Associate Professor Ozalp is a theologian, author, academic and founding director of Charles Sturt University's Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation.
He has worked in the interfaith and intercultural field in Australia since 2000.
Associate Professor Ozalp will present Charles Sturt University's next 'Explorations Series' free public lecture at Bathurst Library, at 70 Keppel Street, on Tuesday, September 17 at 6pm.
Associate Professor Ozalp says meaningful interaction between Muslim Australians and non-Muslim Australians can only begin when the 2.6 per cent of Australia's population who are Muslims feel comfortable to integrate into the community.
"An issue we have is that some segments of the Muslim population tend to resist integration into the community," he said.
"Economically they are integrated well. Socially they are, maybe, halfway there. But identity integration is not there at all.
... it's a sense of belonging. And it's not that all Muslims are necessarily resisting this type of integration, it just takes time.Associate Professor Ozalp
"Simply put, it's a sense of belonging. And it's not that all Muslims are necessarily resisting this type of integration, it just takes time.
"It's a natural progression. And we have to remember we've, on average, had two generations of Muslims living in Australia."
The other side of the coin, explains Associate Professor Ozalp, is that non-Muslim Australians need to make Muslims feel they belong. And this can be extremely difficult given the levels of unconscious bias or religious hegemony that come into play.
"Religious or cultural hegemony breeds thoughts like 'if you don't accept our values, go back to where you came from'. Such language, together with a dose of discrimination and racism, will make Muslims feel they aren't accepted as Australians and they just don't belong," he added.
"If people are always reminded that they don't belong to this country, eventually they'll start to think 'maybe I don't'. Associate Professor Ozalp has identified two significant roadblocks to seamless and harmonious Muslim integration into Australian society - ignorance, and a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
"Most Australians don't know much about Islam or Muslims. What's worse, the knowledge they do have is based on what is presented to them by the media.
"And the media will only ever cover the sensational or that which is out of the ordinary. So people's knowledge of Muslims and Islam will always be skewed. Where you have a lack of knowledge you have a lack of understanding."
Register at csu.edu.au/explorations.
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