Monash University
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Muslim masculinities in Australia: negotiating manhood and Muslim identity in contemporary Australia

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posted on 2017-03-02, 00:50 authored by Hidayat, Rachmad
This study examined how migrant Muslim men’s status as a religious minority in Australia affected their masculinities. It addressed the absence of literature of Muslim masculinities in Australia amidst the growing concern on Muslim men in Australia over their association with radical movements and questions over their loyalty to Australia as a nation. The project offered an analysis of the life experience of Muslim men as a minority in Australia through a gender lens. The study proposed an analytical framework based on the premise that masculinity is constructed through relationships (Connell 2005), specifying three contexts of relationships where Muslim masculinities are negotiated: Muslim men’s relationship with the non-Muslim majority of Australian society; Muslim men’s relationship with Muslim women; and a Muslim brotherhood. The framework was applied through a qualitative study exploring the life of 25 Southeast Asian Muslim men and the religious activities of five Muslim organisations. Employing in-depth interviews, group discussions, and participant observation, the project identified key aspects of negotiation of masculinity observed in the Muslim men’s experience in work life, family life, and participation in religious communities. This study demonstrates that Muslim men’s status as a minority has reinforced the religious aspect of their masculinities and bonding of brotherhood while weakening their traditional masculine power as the head or imam of family. Muslim men’s status and awareness of being a minority and being different to the non-Muslim majority associated with White-Anglo does not imply their sense of being marginalised or experience of marginalisation in the society. Social encounters in the workplace lead to the reinforcement of religious consciousness and commitment among Muslim men as a response to a non-Muslim majority social environment that is typically regarded as suspicious and critical toward religion, secular or agnostic. This study indicates changes of power relation among the Muslim families and a crisis of men’s masculine privilege. While the narrative of men as the head of family was firmly maintained, the men did not necessarily possess the cultural resources to enforce their authority. Mainstream family practices and the broader gender order in Australia, associated with values of individual freedom and equality alongside the need for family welfare, urged the men to adapt their practice of being leaders of the family. Experience in Australia also reinforced the bonding of brotherhood among the Muslim men. Religious communities centred in its male-only brotherhood network, became the most culturally-religiously comfortable context of relationship for the Muslim men to reclaim and regain their traditional religious status as the normative Muslims. The brotherhood provides a sense of belonging and identification of shared religious minority identity but superior gender identity. The study identified some key elements of Muslim masculinities including men’s individual performance of religious piety, responses to their non-Muslim social surroundings, a sense of belonging to Australia, men’s gender privilege, particularly status as the head of family, the narrative of womanhood, values of brotherhood, and the organisation of religious rituals. Future studies on Muslim masculinities in Australia and abroad are also suggested.


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Kirsten McLean

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School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)

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Faculty of Arts

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