A history of faith-based micro, meso and macro dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia prior to 9/11

PhD Thesis

Sneddon, David. (2021). A history of faith-based micro, meso and macro dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia prior to 9/11 [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Philosophy https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8wq7v
AuthorsSneddon, David
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy

Inter-religious dialogue is an essential means for different faiths and believers to develop friendship and understanding in an increasingly global and multifaith society. Additionally, it could provide for increased levels of social harmony in a seemingly divided yet ever-shrinking globalised world. Islam has a long history with Australia that pre-dates European colonisation; however, research into the nature and impact of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims is scarce.

To date, there is an extensive gap in the academic record as no comprehensive historical exploration on inter-religious dialogue prior to 9/11 between Muslims and non-Muslims has been undertaken in Australia. Accordingly, it is envisaged that this will be the most comprehensive research on the topic to date. Uniquely, through the application of the sociological population-level constructs of micro, meso and macro-level analysis this research has looked for evidence of cyclical patterns of inter-religious dialogue over Australia’s long history and contact with Islam. A key question for this research is how, if at all, have different sociological levels of dialogue, as represented in the public and private record, contributed to meaningful social harmony? It is hoped that this historical enquiry will place some light on past paradigm shifts in interfaith relations and assist in the future of interfaith dialogue in a uniquely Australian context.

Using the public record, along with other related academic works, this research has analysed the available evidence to establish the sociological levels of interfaith dialogue that existed in Australia up to 2001. A brief overview of the history of global and local inter-religious dialogue has been provided that includes the approaches taken by the various religions as outlined in the sacred texts, the Torah, Gospels and Qur’an. It also looks to outline the changes that have occurred surrounding religion in Australia over time.

Initial research has demonstrated levels of micro and meso-level dialogue in the pre-colonial period between the Muslim Baijini, Macassans and Australia's Indigenous peoples. Following colonisation, this dialogue largely disappeared and was replaced by a period of mutual monologue, enforced by the dominant Christian hegemony, notwithstanding the contribution by members of the Islamic community to the exploration and construction of modern Australia. Despite the effects of the Immigration Restriction Act (1901), Muslims continued to migrate to Australia and integrate into the community, including those from British India and Albania. Many kept their religious beliefs and thrived in several Australian towns through the 20th Century. As the century progressed, so did the growth of the Australian umma, with migrants arriving from Turkey, Lebanon, Bosnia, Indonesia, the Middle East and North Africa. Through a critical historical analysis of the public and private records, this research has looked to illustrate to true nature of the sociological levels and effectiveness of dialogue from the first contact with Islam, sometime before the 17th Century until the beginning of the 21st Century.

Importantly, the key contribution of this research has also found that the levels of dialogue have been measurable and over time, cyclical in nature, when measured using the sociological constructs of micro, meso and macro. Additionally, this research has uncovered the importance of ecumenical dialogue as a precursor to any meaningful inter-religious dialogue, largely driven by the Catholic Church’s Declaration Nostra Aetate in 1965. Other aspects of the findings include, the need for a critical mass, some form of organisation and favourable political conditions. Finally, shortcomings and suggestions for further avenues of research are discussed.

KeywordsIslam; Muslims; Australian history; interfaith dialogue; inter-religious dialogue; sociological
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.8wq7v
FunderAustralian Research Council (ARC)
Page range1-351
Final version
All rights reserved
File Access Level
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File Access Level
Publication dates
OnlineAug 2021
Publication process dates
CompletedJun 2021
Deposited27 Aug 2021
ARC Funded ResearchThis output has been funded, wholly or partially, under the Australian Research Council Act 2001
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Related outputs

Indigenous Australians and Muslims: A History of micro and meso dialogue prior to the 20th century
Sneddon, David. (2020). Indigenous Australians and Muslims: A History of micro and meso dialogue prior to the 20th century. Australian Journal of Islamic Studies. 5(1).