Justice is in the eye of the beholder: A vignette study of Muslims’ perceived stigma and trust in police

Dr Natasha Madon1, Prof Kristina Murphy1, Dr Harley Williamson1

1Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Australia

Existing research has found that many Muslims residing in the West report feeling as though citizens and law enforcement officers alike view them as ‘suspect’. Experiences of increased surveillance in their daily lives have left many feeling heavily stigmatised as a potential ‘terrorist’.  Drawing on a vignette study of 503 Muslims residing in Sydney, Australia, we examine the effect of procedurally just and unjust police treatment on Muslims’ trust in police.  Not surprisingly, we find that Muslims who feel more stigmatized by police are less likely to say they trust police. Importantly, we found some interesting effects from our vignette study.  Muslims who were exposed to a vignette where a police officer was treating a Muslim man with procedural justice were significantly more likely to say they trusted the officer compared to those who received the procedurally unjust officer condition. However, feelings of stigmatisation moderated this effect. For Muslims who reported feeling more highly stigmatised by police, observing an officer acting in a procedurally just way toward a Muslim man had a significantly weaker effect on promoting their trust in police when compared to those who felt low levels of stigmatisation. Our findings suggest that for Muslims who enter encounters with police feeling stigmatized and believing that police view them in a biased way, procedural justice appears to have weaker effects on their trust in police.


Natasha Madon is a Lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University. Her research interests surround the policing of minority communities and how citizens perceive their treatment by police in both general investigation and counter-terrorism investigations. Dr. Madon’s research also focuses on young people’s perceptions of and experiences with various aspects of the criminal justice system, examining how their views relate to broader feelings of trust and legitimacy of criminal justice actors as well as the criminal justice system as a whole.


Dec 08 2021