Seeking a Voice: Muslim Organisations in Australia and Germany and Their Struggle for Civic Recognition

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:40 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Mario PEUCKER , Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Post-war Germany and Australia have, like many other Western societies, seen the emergence of fragmented and heterogeneous Muslim communities. In both countries these ethno-religious minority groups have established a diverse landscape of community organisations, which used to be occupied primarily with the maintenance of their religious identity and internal community ties. This inward-looking nature of Muslim communities in Australia and Germany has begun to change in the 1990s and, more fundamentally, since the early years of the 21st century, triggered by partly similar, partly country-specific developments. An unprecedented number of community groups in both countries have sought to become recognised civil society actors, eager to contribute to the society at large, to engage with non-Muslim groups, media, governments and other opinion leaders and to offer a more accurate public representation of Islam.

This paper explores the motives, strategies and achievements of Muslim community organisations in Australia and Germany, based on extensive desk research and a series of in-depth interviews with Muslim community figures in both countries, conducted between 2011 and 2013. It argues that, while Muslims in Australia and Germany have shared (and continue to do so) similar experiences of social marginalisation, public questioning of their willingness to belong and increasing political scrutiny, their collective struggle for civic recognition has unfolded in different ways. The research findings suggest that Australian Muslim community groups have been much more successful than their German counterparts in utilising and expanding their collaboration and lines of communication with policy-makers and civil society opinion leaders and in establishing themselves as an important voice in the public and political debate. The paper concludes with a discussion of the reasons for these country-specific differences, identifying a combination of historical, political and social factors, including the divergent political opportunity structures and the different socio-economic resources of Muslims.