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Most Australians fear Muslims a little: SA study


Most Australians admit to being a little fearful of Muslims, although those with lower education levels or who support the Liberal and National parties have significantly higher levels of Islamophobia.

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Researchers at the University of South Australia have been examining Australians’ perceptions of Muslims including levels of Islamophobia and fears about terrorism.

While the overwhelming majority of Australians (about 70%) expressed a “very low” level of Islamophobia, 10% were highly fearful of Muslims, according to findings released this week by the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding.

The study, based on a national survey of 1000 people, concluded that “there are pockets of prejudice and anxiety directed towards Muslims, for example among the aged and those facing financial insecurity”.

“But the great majority of Australians in all states and regions are comfortable to live alongside Australian Muslims,” the study report said.

There were no significant differences between the attitudes of women and men. But older Australians, those who had not completed Year 12, were not employed in a professional or managerial role, or belonged to a non-traditional Christian denomination were more likely to fear Muslims.

People who have regular contact with Muslims were less likely to be Islamophobic, as were people who had tolerant attitudes towards migrants.

The survey of 1000 people found that “respondents with political affiliations with the Liberal and Country parties have significantly higher levels of Islamophobia than those with political affiliations with the centre-left Labor Party”.

People affiliated with the Liberal and National parties were also twice as likely to be fearful of terrorism compared with Labor supporters.

Women tend to be more worried about terrorism than men.

Where a respondent lived did not have a significant impact, the researchers said.

People were more worried about terrorism if they were older, had lower levels of education, unemployed, employed in a non-professional role or if they supported the Liberal or National parties.

The survey found 4.9% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement “just to be safe it is important to stay away from places where Muslims could be”, while 12% overall agreed. Just over 40% of people disagreed with this statement, with more than a quarter strongly disagreeing.

Just under 12% of those surveyed said that would support a policy preventing the building of a new mosque. Just over 35% indicated they would oppose such a policy.

Read the full report here.

– with AAP

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