Preliminary results from the first 2016 wave of the AuSSA survey indicate that the more Australians know about Islam, the less prejudice they have against practicing Muslims.
First, we measured how much participants were concerned of Muslim, and we found that Islamophobia exists in Australia.
Second, we measured both self-reported knowledge of Islam and factual knowledge of Islam. Specifically, we asked: “how much do you think you know about Islam?”, but we also asked five factual questions about the religion, for example: “Is Jesus a revered Prophet in Islam?”
Unsurprisingly, knowing about Islam and thinking to know about Islam were not the same. In fact, the people who knew more about Islam indicated less prejudice against practicing Muslims, but not the people who thought they knew about Islam. Similarly, knowing more Muslims (for example at work, or at school) was associated with less prejudice against Muslims.
Moreover, we also measured the perceived threat of terrorism, and we found that the people who were more concerned of terrorism were also more concerned about practicing Muslims.
The research, that I conducted with Prof. Fethi Mansouri, is part of the ongoing “Muslims and Islamic Religiosity in the West” ARC research project. You can find the official press release on the website of the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation.
I just published with my colleague Ana-Maria Bliuc a blog post about perception of terrorism threat and anti-immigration policies on Pop Politics Aus, the official blog of the Political Organisations and Participation standing research group of the Australian Political Studies Association. You can read the blog post here.
Only a tiny minority of Muslims supports ISIS. Yet, people in Western society when perceive higher threat from ISIS tend to become more hostile against all Muslims.
We provided evidence to support this proposition with an experiment conducted among Italian Catholics.
In an article just published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies I investigated with Enrico Tacchi the effect of ISIS threat on Catholic Italian voters.
The results of the experiment suggested that the threat of ISIS activated religious identity in Catholic Italian voters, and increased support for right-wing politicians who expressed hostility against Muslims.
The following figure shows the support for a center-right politician who says: “In Italy there is no space for Mosques” (higher scores mean more support for the politician). The red bar shows scores for participants who, before rating their agreement with the statement, were asked to read a newspaper article about ISIS threat on the Vatican. The blue bar shows the scores for participants in the control group, who were asked to read a different article not related to terrorism (about the Scottish referendum). If you are more curious about the methods that we used, please have a look at the article.
We believe that this study provides an important piece of empirical evidence for understanding the effects of the wave of anxiety arising from the Islamic terrorist threat that has recently hit Europe and that is probably not going to dissipate anytime soon.