Us and Them: Muslim-Christian Relations and Cultural Harmony in Australia

Abe Ata

Australian Catholic University

Cross-cultural research provides exceptional insights into the hopes and fears of dealing with people different to ourselves. In Australia, such research suggests that Australian Muslims have surpassed Asians as one of the country's most marginalised religious and ethnic groups. Muslims and people from the Middle East are thought to be unable to fit into Australia, with more than 50% of Australians preferring their relatives did not to marry into a Muslim family. Yet this statistic masks diverse interpretations of interfaith relations and cultural harmony present across Australia today. In 12 essays Us and Them offers truths about interfaith relations as they are believed and expressed by Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. The essays are interdisciplinary and varied in topic, and seek to challenge the images of Islam held by both xenophobic Westerners and extremist Muslims. Drawn from a variety of research projects over past years, including results from a national survey on attitudes towards Islam and Muslims among Australian secondary students, they also raise thematic questions, such as: Will any dialogue lead to a rapprochement between the Muslim and mainstream communities? What is Christian-Muslim diversity? Why does it matter? Can we really learn how to manage diversity in the workplace? Can the Shari'a law coexist with the Australian legal system on issues including polygamy, marital status and dress? This book is essential reading for all students - secondary through to tertiary and postgraduate - requiring an introduction to Christian Muslim relations and attitudes in Australia .

About the Author

Professor Abe W. Ata is well known for his work on comparative religions and ethnicity. He is a ninth-generation Christian Palestinian born in Bethlehem and has lived and worked in the Middle East, America and Australia, including a stint as a temporary delegate to the UN in 1970. He is currently at the Australian Catholic University.


This book provides an insight and positive attitudes to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Dr B Hass Dellal OAM
Executive Director, Australian Multicultural Foundation

Provocative and thoughtful, this book will generate debate as it calls into question many of our comfortable assumptions.
Professor Greg Barton, Monash University

Once we asked, 'Does religion matter?' Australians now ask, 'Are our religions part of the problem, or part of the solution?' Nowhere is this question more pertinent than in the relationship between Australian Muslims and their Christian counterparts, a relationship that is usefully explored in the essays in this book.
John Henderson, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in Australia

May this book be a catalyst for seeing each other not through the paradigm of 'them' and 'us' but as brothers and sisters in humanity. Among whom there is good and bad.
Ramzi Elsayed, President , Islamic Council of Victoria

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Author
  • Introduction
  • Section One: Cross-Religious and Cultural Attitudes
  • Chapter 1 Cross-Religious Misunderstanding or a Clash Between Civilisations in Australia
  • Chapter 2 Christian-Muslim Households Identity and Attitudes to Their 'Australian' Children
  • Chapter 3 Attitudes of School-Age Non-Muslim Australians Towards Muslims and Islam: A National Survey
  • Chapter 4 The Lebanese in Melbourne Ethnicity, Interethnic Activities and Attitudes to Australia
  • Section Two: Education
  • Chapter 5 The Role of Gender, Religion and Friendship in the Perception of the 'Other' - An Investigation of Secondary Students in Australia: A National Survey
  • Chapter 6 The Role of Australian Schools in Educating Students About Islam and Muslims: A National Survey (co-authored with Joel Windle)
  • Chapter 7 Social Distance From Muslims: A National Survey
  • Chapter 8 Attitudes of School-Age Muslim Australians Towards Australia - Gender and Religious Differences A National Survey
  • Section Three: Muslim-Christian Intermarriage
  • Chapter 9 Adjustment and Complications of Christian-Muslim Intermarriages in Australia
  • Chapter 10 Bereavement Anxieties and Health Among the Arab Muslim Community
  • Chapter 11 Observing Different Faiths, Learning About Ourselves: Practice With Intermarried Muslims and Christians (co-authored with Mark Furlong)
  • Chapter 12 Opting for an Eschatological Interpretation of Interfaith Marriages (co-authored with Glenn Morrison)