AMAN, a staunch advocate against Islamophobia, has urgently highlighted the persistent and worrisome correlation between government terrorism messaging and pervasive prejudice towards Australian Muslims, as underscored by recent data.

While 29% of Australians maintain a negative view of Muslims, the 2023 Australian Cohesion Index also illustrates a higher degree of prejudice towards this community than any other racial or religious group in the nation. Only a quarter of Australians hold a positive view of Muslims.

AMAN said that while it was “hard reality” to face this data, that the community needed to take a “clear headed approach” to analyse the problem.

The conflation of religion with terrorism

Despite diminished anti-Islam media narratives linked to ISIS, these alarming statistics remain. This suggests a deep-seated conflation of Muslims with terrorism in the public mind.

AMAN has urgently appealed to Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to revise legal terminology, urging the removal of “religiously motivated” in defining terrorism and extremism, thereby fostering an environment conducive to unity and mutual respect among all Australian communities.

AMAN has also appealed to the Australian Muslim community to build allies to support the agenda of removing religion from Australia’s definition of terrorism.

As many community leaders have emphasised, ISIS supporters are more accurately described under the other categories of ‘political’ or ‘ideological’ cause.

Australian Views towards religious groups

The Index measured attitudes towards six major faiths. Positive views were generally more constrained toward people of faith (the most positive being towards Buddhists at 49%, with 4% negative), but the statistics in relation to Muslims were exceptionally poor. Only around one-in-four people had a positive view of Muslims, while 29 per cent had a negative view.

Australian Views towards racial groups

Muslims are negatively racialised, so racial data is a relevant comparison point. While the vast majority of adults had a somewhat or very positive view of European immigrants from Italy (93 per cent), Germany (92 per cent) and the United Kingdom (92 per cent), people were much less likely to have a positive view of people arriving in Australia from non-European backgrounds, including India (70 per cent), China (60 per cent), Iraq (59 per cent) and Sudan (53 per cent).