Know thy neighbour

  (29 September 16)
  by Greg Spearritt

In the wake of the recent poll indicating that almost half of Australians would support a ban on Muslim immigration, Yassir Morsi demonstrates the “pervasive racism” behind much of our language and thought on this topic:

The “Muslim” has come to be a hollowed, emptied, term that functions as a trigger for white anxiety. Little surprise then, when you add Muslim next to another anxiety-laden word “immigrant” the result equates to half the country reaching out for the treadmill’s emergency red stop button.

Here is at least part of the problem: many Australians – judging by a straw poll at the recent SoFiA AGM in Brisbane – have never knowingly met, let alone developed any kind of real acquaintance with, a person who is Muslim. Researchers at Deakin University who are involved in an ongoing Muslims and Islamic Religiosity in the West research project say they have good evidence that “the more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims”. I’d be prepared to bet that goes for knowing Muslims too.

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