'Moderate Islam': Defining the Good Citizen
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On 23 August 2005, John Howard, then Prime Minister, called together Muslim ‘representatives’ from around the nation for a Muslim Summit in response to the London bombings in July of that year. One of the outcomes of the two hour summit was a Statement of Principles committing Muslim communities in Australia to resist radicalisation and pursue a ‘moderate’ Islam. Since then the ill-defined term ‘moderate Muslim’ has been used in both the political and media discourse to refer to a preferred form of Islamic practice that does not challenge the hegemony of the nation state and that is coherent with the principles of secularism. Akbarzadeh and Smith conclude that the terms ‘moderate’ and ‘mainstream’ are used to describe Muslims whom Australians should not fear in contrast to ‘extremists’. Ironically, the policy direction towards regulating the practice of Islam in Australia in favour of a state defined ‘moderate’ Islam signals an attempt by the state to mediate the practice of religion, undermining the ethos of secularism as it is expressed in the Australian Constitution. It also – arguably – impacts upon the citizenship rights of Australian Muslims in so far as citizenship presents not just as a formal set of rights accorded to an individual but also to democratic participation: the ability of citizens to enjoy those rights at a substantive level. Based on the findings of research into how Australian Muslims and members of the broader community are responding to the political and media discourses on terrorism, this article examines the impact of these discourses on how Muslims are practicing citizenship and re-defining an Australian Muslim identity.
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