Muslims: Anglicans more negative

ANGLICANS are far more negative about Muslims than Catholics, according to an important annual survey about social cohesion.

Anglican antipathy rose nearly 10 per cent in the past year, the Scanlon National Cohesion Survey headed by Monash University professor Andrew Markus shows.

Asked in the survey if they felt positive, negative or neutral towards Muslims, 34.1 per cent of Anglicans said negative, up from 25.1 per cent last year. Negative attitudes from Presbyterians also rose sharply, from 30.1 to 38.7 per cent, but the sample size was small, said Monash emeritus professor of sociology Gary Bouma, who also worked on the project.

In contrast, 22.8 per cent of Catholics felt negative about Muslims (down from 25.8 last year), as did 19.8 per cent of Uniting Church members. The national average for Australians was 25.5 per cent negative.

Professor Bouma said yesterday these attitudes intersected strikingly with anti-migration attitudes and voting Liberal. "They all pile up in the same corner," he said.

"The difference between Anglicans and Catholics is that Catholics have a well-developed theology in favour of multifaith. Some Anglican leaders in Australia have been stridently anti-Muslim," he said.

"It's very serious, and it shows that negative religious discourses have consequences. They show up in these kinds of attitudes that will reduce social cohesion."

The difference between Victoria (15.6 per cent negative) and New South Wales (29 per cent negative) was also pronounced.

Professor Markus said Muslim numbers were much higher in Sydney. "The other thing is how hard Victoria works on multiculturalism  there's a strong tradition here," he said.

(The Age, October 8 Author: BY BARNEY ZWARTZ RELIGION EDITOR)