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Building Social Cohesion through Community Leadership: Navigating Sources of Tension in Australian Muslim Women Leaders’ Relationships with Governments


Within Australia’s multicultural policy, the current social cohesion paradigm stresses the role of grassroots actors in building a harmonious society. A subcategory of this cohort are Muslim women leaders who work with governments to this end. Not only have these individuals been of specific policy interest, but anecdotal evidence and research suggests that they play leading roles within grassroots social cohesion activities. This article explores the tensions that exist in Muslim women leaders’ relationships with governments. It is argued that women feel gendered pressures to support government policies and be a certain type of Muslim leader. However, being seen to work too closely with governments create credibility issues for leaders within their own communities. Finally, women’s understandings of their roles in building social cohesion go further than those conceived for them by policymakers to encompass female family leadership and the inculcation of Islamic values in their children. This highlights an underlying tension regarding the relation Islamic values are seen to have to social cohesion in western liberal democratic societies. Understanding these tensions and how they are expressed is of strategic importance to social cohesion policy given its emphasis on grassroots approaches and solution to complex social issues.


Muslim women, Australia, Leadership, Social cohesion



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