The vast majority of Australian Defence Force personnel believes the Muslim religion promotes violence and terrorism, despite “cultural sensitivity training” by the ADF to have its soldiers take the view that Islam is a religion of peace.
The study by academic Charles Miller, published yesterday in the Australian Army Journal, was clearly perceived by top military brass as likely to be highly controversial, prompting Chief of Army General Angus Campbell to write a preamble saying his staff “have a number of opposing views on this article’s content”.
The study was financially supported by the ADF’s Army Research Scheme.
Dr Miller, who is a lecturer in Strategic and Defence Studies at the Australian National University, writes that “in this study, I use a technique designed to elicit frank responses to sensitive questions — the ‘list experiment’ — to examine ADF views on Islam.”
“I find little evidence that the official ‘Islam as a religion of peace’ narrative is widely accepted, nor is there evidence that cultural sensitivity training has any effect,” he says.
“The best estimate … for the proportion of soldiers who have received cultural sensitivity training and who believe that the Muslim religion promotes violence and terrorism is 91 per cent.
“The corresponding figure for those who have not had cultural sensitivity training is 17 per cent.”
Dr Miller, who surveyed a sample of 182 soldiers, writes that “there are a number of issues which could arise if anti-Muslim sentiment is widespread within the defence force.
“If Australia’s Muslim community perceives the security services as inherently hostile, this may reduce the flow of intelligence on the activities of Islamic extremist organisations in Australia,” he says.
“Probably most important at present, hostility to Muslims in general could hamper the effectiveness of the ADF on deployment in the greater Middle East in a number of ways.”
To counter Islamophobic tendencies, the ADF employs cultural sensitivity training that “attempts to familiarise ADF personnel with the main attributes of the culture of the nations to which they are to be deployed”, Dr Miller writes.
He said the “list experiment” aims to “persuade individuals to freely express views which may be deemed socially undesirable or for which they could otherwise be punished.”
Dr Miller said more work should be done by the ADF to get a better understanding of the issue, but the problem was that “the open expression of anti-Muslim sentiment in the ADF can and has led to disciplinary charges and dismissal.”
Most ADF soldiers ‘believe Islam promotes violence and terrorism’
Australian Army Journal Autumn Edition 2016