A week after a series of coordinated anti-terror raids in Brisbane and Sydney, Islamic community leaders say many Australian Muslims fear for their safety.
Police are searching for a man who allegedly threatened staff and students at an Islamic school in Sydney.
The man, who was carrying a knife, walked into the Al-Faisal College in Minto yesterday afternoon, asked if it was a Muslim school and threatened a female teacher and student with a knife.
Primary school students hid under their desks while those from the high school were gathered in a prayer hall as the school went into lockdown.
Mariam Veiszadeh, spokesperson for Islamophobia Register Australia, said the matter was shocking.
"We are very shocked and saddened to hear about this incident. Distressed parents of affected students arrived at the school earlier today and found it surrounded by Police officers and the SWAT team."
It comes after a Islamic centre in Brisbane was vandalised with graffiti on Wednesday night and less than a week after another mosque, in the north Queensland town of Mareeba, was defaced with anti-Islamic slogans.
According to Sydney-based Islamic community activist Rebecca Kay, anti-terror raids have led to greater division between Muslim and non-Muslim Australians. “Certainly there has been angst,” she said, “in the last three weeks we've attacks on Muslim women increase to an average of seven per day.”
Ms Kay says she has been the target of direct threats and she's now collecting evidence from other women who say they too have been the victims of verbal and, in some cases, physical attacks. “I spoke to a woman yesterday,” says Ms Kay, “who had her hijab removed in the middle of a shopping centre. She found a man standing there staring at her and telling her that she was a f***ing terrorist and needed to leave the country.”
Many Muslim women, say Ms Kay and other community members, are fearful of going out and many won’t venture far beyond their homes.
Ahmed Kilani, editor of website muslimvillage.com, says some are now questioning whether Australia is still a safe and tolerant society. “My own mother rang me yesterday,” Mr Kilani told SBS, “with concern about what’s going, she said, ‘I don’t feel safe and secure.’ She made the comment to me that despite living here for 40 years which is a lot longer than she lived in Egypt. She said perhaps I need to consider moving back there and questioned whether I should go and get myself a dual citizenship in case things get really bad.”
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has called for calm, saying, “Muslim Australians are entitled to a fair go and to be treated with respect and there is simply no place for this kind of bigotry and this kind of criminal behaviour.”
Shot teen may not have been acting alone
A terror suspect fatally shot following the stabbing of two police officers may not have been acting alone, Victoria's top cop says.
"On the night, there is some information that would suggest otherwise," Chief Commissioner Ken Lay told ABC radio in Melbourne on Thursday.
Mr Lay said police had information Numan Haider, 18, was talking to others before Tuesday night's attack outside Endeavour Hills police station.
"There's some information that he was certainly talking to other people around the time," he said.
"It's certainly something we're pursuing."
Mr Lay said it was unclear whether others might have dropped him off or were waiting for him.
"That'll be clarified in a little while," he said.
Mr Lay also dismissed claims Mr Haider may have intended to behead the police officers.
"There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I'm aware of that would suggest that was the intention," he said.
"Having said that, there were some really worrying pieces about this young man's behaviour that we are working through.
"It's not helpful to be making these great leaps based on speculation."
Mr Lay said police are "quietly and methodically" working through evidence.
Police say the officer had no other choice after the known terror suspect repeatedly stabbed an Australian Federal Police officer and the leading senior constable who shot him.
Haider, of Narre Warren, had been seen at a shopping centre displaying a flag linked with jihadist group Islamic State, or ISIL, and last week had his passport cancelled on national security grounds.