Study details changing face of mosques in NSW

Muslims pray 

A University of Western Sydney study has provided a detailed analysis of mosques in New South Wales, finding previously monocultural congregations have seen a marked demographic shift to now accommodate new members from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

UWS Doctoral candidate Husnia Underabi, in conjunction with Islamic Sciences and Research Academy and the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University, surveyed 50 of New South Wales' 167 Islamic places of worship to provide a picture of the formal religious experiences of the state's 170 thousand Muslims.

Ms Underabi, from the UWS School of Social Sciences and Psychology, says the study clearly shows an identifiable shift in the ethnic composition of mosque congregations since the most recent study in 1994.

"While in the earlier decades mosques primarily served one ethnic group, almost all mosques in NSW now display a multi-ethnic composition," she says.

"Although a large group of individuals share the same ethnic background as the imam a significant proportion, in some cases above 50%, is not of the same ethnic background as the imam."

"Combined with the fact English is now the most widely used language in Friday sermons, it is clear the local Mosques are adapting to the local context and becoming more accommodating for new worshipers."

Other findings from the report include:

  • Over half (56%) of the mosques indicated having female representation in the mosque committee and 66% deliver religious classes to women on a weekly basis
  • Almost half of the imams (47%) are younger than 40 years of age, indicating a young generation of imams is the beginning to emerge in NSW's mosques
  • While the earliest mosques in NSW were built in the inner-city suburbs of Sydney, the majority (62%) are now located in the western suburbs of Sydney

Ms Underabi says mosques are actively opening their doors to people outside the faith.

"Most of NSW mosques are involved in either interfaith dialogue or open days to invite non-Muslims to the mosque, indicating that mosques are involved with the wider society and are willing to communicate and exchange ideas," she says.

"In addition, the majority of mosque leaders feel Australian Muslims should participate in Australia's civic institutions and participate in the political process."

"As such, this report shows how mosques may be playing an important role in encouraging active citizenship among their congregation."


17 September 2014

Mark Smith, Senior Media Officer