The first stage of data collection was conducted in Australia. According to the 2011 Census, over 476,300 Muslims live in Australia, making up 2.2 per cent of the total population (ABS 2012). Islam is the third largest religion in Australia after Christianity (61.1 per cent) and Buddhism (2.5 per cent). Although Christianity is still the major religion, it has experienced a steady decline in numbers since the 1970s (ABS 2012). Commensurate with this decline is the increase in Australia’s religious diversity, with the number of Australians identifying with non-Christian religions continuing to grow (Bouma 2006).
Most Muslims living in Australia are concentrated in urban centres, predominantly Melbourne and Sydney. A report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS 2014) shows that the majority of migrants from Middle Eastern nations reside in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. These are predominantly Iraqi-born migrants, who are concentrated in Campbellfield (14 per cent), Roxburgh Park (13 per cent) and Coolaroo (11 per cent). A large proportion of Lebanese migrants also reside in Campbellfield (8 per cent), while Dallas and Meadow Heights are home to a large proportion of Turkish-born migrants. The area of Greater Dandenong in the city’s south has a large number of Afghan-born residents (12 per cent), many of whom arrived as humanitarian migrants.
Though country of birth is not always an accurate predictor of religious affiliation, the ABS data also reflect the geographic distribution of Melbourne’s Muslim population, with Dallas in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs having the highest number of Muslim residents (45.3 per cent of total population), followed by Meadow Heights (42.1 per cent of total population), Broadmeadows (25.7 per cent), Fawkner (24.4 per cent), and Dandenong (24.1 per cent). Socioeconomic indicators for these suburbs show that the vast proportion of Muslims living in Melbourne are socially and economically disadvantaged in comparison to the national average (ABS 2013). Yet, despite experiencing social marginalisation and disadvantage, rates of Australian citizenship among Muslim Australians remain higher than the national average (HREOC 2003). In the 2011 Census, when asked to nominate their national identity, 74.1 per cent of Australian Muslims chose ‘Australian’ compared with 84.9 per cent of all Australians. It should be noted that some of these Muslims would have arrived in Australia only recently. It is likely that, after completing the residency and related requirements for becoming Australian citizens, more of these migrants would identify as Australian (Hassan & Lester 2015).
In this project, the City of Greater Dandenong was selected as the primary Australian site for the empirical data collection. This Melbourne municipality is of interest because it is the most culturally diverse municipality in greater Melbourne, and the second most culturally diverse municipality in Australia overall. This high level of diversity is also found among the Muslim community residing there. It was anticipated that the data collected at this site would generate a benchmark understanding of Islamic faith-based and community practices. Data were also collected in the City of Hume, Darebin, Frankston, inner Melbourne (primarily via university Islamic societies), and online.
Prior to the qualitative research phase, individuals in each of the three sites were approached to complete survey questionnaires. Overall, 237 respondents completed the survey in three sites: 96 respondents in Australia, 93 in France and 48 in the USA. Because of the discrepancy in data obtained across the three sites, when describing the separate sites, actual numbers (i.e. frequencies) of participants are presented instead of percentages.
For a more in-depth breakdown of participants’ demographics, please refer to the full report: