An Intervention to Increase Positive Attitudes and Address Misconceptions About Australian Muslims: A Call for Education and Open Mindedness
The Australian Psychological Society
Computing, Health and Science
Computer and Security Science, Centre for Security Research
The present study describes a nine-week anti-prejudice intervention targeting attitudes towards Australian Muslims at a Western Australian university in 2008 using data from 19 Psychology students. Quantitative results found a marginal increase in reported positive attitudes towards Australian Muslims, together with a significant reduction in the reporting of negative media-related beliefs. Using a thematic analysis on reported attitudes and beliefs about Muslim integration and immigration, we found differences in the themes expressed before and after the intervention. Beforehand, themes included a cultural divide in values; a need for more cultural understanding; and aspects of Islamic ideology restrict Muslims from integrating. Afterward, themes included an increased awareness of structural issues affecting Australian Muslims; a re-framing of citizenship as a shared identity; an increased awareness of negative representation of Muslims in the media; an acknowledgement of Australia’s inherent diversity; and a shift from homogenising Muslims as a group to constructing Muslims as part of a diverse society. Clearly, such interventions alone are not enough given historical and contemporary contexts. However, our study indicates that – in this context at least – in-depth cross-cultural analysis and learning can be used to bring about change.