The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Jews and Muslims “Downunder”: Emerging Dialogue and Challenges · 101

During the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish immigrants in
Melbourne moved from Carlton, the first area of settlement, to the south-
eastern suburbs of St. Kilda, Caulfield, Prahran, and Malvern with some
settlement in Doncaster, while in Sydney, they moved from the city center
to the eastern suburbs of Bondi and Bellevue Hill, with some settlement
in the northern suburbs, around St. Ives, developing after 1945. This shift
to these suburban areas reflected a move up the economic ladder into the
merchant and professional classes.^7 This trend strengthened in the sec-
ond half of the twentieth century. The Jewish postwar migrants largely
became self-employed, establishing clothing factories, with some then
entering into property development. Since the 1980s, employment has
been dominated by managerial and professional occupations with a high
rate of young Jews completing doctoral studies. Most young Australian
Jews enter the workforce with a university degree.
Muslims have very different settlement patterns. They tend to be in
the lower socioeconomic echelons of society and face problems of low ed-
ucational standards, unemployment, and other issues relating to adjust-
ment to Australian society. In Sydney, most Muslims live in the southern
and western areas, which are more working-class and where property
is much less expensive, while the Jewish community lives in the eastern
and northern suburbs. In Melbourne, most Muslims live in the northern
and western suburbs, while the Jewish center is in the southeast. Thus,
while living in the same cities, there is minimal social interaction between
the two religious communities.
A number of reasons explain the lower socioeconomic status of Mus-
lims. First, they are a newer immigrant group, so they have had less time
to acculturate and integrate into Australian society. Attitudes in sharia
law about borrowing money on interest make it harder for those Muslims
who are more stringent in their religious practices to achieve the tradi-
tional Australian goal of owning one’s own home, even though Islamic
banks have been established to overcome this problem. Muslim women
tend to marry earlier and have larger families. Those who maintain tra-
ditional Muslim observance do not work after they get married, adding
to the financial stress of families. Because of the higher birth rate, 50 per-
cent of Muslims are under the age of 25, compared with 34.5 percent for
the Australian population in general.^8 In addition, the unemployment
rates of Muslims are three times higher than the national Australian aver-
age,^9 so many depend on social welfare from the government, with this

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