, would a more accurate analogy.

  6. reb, Late at night but some thoughts and comments.

    “stereotype” of the “Muslim culture”

    I think we need to draw a distinction between ‘culture’ and ‘religion’. The interaction between ‘religion’, ‘culture’ and ‘genetic disposition’ is still somewhat problematic. And there is no definitive answer likely to emerge in the foreseeable future.

    “Today, you will find that many Muslims have dispensed with the traditional black garb in favour of a headscarf, and can be seen walking hand in hand with their partners.”

    Yes and No! The question and perhaps the answer lies in the ‘cultural’ domain rather than the religious. I could point to many locations where this is simply untrue. Indeed, there are many sites where the reverse is evident. Try parts of Iraq.

    “The fact that we are a gay couple is never an issue.”

    In terms of Islam it’s one hell of an issue. As it is in the traditional Christian tradition. Perhaps, culture and economic forces at work? Marx of course theorised on this as well.

    “This has completely changed my previously held and “stereotypical” views of Muslims that we have been “fed” through the MSM and still continues to this day”

    Ever heard of ethnocentrism? – The tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture. It’s probably unavoidable.

    “Our suspicion and “silent” contempt for Muslims”

    Speak for yourself. Not for me. But your generalisation has validity i think.

    “our “cultural diversity” it appears that Muslims”

    Be care ul about equating ‘religion; and ‘culture’. Clearly they are not the same.

    Time for bed, but I will follow this thread with interest to see what arises.

  7. 5. Tony of South Yarra&hellip | January 11, 2009 at 12:14 am

    “Christians, they don’t favour violence as a legitimate means”

    For fuc@ sake Tony, the extreme violence in the world over the last decades is down to the Christains, 9/11 notwhithstanding.

    Personally I can’t believe that you can be that dumb.

    Don’t judge people by what they say but rather what they do.

    Which ‘religion’, if you want to use that ridiculous example, has ever used nuclear weapons?


  8. “Ever heard of ethnocentrism? – The tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture. It’s probably unavoidable.”N5

    This -ethnocentrism-
    plays a part in why most of our herd are so susceptible to easy baiting with flags & misinformed apprehension of “them”, whomever “them” may signify at a given time.

    I agree reb, the last decade has seen the Western zeitgeist work its tits off doing a targeted job of equating ALL muslims with the bloodthirsty, fundamentalist, aggrieved variety.
    To me, people are humans first & Muslims/Christians/Gay/Eskimo/Portscum etc. are overgeneralising labels that compel a narrow view of who or what an individual may be. If’n you want to mobilise your population against a threat, real or overinflated, you best be sure to demonise your perceived adversaries first. It just won’t work if you train people to think of “strangers” as “just other people”.

    I don’t doubt that I’d abhor living under sharia law or any kind of hardline dogmatic social order, however there is a tendency to talk up the negative aspects of Islam (especially the bent on world domination fringe-dwellers) & never criticise our own skeletons.
    Stephans points are interesting & some appear to be valid but I doubt that in 1980 they were globally popularly praised after
    they overthrew our conveniently installed ME dictatorship in 1979. The demonisation began a long time ago but has definitely come to fruition since they smited the WTC & became our official enemies in earnest.
    Of course we’ve never given them any reason to harbour ill feeling towards us, we tread so carefully whilst capitalising on their parts of the world don’t we.

  9. joni, how long do you think it would take me to join my fellow workers and slip out for a fag? I wouldn’t light the fag mind you, I’d just go through the motions. 😉

  10. Didn’t Michael Jackson convert to Islam?

    I thought his first task would be to stone himself to death.

  11. Nature 5 @ 6.

    Which ‘religion’, if you want to use that ridiculous example, has ever used nuclear weapons?

    None that I’m aware of. You might be confusing culture – or country in this case – with religion (the very thing you cautioned Reb against at comment 6).

  12. Nature 5:

    “Be careful about equating ‘religion; and ‘culture’. Clearly they are not the same.”

    Clearly. However many nations, while sometimes consisting of many cultures will often lay claim to being a nation that prescribes to a particular religion due to the majority of that nation’s people being followers of that religion.

    There is no doubt that Indonesia is a Muslim nation both culturally and religiously, the US is a christian nation, Thailand a buddhist country etc.

    That isn’t to say that other religions cannot co-exist, my point is that Western society tends to “demonise” Muslims or the Islamic religion, through a process of politicisation that has occurred over many years and that this has been intentionally perpretrated by political leaders like Howard and Bush, whereas in reality most Muslims are actually more moderate than we are led to believe.

    How many times do we hear in the media that someone is described as being of “middle Eastern appearance?” I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being described as being of “caucasian” or “anglo saxon” appearance.

  13. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being described as being of “caucasian” or “anglo saxon” appearance.

    Sorry to pull you up again Reb, but at least one of our state police forces uses “caucasian” as a standard description. (I haven’t checked them all.)

  14. Is this thread a parody of ‘The Apology’ of Socrates.
    Hemlock may follow.

    ‘Of caucasian appearance’ is the standard police description of a ‘white’ person. Has been here for some time.

  15. ‘anglo-saxon appearance’ – Now thats funny Reb.

    ‘and what did she look like? Oh, anglo-saxon, pommie, a cross between Helen Mirren and Kylie Minogue’

  16. Now you’re just ridiculing me 😦

    Don’t you understand that I’m the one that’s meant to win the argument around here…???!!!!

  17. I’ve found someone of Anglo-Saxon appearance:

  18. That looks like Adrian of Nowra!

  19. Nice shot of Billy Connolly there ToSY ( btw the way, We love South Yarra)

    Nah Reb. OK. We now know the rules. No excuse.

  20. Am thinking that this may not be a religion problem, but rather it is a migrant problem.

    The scenario of lower home ownership, blue collar breadwinner (often working well below his qualifications due to lack of english skills), kids doing extremely well at school (no doubt due to the importance that these families place on having access to education) can apply equally to Greek, Italian, Yugoslav post-war immigration.

    Likewise cultural differences including different church, different appearance (Greek and Italian widows dressed as ‘crows’), men with moustaches, women walking 2 paces behind while the man (shock, horror) pushed the pram. Large families – fear that ‘the wogs’ were going to take over – they use knives instead of their fists – they play strange games such as soccer and they eat wog food and drink ‘plonk’.

  21. Yoo hoo, hubby is ‘white’ aka Caucasian but often is mistaken for a maori or islander due to his olive skin and black curly (luxuriously curly..drool) hair. No, not from the Italian side, but from the Irish side of the family who arrived in Oz from Country Cork circa 1856.

  22. So he’s a Corkasian…

  23. 17.

    That’s a coincidence, according to several psychics (no I don’t believe in it) I’ve come across over my lifetime, all have stated independently of each other and many years apart that I have a large Viking looking over me, and from a long reading I once got from an English woman on the Melbourne to Sydney train on returning from leave the Viking she described would be close to that illustration.

  24. Japanese couples often walk separately.

    Common Question i get asked:
    Are you Muslim or christian?
    Reply: dose it matter(followed by a plain face stare).
    (for the record born christian, but now sidestep religion )
    I think Tboss said it best IMO.
    “To me, people are humans first”

  25. “To me, people are humans first”

    …well some of them.

  26. “…well some of them”

    Yup, even the ones that don’t realise it.

  27. “even the ones that don’t realise it…”

    or more importantly “act” like it…

  28. If the survey findings revealed most Muslims are more well-educated (but belonging to the lower-paid strata) of society, it is very likely that job opportunities are shut out from them by prospective employers. If that is the case, I would hazard a guess that societal discrimination might be at work here.

    As for stereotypes of Muslim, I have met many who does not fit into what the media portrayed. The dangers of stereotyping should never be underestimated.

    The Islam religion, so I have been told, is not just a religion, but ‘a way of life’. Henceforth, the abstinence of pork, why food has to be prepared ‘halal’, and the daily prayers.

    I myself don’t know much at all about the Islam religion.

    Nevertheless, the only way to break free from our (mis)impressions and attitudes towards other cultural minorities is always the prescribed difficult route – get to know them personally, their culture and even religious teachings. You may not agree with it at the end of the day but at least you know where they are coming from…

  29. hello charles,
    good post . In the M.E work often cames with a pay of 8-12 dollars a day for hard labour work.
    A high paid job was a figure around $15-20 a day.
    No dole, $ 500 to visit a hospital. no tax either.

  30. oops there is a building and selling tax.

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