Pauline Hanson and One Nation are back, attracting 4.1% of Senate votes in the recent federal election. A key plank of the One Nation platform is a halt to Muslim immigration, a Royal Commission into Islam, a ban on women’s head coverings and a ban on halal product certification.
So what are the facts on Muslims in Australia?
Muslims are and will remain a small section of the Australian population
When asked about the size of the Muslim population a 2014 poll showed Australians on average estimate the Muslim population to be 18% of the Australian population((https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/2014/oct/30/australians-think-muslim-population-nine-times-greater)). The reality? According to the 2011 Census data the proportion of the population identifying as Muslim was 2.2%. A recent Pew Forum demographic analysis has the Muslim population growing to 2.8% by 2030 and 4.7% by 2050 ((cited in Australian Muslims. A Demographic, Social And Economic Profile Of Muslims In Australia 2015, Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia)).
There is no contradiction between being Muslim and being Australian
The 2011 census asked people to identify their nationality. 74.1% of Muslims nominated ‘Australian’, over against the national average of 84.9%. Given recent immigrants are less likely to answer ‘Australian’, the high number answering ‘Australian’ suggests most Muslims identify strongly with being Australian. Similarly a 2009 Monash university study found that more than 90% of Muslims agreed with the statement ‘I can be a good Muslim and a good Australian.’ ((cited in Australian Muslims. A Demographic, Social And Economic Profile Of Muslims In Australia 2015, Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia)) Surveys of Sydney Muslims conducted from 2011-2013 ((The Resilience and Ordinariness of Australian Muslims: Attitudes and Experiences of Muslims Report by the Challenging Racism Project of Western Sydney University and the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia affiliated with Charles Sturt University)) found that 84% of those interviewed felt they were Australian and that 90% said that it was important to them that their children be accepted as Australian. Indeed, the Resilience and Ordinariness report concluded:
Most research on Muslims living in Western countries has sampled at the deeper end of disaffection, reproducing discourses of non-integration. There is no compelling empirical evidence in Australia to support the case for widespread vulnerability to violent extremism among Muslims, nor is there any evidence to suggest widespread alienation. In fact, the results from this study into the ordinariness of the lives of Australian Muslims show the contrary. The findings suggest a very strong sense of belonging amongst the Australian Muslim community. Australian Muslims have ordinary desires and needs, ranking education and employment as the highest of their concerns. They feel comfortable identifying as both Australian and Muslim. A substantial component of the sample had high levels of religiosity (particularly the face to face sample). However, religiosity was not associated with non-belonging, the data suggest the opposite. There were statistically significant positive associations between religiosity and belonging.
Despite having educational qualifications on a par with the rest of Australians Muslims have higher unemployment rates and lower incomes than other Australians. The Muslims in Australia Report 2015 by the University of South Australia showed that
For any level of educational attainment the expected weekly income tends to be lower for Muslims and lower for migrants, and more so for Muslim migrants.
The Report also cites a 2012 research project in which:
The researchers used distinctively Anglo-Saxon, Indigenous, Italian, Chinese and Middle Eastern (Muslim) names on fictitious job applications to measure labour market discrimination in Australia. In all cases the researchers applied for entry-level jobs and submitted a CV indicating that the candidate had attended high school in Australia. The study found significant differences in call-back rates. Ethnic minority candidates needed to apply for more jobs to get the same number of interviews as Anglo-Saxon candidates. People with Middle Eastern/Muslim names faced the most discrimination. In another study Australians with Middle Eastern/Muslim backgrounds were 14% less likely to be employed than those with Australian backgrounds, compared to about 12% for Chinese and 10% for Indigenous names.
In view of these things the proposals of One Nation should be rejected as ignorant and racist ranting. When Pauline Hanson first entered the Australian Parliament in 1996 she was as avowedly against multiculturalism as she is today, only back then she identified aboriginal welfare and Asian migration as the great existential threats to our way of life.
I believe we are in danger of being swamped by Asians. Between 1984 and 1995, 40 per cent of all migrants coming into this country were of Asian origin. They have their own culture and religion, form ghettos and do not assimilate. Of course, I will be called racist but, if I can invite whom I want into my home, then I should have the right to have a say in who comes into my country. A truly multicultural country can never be strong or united. The world is full of failed and tragic examples, ranging from Ireland to Bosnia to Africa and, closer to home, Papua New Guinea. America and Great Britain are currently paying the price. (Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech)
With the failure of aboriginal welfare and Asian migration to destroy our society it seems Ms Hansen has now swapped them out for Muslims. It’s like reading a John Grisham novel – the names and backgrounds of the characters change but the plot remains the same. The whole thing strikes me as quite bizarre. We live in the nation with the highest level of per capita wealth in the world; we have an extraordinarily peaceful multi-cultural society; and report high levels of personal satisfaction and well-being. Yet populist parties such as One Nation would have us believe it’s all about to come toppling down, that the “way of life” we enjoy is under threat. They allow anybody who has a grievance, who feels that life has done them badly, a target for blame. No need for the work of personal introspection, careful analysis of the underlying causes, or for recognising that sometimes life is difficult and there is no one to blame.
What Pauline Hanson and One Nation offer is nothing less then ill informed, racist bile. Wherever and whenever raises its ugly head it should be exposed for what it is, lest it gain a veneer of respectability.