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With guarded optimism? Evidence from focus groups of ‘mainstream’ Australians’ perceptions of Muslims
journal contributionposted on 2011-10-01, 00:00 authored by P Lentini, Anna HalafoffAnna Halafoff, E Ogru
Studies of Australian perceptions of Muslims and Islam tend to be based on research into media representations of these themes. Additionally, most research on attitudes pertaining to social cohesion and security in the post-9/11 environment concentrates on the opinions of minority groups on these matters. The following study is drawn from materials extracted from focus group discussions relating to Islam, multiculturalism and security that took place with 119 Australians from so-called ethnic and religious majority groups (European descended, and identifying with Judaeo-Christian traditions or having no religious affiliation) in selected metropolitan and rural/regional centres of the state of Victoria in 2007–2008. This article is guided by the following research questions: How can ‘mainstream’ Australian attitudes towards Muslims be categorized? What concerns ‘mainstream’ Australians most about Muslims? Can these attitudes be considered to be Islamophobic? If not, how else may we classify these attitudes? Although some participants voiced very strong, critical and at times unflattering and potentially antagonistic opinions of Muslims, most contributors were guardedly optimistic that current tensions with and controversies surrounding Australia’s Muslims would subside, and that Muslims would soon become well established within Australian society, as previous generations of migrants have since World War II.