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Debunking myths about community-serving Muslims

A Victoria University researcher says his recent study portrays Muslim-Australians as ordinary, committed and active members of the community, contrary to a range of widespread public misconceptions.

Dr Mario Peucker said only about two percent of Australians are Muslim yet they are strongly represented across the country on advisory boards and committees, and as community volunteers.

“Why would anyone who constantly faces public suspicion, personal or collective exclusion, or anti-Muslim rhetoric, be eager to contribute to the very society that refuses to accept that Muslims are just ordinary citizens?”

This question was the starting point for his international research, which includes in-depth interviews with 30 self-declared Muslims who are actively involved in various forms of civil and political participation in Australia and Germany.

The study findings refute a common perception that Muslims adhere to religious principles incompatible with the values of Australia’s liberal democratic society, he said.

Dr Peucker’s research further indicates there is untapped, enormous potential to use the goodwill in the Muslim community to build strong cross-community bridges and promote a more cohesive society.

“Many actively-engaged Muslims have a strong ‘republican’ ethos to serve all of humanity and promote social justice well beyond their own community,” he said. “This is contrary to a misconception that their civic engagement is aimed at serving only fellow Muslims.”

The Islamic faith is not an obstacle to civic participation in a Western democracy as is also mistakenly assumed, but rather a key driver for greater levels of civic engagement, he said.

Dr Peucker has conducted research in Europe and Australia on cultural and religious diversity, exclusion, and citizenship for more than a decade. He has consulted with the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism; the Council of Europe; the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe; and the Australian Commission for Human Rights.


Dr Peucker is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at VU’s Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing. He is available for comment on 0468 389 466.

A more comprehensive article on this topic was recently published on The Conversation.

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