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Australian Muslim civil society organisations: Pathways to social inclusion

Author:

Nora Amath

Griffith Univeristy, AU
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Abstract

There is great interest on issues related to Muslims and Islam; however, a large concentration of the scholarly literature as well as media and political discourses focus predominantly on political issues and actions related to fundamentalism, radicalisation, militancy and terrorism. The dominance of these issues in the discourses does not provide a holistic understanding of Muslims, particularly their role, place and identity as minorities in a Western society. Indeed, we know relatively little about the larger number of Muslim political actors engaged in civil society, especially those involved in creating pathways to social inclusion. Utilising descriptive phenomenology, this paper explores the complex issues of social inclusion and the Australian Muslim communities. Underpinning this discussion is the theory of social capital; as noted by a number of scholars and social policy experts, the theory of social inclusion alone is inadequate and ineffective in creating participation, equality and cohesion. This paper also observes that while many reports and studies provide pragmatic suggestions on how to work towards the social inclusion of Australian Muslims, the concentration on these suggestions tend to focus on how the government can provide these solutions. What is lacking in the literature is the recognition of the Australian Muslim community’s role and agency in initiating and executing the programs needed to address such issues of social exclusion. The 30 unstructured phenomenological interviews demonstrate that Australian MCSOs are proactively engaging with their communities to ensure that they are responding appropriately to these issues. Moreover, they are creating pathways and access for Australian Muslims to better participate, engage in and contribute to mainstream society. In particular, the MCSO actors revealed four themes related to social inclusion: supporting participation in education and training, facilitating participation in employment and in voluntary work, connecting community with other people and resources, and assisting with advocacy. Although the themes are clearly in line with the Australian Government’s Social Inclusion Policy, the Australian MCSOs insisted that it was not the government which set their agenda necessarily; rather, it was motivated by their faith.
How to Cite: Amath, N., 2015. Australian Muslim civil society organisations: Pathways to social inclusion. Journal of Social Inclusion, 6(1), pp.6–34. DOI: http://doi.org/10.36251/josi.90
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Published on 02 Sep 2015.
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