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Muslims enhance, not threaten, community cohesion

Victoria University research strongly refutes common public perceptions that Muslim community organisations threaten the cohesiveness of Australian society.

Dr Mario Peucker said a Victoria-wide survey of Muslim organisations revealed that most of them run, in addition to religious services, a range of educational, counselling and outreach programs, and promoted cross-community collaborations with groups such as churches, local councils, and charities.  

“Attitude surveys consistently show high levels of scepticism and mistrust toward Islam and the perceived negative roles Muslim groups play in the broader community, but this research shows there’s no reason for it.”  

The report was conducted in a partnership between VU's Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing (CCDW) and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV). It's the first empirical exploration of the activities and aspirations of Muslim community organisations in Victoria.

Comprehensive survey responses from the Muslim organisations, which included also 32 mosques, indicate that bridge-building between Muslims and the wider community is a leading goal, and even more prominent among the surveyed groups than strengthening an Islamic identity among members. 

Moreover, the report indicates Muslim community organisations play key roles in helping migrants from multicultural backgrounds settle and succeed in Australia, socially, politically, and economically through their range of services and opportunities for members to become active in their community.

ICV Executive Member Nada Kalam said the ICV was keen to delve deeper into the study to further acknowledge and support the contributions of Muslim community organisations in Australia.

“It is incredible to see the wide variety of programs offered by these organisations. We are proud to be part of a community that is proactive and supportive of community-wide initiatives," he said.

Dr Peucker said while the VU research would do little to change the minds of those disinterested in facts that challenge their ideas on Islam, Muslims and their institutions, it could encourage Australians who are  open to reasonable debates to re-think their views.

The Civic potential of Muslim community organisations for promoting social cohesion in Victoria will be launched by the CCDW and the ICV on 29 March.

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