On 21 September 2017, the Melbourne launch of AAIMS was held to discuss ‘Islamophobia in Australian public and political life’. After opening remarks by Prof Shahram Akbarzadeh, the panel discussion commenced with Prof Fethi Mansouri (Deakin University) on growing anti-Islamic sentiments in Australia. This assessment was followed by Tasneem Chopra (Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Right) who recounted the growing sense of unease and isolation among many Muslim families due to widespread stigmatization of Islam. This theme was addressed by Dr Joshua Roose (Australian Catholic University) who emphasized the importance of ethical research and working with Muslim communities.
This panel discussion generated a thoughtful discussion with the audience on the impact of Islamophobia and how it may be addressed. The consensus view was that the ‘War on Terror’ and the emergence of groups such as ISIS have seriously harmed community relations and undermined trust, feeding Islamophobia. In this context some of the key issues discussed included:
– The misrepresentation of Islam and anti-Muslim biases found in mainstream media
– The absence of a platform for Muslims to counterbalance discrimination in mainstream media; Muslims aren’t afforded the ‘right of reply’
– The unprecedented level of anxiety and depression evident in Muslim communities due to marginalization and the need for government investment to address these issues
– The need for greater qualitative research in the area of Islamic studies; specifically, the importance of engaging with the Muslim community when conducting research
In closing, the panel explored the need for a set of ethical guidelines when researching Muslim communities.
The Melbourne launch was generously hosted by the Institute for Religion, Politics and Society at the Australian Catholic University.