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

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Jews and Muslims “Downunder”: Emerging Dialogue and Challenges · 117


The problem of Muslims, in terms of being both victims and victimizers,
is complex. The Australian experience has shown a diverse and multi-
ethnic Muslim community that has rapidly increased since 1972 from 0.2
percent of the population to 1.6 percent in 2006. In the same period, the
Jewish community has remained relatively static, as it is only replacing
itself through immigration, not natural increase. The Muslims in Aus-
tralia have experienced discrimination, stereotyping, and both verbal
and physical attacks, which have increased during the first Gulf War of
1990–91, the 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the Bali bomb-
ings in 2002, and the second Gulf War. The height of these interracial ten-
sions occurred during the Cronulla riots of 2006 in Sydney. In this same
period, Jews have experienced a significant increase of anti-Semitism that
appears to be sponsored by members of the radical right-wing fascist
groups and radical Muslim groups. The influence of Saudi Wahhabism,
radical preachers in mosques, and prejudices learned at home have meant
that a number of Muslim children in schools in the southern and western
suburbs of Sydney, where the highest proportion of Muslims preside, are
growing up with strong prejudice and stereotypical views toward Jews
and Israel, which have contributed to verbal and physical attacks on Jews
in Australia. While some Jewish children have expressed anti-Muslim
feelings, there is no evidence that this has expressed itself in physical vio-
lence, and Jewish leaders have strongly criticized anti-Muslim prejudice.
This study demonstrates that Australia is experiencing a growing
problem of racial and religious tension with its Muslim population,
which also affects its Jewish population negatively. Education and spon-
soring dialogue as well as dealing with the socioeconomic divide through
specially designed support programs are approaches that the Australian
government could foster. However, to date, the government has failed
to introduce a comprehensive policy, and the initiatives that have been
introduced, such as the Living in Harmony projects, are piecemeal, mini-
malist, and thus represent only tokenism.


This study is an offshoot of a broader research project on “The Political Sociol-
ogy of Australian Jewry,” undertaken with Professor Emeritus Sol Encel and
funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), the Executive Council of

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