Children should be off limits to racist abuse: Muslim advocate

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Inaz Janif has seen young children become the target of racism and teenagers racially abused by adults. Enough is enough, she says.

Because of the colour of her skin, Inaz Janif says she has known racism since she was a child.

But applying for her first job as a teenager was a seminal moment; Ms Janif was told she’d have to remove her headscarf if she wanted to work for the company. 

Naturally, she asked her family and friends what to do. Some told her to stay true to herself, while others said she should stop wearing it to get work.

“I guess it was difficult as an 18-year-old to know what to do,” the Victorian-based teacher and Muslim advocate told SBS News.

“But I stayed true to myself. A piece of fabric on my head has nothing to do with my employability.”

A report released on Wednesday found more Australians are reporting being the target of racism compared with 10 years ago. 

The Scanlon Foundation's Mapping Social Cohesion survey found the number of people saying they’ve experienced discrimination because of skin colour, ethnic origin or religion, has more than doubled - from nine per cent in 2007 to 20 per cent in 2017

Ms Janif isn’t surprised.

“I’ve had friends who have been attacked, I’ve had friends driven off the road; I’ve had friends who’ve had their hijabs torn off in public,” she explains.

Ms Janif says she decided to get vocal about racism after seeing Muslim teenagers being abused last year by an adult. The teens brushed off the incident because it wasn’t anything new to them.

“They told me 'it's happened before, I’m fine'.

“That’s a signal that young people are accepting of the violence and the hate that comes towards them, and that’s unacceptable to me and should be to everyone here.”

In another incident, Ms Janif discovered Islamophobic posters targeting children at a primary school. 

"Children should be off limits to racist abuse, she said.

"And when grown adults are putting up this sort of thing on the weekend to target children I think we should all stand up and say this is unacceptable.

“It has a long-term impact on your mental health and wellbeing ... It messes with your self-worth.”

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