Shopping Cart


Is Australia Being Islamicised?

Monday, 4 August 2014  | Scott Higgins

One of the objections I commonly hear to both taking in asylum seekers and our wider immigration program is a fear that we are being Islamicised. This reflects a worry that most Muslims, if they had the chance, would vote to see sharia law imposed on the Australian population; that Muslims bring with them a violent culture; and/or that Muslim people simply won’t integrate into Australian society. Some see a conspiracy theory, believing that Muslims are plotting to take over nations such as Australia by first settling here and then having large families, so that the population eventually becomes majority Muslim.

So are they right?

The simple reality is that unless there is a radical change to our immigration program, people who identify either culturally or religiously as Muslims will not in the foreseeable future constitute a large portion of the Australian population. In 2011 the Pew Centre, a highly respected research Centre in the USA, conducted a study of Muslim demographics across the world (titled “The future of the global Muslim population”). They found that Australia’s Muslim population is growing much faster than the general Australian population. In 1990 there were 154,000 Muslims living in Australia, constituting 0.9% of the population. By 2010 there were roughly 399,000 Muslims living in Australia, constituting 1.9% of the population. Taking into account current rates of immigration, fertility, and other factors, the Pew research paper projected that in 2030 this number will have more than doubled to 714,000, or 2.8% of the population. Australia is, on these figures, becoming one percent more Muslim every two decades. The Pew Forum believes the rate of growth will taper off after 2030, but even if it did not at this growth rate the Muslim population of Australia would be about 6.5% by year 2100. 

So the numbers simply don’t stack up for those who fear Australia will become islamicised. But beyond the numbers lies a misplaced perception that being Muslim is incompatible with being Australian. To be “Australian” is not to be Anglo, nor to be Christian, nor to be identified with any particular subculture. Rather, to be Australian is to be committed to the values of liberal democracy such as respect for the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, respect for other human rights, and to be committed to the well-being of one’s fellow Australians. Within that framework there is room for great cultural and religious diversity. 

I hear claims that people of Muslim faith don’t respect the type of values I have described, but I have yet to see any evidence for this. Certainly within each subculture in our community, including my own, there are those who set themselves against some of these values; and I suspect that many of us at one time or another fall short of fully embracing them. But there is simply no evidence that those who have Islamic faith are more likely to be predisposed to crime or less willing to embrace the values of liberal democracy. No statistics, for example, are kept on crime rates by ethnic or religious grouping, so anybody who makes claims in these areas is either simply making things up or generalising from a particular example. The only statistics we do have regarding criminality relate to a person’s country of origin, and these vary wildly, and provide little help in determining crime rates by ethnic or religious grouping. 

Everything I hear said about Muslims I heard said about Greeks and Italians during my childhood, and about Asians during my teenage years. None of it proved true. It seems that we have a pattern in which those of us already living in Australia get anxious about whoever happens to be prominent in the current wave of immigration. We worry that they’ll bring crime, that they won’t fit in, that they won’t learn English, that they won’t embrace core Australian values. One or two generations in we discover our fears were misplaced and transfer them to another group that has suddenly become more prominent in migration. It’s now the turn of Muslims. Will we never learn?



Paul Tyson
August 5, 2014, 7:04AM
Thanks Scott for this piece. In agreement with you I suspect that most Evangelicals who subscribe to the fear of Australian conversion to Islam: (a) don't have any Muslim friends (hence are not doing anything to offer a Christian witness or to practice love towards Muslims); (b) don't realize that the real proselyting anti-Christian power in Australia is consumerism (but they happily shop on Sunday, give pride of place to the salesman in their home via the TV, and functionally worship Mammon as much as your average non-Christian), and; (c) happily drink up the politics of fear projected onto us by our politicians and news outlets in the long established tradition of scapegoating the powerless in order to divert attention from the real villains of our polity - our own rich and powerful.
To disagree, though, I think tying being Australian to being firstly committed to flag waving liberal democracy - over all matters of religion - is something I as a Christian cannot do. I will not, as John Howard thought I should, 'have what ever religion I like, provided I put my country first'. The idolatry of nation worship needs to be vociferously rejected by Christians. Further, liberal democracy readily degenerates into mob rule, as it has over matters of fear and greed in recent decades. I am a 7th generation Australian, I love my country enough to stand against her when she defies God.
Jim Reiher
August 5, 2014, 8:12AM
Great article thanks Scott.

And the answer to your final question: No, we will never learn. (Sadly). At least, not while the popular media plays the games it does, and not while some politicians spread fear and misinformation for other reasons. Not while fundamentalist Christians assume all Muslims are as fundamentalist as they themselves are. And not while fear and ignorance remain in many Aussies.

We have a big job before us, changing such fearful attitudes, don't we!
Chris Dalton
August 5, 2014, 12:06PM
Thank you. I agree. I would add that people from other ethnic, cultural and faith backgrounds enrich all of us in Australia. Instead of a focus on ill-founded fears, let's also recognise the positive benefits to Australian society of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith inputs (one being to reduce xenophobia!). A very strong biblical theme is that of welcoming strangers and showing hospitality.
Ian Hore-Lacy
August 10, 2014, 9:35AM
This is superficial, as is Paul's point (c). Where are the Vietnamese, Italian, and Greek equivalents of the mosques and other virulent centres of radicalisation in western Sydney? I find the report that maybe 30 others would like a trip to join ISIS in the fun and excitement of northern Iraq (but for confiscated passports) quite credible.
Ian Packer
August 10, 2014, 1:32PM
It is too easy to swing to extremes in these discussions.

On the one hand, the worst examples of Islamic groups (and yes, sadly, there are numerous examples) from overseas are too easily projected upon the majority of the very small percentage of Muslims in Australia. (This is complicated by debates over whether some of these overseas examples are showing the 'true face' of Islam or are errant interpreters.)

On the other hand, we can simply treat *all* Muslims as adding to Australia's "rich diversity" as though there are no tensions between segments of the Muslim population and wider society.

But the article is arguing principally against the exaggerated claim that we will be overwhelmed by Muslim citizens, immigrants or asylum seekers.

This doesn't mean there are no tensions in Australian society with some Muslims. It doesn't mean there aren't disputes about zoning and mosques. It doesn't mean there aren't tensions about law or customs. It doesn't mean there isn't tension about problematic practices.

Finally, please note that this article has intentionally been juxtaposed with two other articles:

"Christians under Persecution"


"The Debate over the Racial Discrimination Act: An Opportunity to Speak Freely against Racism"

The relationships between the three are worth keeping in mind.
Ian Hore-Lacy
August 10, 2014, 3:15PM
Yes, Ian, I take your point about exaggeration and being 'overwhelmed'. But the sanitised original is unhelpful in glossing over real problems. I dont think we will be overwhelmed, but our social order may well be subverted in the same way as we have seen in UK.

The write up on Elomar and Sharrouf families in Weekend Oz is good and helps one understand how the radicalising works ,despite the parental immigrants seeking only peace and goodwill, having fled the sort of mayhem that their progeny gleefully perpetuate.

Until we get to grips with what is going on with that second generation of impressionable Islamic young men we should not be taking comfort from fatuous statements such as "I hear claims that people of Muslim faith don’t respect the type of values I have described, but I have yet to see any evidence for this." No newspaper or FB feed today fails to present very persuasive evidence IMHO.

Certainly many muslims here are fine and peaceable people - look at Elomar snr, but the basis of Islam is far from that. And we cannot just wish it away.
Scott Higgins
November 4, 2014, 11:53AM
Hi Ian,
you ask where are the equivalent centres of radicalisation in other sub cultures within Australia. I agree with you that there needs to be serious research and consideration, but I also wonder whether the reality is not that there will always be a small element within any population see their belonging to a particular ideology/group as justification for violence. Is this not the dynamic going on behind bikie groups, gangs, triads, Ku Klux Klan, etc. I'm not suggesting that we minimise this. These are criminal activities that should be disrupted and prosecuted, but I'm yet to be convinced that what we're seeing with the relatively small number of radicalised Muslim youths this any different.
February 12, 2016, 4:24PM
"Rather, to be Australian is to be committed to the values of liberal democracy such as respect for the rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of thought, respect for other human rights, and to be committed to the well-being of one’s fellow Australians. Within that framework there is room for great cultural and religious diversity."

And you think the secular liberalism you outline above is central to the nature of Islam? You must be joking. Read your Koran, Scott. And try to remember, believers actually believe.
April 4, 2016, 10:51PM
To understand read the quran
N every other book/bible
Then think with your own mind....
Once u see from all perspectives in life

To beleive one book is like a random stranger walking by and saying where all going to die tomorrow...
Only an idiot would beleive them
But theres plenty people like that
For example
When the world was supposed to end lol 😂
Most people u ask them a question out of any bible regardless religion
They cant answer it in there own words...they just memorise what they have read and read it back to you from what it says in the book.
July 22, 2016, 5:50PM
Ah, still researching the web for data for you Scott.

I'm not sure if you are from the U.K. and now live here, Australia, but, it appears to many Aussies that the U.K. is officially a basket case, particularly when we see the footage of Radical Islamists patrolling the streets, promoting Sharia Law, and all the poms coming here and stating that the U.K. is a basket case. I mean, Brexit?

On the issue of war:

1. We are at war with Radical Islam in the Middle East. Remember Tony Abbott's "death cults" interview whereby he just kept avoiding saying the actual words: "we are at war"? He uttered every other word but. Check out that interview - it's hysterical. So that's troublesome: are we at war? My guess is "yes". We have forces there, troops are being deployed, literally, and technically Oz is fighting there (and don't get me started on who trained and armed ISIS - it was the U.S.).

2. Bearing that in mind, we have individuals who have migrated from the countries we are at war with, or who were born here, 0.05% of whom are performing acts of terrorism here and abroad. They hardly need indoctrinating, they hardly need a weapon, and the murderous intention is really immediate.

3. This point is really important for those who make the all too convenient accusations of Islamophobia.
A. Those that think fanatics have nothing to do with Islam should realise that it's in fact all about Islam. It is very Islamic to become a radical or a lone wolf and kill/subjugate on behalf of Islam. It is stated thus in the Koran 15 times. Go check.
B. The problem is growing, not contracting - Egypt, Turkey, parts of Asia, generally the Middle East (notice we can't go there anymore). These are hotbeds of terrorism. Check out government websites. Said areas have become (or are becoming) oppressive theocracies/failed states, and the rest are also disintegrating. Gallipoli might be problematic this year.
C. Muslims kill Muslims. We never will hear the Greens or apologists for terrorists talk about that fact; they prefer to blame Islamophobes or the right-wing governments.
D. Leveraging. This is really important. Kings College London, BBC world service (2014) reports that 5,042 people were killed by jihadists in 664 separate attacks across 14 countries. That's one death every 18 minutes, including 2,000 in Nigeria by Boko Haram. NB. It took only 3 jihadists to occupy 90,000 french police, with enormous global publicity. All jihadists noticed this effect. In Australia, ASIO conducted nearly 60,000 assessments in the last year. In the midst of this confusion, Man Horon Monis snuck under the radar. The activities of a very small number of terrorists has the potential to deliver massive political, financial and social costs, and require counter-terrorist activities.

So Scott, no, they are not really like the Vietnamese, Italians and Greeks, in the 60s, 70s and 80s. We are dealing with asymmetrical warfare afar and at home, on a scale we have never, ever, seen before. Hence Turnbull's announcement today: an inquiry into terror activities at home. So I lobbied for an inquiry into Radical Islam - same difference really.

Got something to add?

  • Your Comment


Online Resources

subscribe to engage.mail

follow us

Latest Articles