The Role of Religion in Australian Globalization

The Role of Religion in Australian Globalization

The attacks in 9/11 were directly linked to the religious group of Islam radicals known as Al-Qaeda, whose ideals were not in line with the globalization of the Western culture. The following year in 2002, the Islamic organization Jemaah Islamiyah, an Indonesian-based terrorist group [1], detonated three bombs in Bali (two nightspots and one near the American consulate). The explosion killed 202 people, 88 of whom were Australian, and wounded the rest. It was considered to be the largest loss of Australian life due to the attack of terror. [2] After 16 hours of the attacks, the Australian Defence Force was immediately deployed to evacuate injured Australians. Prime Minister John Howard addressed the nation that was consequently deeply affected to not lose themselves but to remain open and tolerant and keep the Australian spirit stronger.

The aftermath of Bali bombing in 2002 (Image from Google)

Similar to the reaction of the United States, the call for anti-terror campaigns in Australia was a response to the attacks in Bali. The events of 9/11 and Bali bombings have intensified the focus on religion and its impact and reflection in the society where the ideals, values, and spiritual life have dramatically changed from the organized structure to the globalization influence.

Religion and Globalization

Based on the study by Cahill, he described the relationship between religion and globalization as the following:

Religiosity and religious organizations, and ultimately the spiritualities that underpin the great global and local religious traditions, are interacting with globalisation which can be understood both as the intensification of global consciousness and the compression of space and time through the revolutions in transportation and the information technologies. [3]

He further develops the idea that conflict and competition among major religions will be interrelated with the concepts of nationalism and ethnic and cultural complexities. This interrelation of concepts among nationalism and culture may suggest that the role of religion as the primary root cause for conflict. It is this idea that the formation of the so-called religious extremisms has become the end result of globalization, which may have led the tragic events of 9/11 and Bali bombings.

Note: For more on in-depth discussion of religious extremisms, it can be read through my previous blogs (Security Globalization and Cultural Globalization).

For Australians, religion and globalization are interconnected through the multicultural dimension. With the flow of migrants and mix of culture, it will thus lead to multi-faith in Australia.

Multi-faith in Australia

After the end of World War II and changes to the White Australia policy, the flow of migrants from a number of different countries would also entail for considerable diversification of religious affiliations in Australia. There were the Orthodox Christians that came from Greece and the Middle East, and the Catholics that came from Italy, Hungary, and Poland. The Pentecostal, Independent Chinese, and other ethnic churches have also emerged. There are also churches of every Christian tradition. [4] To illustrate the religious group’s diversification, Australia has used to conduct a census of religion identity every five years. Below is the table of the religion affiliations in Australia.

Table 1 Census from 1947 to 2001


Source: Adapted from the study in Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia

Table 2 More detailed census on estimates


Source: Adapted from the The Australian Collaboration: A Collaboration of National Community Organisations

Both of the census data show the growth and distribution of the religious groups in Australia, with a slight decrease from Anglicans and increase in Buddhists and Muslims in 2001. Those who indicated that they have no religious affiliations may not best represent the group without religion, but these people could have possibly been disinterested to share their religious affiliations only.

The review of the census data simply supposes that over the past 50 years, Australia has transformed from predominant Christianity religious order to a multi-faith religious movement. Furthermore, the data also indicate that the changes to a multi-faith society presume there is a need to manage the religious diversity in Australia. With more population of Australian migrants in the succeeding years, it was an important role not just for the leaders in the religious congregation to address issues, but also the state leaders to have some active participation towards issues related to religion. The role of policy issues still continues to be a serious topic for Australia at Federal, State, and local levels.

The most infamous policy that was passed, according to the study of Australian collaboration, is the following:

the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, which gave force to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, makes racial discrimination unlawful in Australia. Individuals are free to express a diversity of views, as long as they do not incite religious hatred. The Australian Human Rights Commission has responsibility for investigating discrimination complaints based on religious (and other) grounds. State legislation (e.g. the Victorian Government’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001) provides further protection against religious vilification. [5]

In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and Bali bombings, there were complaints of incidents of such racial discrimination specifically on Muslims, where women’s hijabs were ripped off and the refusal of service of Muslims at banks. A survey conducted by Western Sydney and Charles Sturt Universities has suggested that Australian Muslims experience racism three times the national average. Professor Kevin Dunn from Western Sydney University also referred to the things happening around the world as the probable cause of the problem. It means that “some people, unfortunately, feel more emboldened to say things and do things which are prejudicial and which are hurtful towards Muslims.” [6]

The Sydney Morning Herald shared nine stories of Australian Muslim individuals on how their faith in Islam made a change in their lives. Here is the link to the site .smh

Another take on the theme of discrimination in Australia, Talk Islam (video group in Youtube) attempts to present the discrimination in a social experiment of Muslims.

Defusion of Religious Hostility

Religious leaders play a significant role in defusing hostilities through bringing together communities and putting efforts to control hatred and resistance. Various Catholic leaders and uniting churches of Australia had meaningful dialogues and consultation with the Muslim communities to support them at a time after the events of 9/11 and Bali bombings. The La Trobe group involved in the Christian-Muslim dialogue on led to some initiatives and policies [7]:

  • Assistance in their public relations to combat biased opinions expressed in newspapers and talkback radio.
  • Need to build a Muslim educational institution staffed by international scholars for educating their own imams and other community leaders for the Australian context.
  • Need to continue developing contacts between its 29 schools across Australia and other schools through exchange visits, debating contests, sporting contests etc.
  • Need to better educate the Australian community on Islamic attitudes to gender equality, monogamy and polygamy and female genital mutilation.
  • Need to further develop mosques not just as prayer halls, but as local social and recreational centers in accordance with the centuries-long tradition of Islamic architecture.
  • Professional development programs for imams and other Islamic leaders to assist them in their leadership in a multi-faith society.

In addition, the Council for Multicultural Australia has been the institute for resolving issues in the diversity of Australia. However, it lacks the element of addressing issues of multi-faith Australia and the linkages between culture, language, and religion.  As per recommendations from the writer of the study on safeguarding Australia, it would be best to “conduct on an annual basis consultations with local faith community leaders at state, territory and, as appropriate, regional levels on inter-faith and associated inter-communal affairs.” [8]

The Role of Religion in Australian Globalization

With the emergence of multi-faith Australia, the different religious affiliations are finding ways to protect their values, morals, traditions and religious practices but for some, their ideals led to conflict and tension against the hegemony of globalization. The role of religion may have intensified in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks and Bali bombings for Australia. The terrorist attacks have brought Australians into the world politics and multicultural issues in Australia have been linked to multi-faith community issues locally. Safeguarding Australia should not only be on the basis of culture and ethnic groups but towards a more dominant role of religion and its leaders to help end the reign of terror.



[1] National Counterterrorism Center. Jemaah Islamiyah”. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[2] National Museum Australia. “Bali Bombings. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[3] Cahill, Desmond., and Gary Bouma., and Hass Dellal., and Michael Leahy. 2004. Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia. National Capital Printing. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[4] Henry, Dr. Nicola., and Karolina Kurzak. 2012. “Religion in Australia.” The Australian Collaboration: A Collaboration of National Community Organisations. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[5] Ibid.
[6] BBC News. 2015. “Australia Muslims  ‘face high level of racism'” BBC News UK. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[7] Cahill, Desmond., and Gary Bouma., and Hass Dellal., and Michael Leahy. 2004. Religion, Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Australia. National Capital Printing. Accessed October 11, 2016.
[8] Ibid.

5 thoughts on “The Role of Religion in Australian Globalization

  1. Australai seems more concerned about the religious harmony of its people as after 9/11 Australian government took steps to control hatred and tolerance towards Muslim population as its government is much aware of its multi-faith religion. It also shows that being a multi-faith religion sometimes it creates tensions due to its ethnic, cultural and religious differences as recently there was demonstrations by ethnic community for their rights and identity. It has become a diverse community due to increase in migration from diffrent countries. Australia needs to keep an eye for its religious harmony.


  2. Interesting information on religion and globalization in Australia.Australians have come a long way towards accepting religious and racial pluralism. As you have mentioned there are quite a lot of incidents where Muslims are being discriminated due to terrorist threats and conflicts between beliefs. I hope government actions will help to keep religious harmony in the country since the country needs to be progress as one nation.


  3. For most of us we already know of the difficult history that the Indigenous population faced in Australia, and we still have to speculate if the Australia government has made right to this population. However, the national news still highlight the position of the government in how they deal with refugee’s situation, hosting groups seeking a better life from war and religious turmoil’s on Separate Island away from the main land. This visual disconnection will play in the mind of the citizens that if you are different you should stay away. The understanding of such is that religion also falls in this category, which is now apart of this greater segregation movement; Australia is just a racially charged State, unable to shake off its history colonial power and confusion.


  4. Your blog post was a very in-depth analysis of the role of religion in Australia. I find it quite interesting that it took until after 9/11 for Australia’s government to see the importance of “multi-faith” acceptance for a conducive society. While Australia has made strides towards acceptance, I am still skeptical about how Australia will maintain harmony due to their past. It will be interesting to see how Australis progress.


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