‘Division, hatred and fear’: Victoria's Muslim community concerned it's fielding blame for coronavirus spike

The Islamic Council of Victoria says some media reporting has blamed recent coronavirus clusters on the Muslim community without tangible evidence.

Paramedics perform COVID19 tests in Broadmeadows, Victoria.

Paramedics perform COVID19 tests in Broadmeadows, Victoria. Source: AAP

Recent media reporting is creating “division, hatred and fear” and has unfairly laid the blame for Melbourne’s coronavirus spike on Muslims, according to the Islamic Council of Victoria.

Herald Sun newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt and Sky News commentator Peta Credlin have been among those in the media over the past few days to lay blame for the rise in cases at the feet of multicultural communities.

ICV vice president Adel Salman said there was no evidence that Muslims were responsible for causing the surge in cases but that hasn’t stopped some media outlets from focusing on the community.

“It plays to a narrative and it’s picked up by those who believe that narrative, that ‘here we go again, Muslims are a threat, they are either trying to harm us with guns and bombs and cars, or now through the virus',” he told SBS News.

“It’s completely unfair, there is no evidence for it and it doesn’t help. It doesn’t help make us safer, it doesn’t tackle the problem. It stigmatises the community and creates division, hatred and fear - and that ultimately hurts us all."

Several of Victoria’s recent coronavirus clusters have been based in the north and north-western suburbs, areas with high multicultural populations and with large Muslim communities.

These areas have been designated as community transmission hotspots by the state government, and testing has been ramped up there.

News.com reported on Friday that a Melbourne man lost two of his jobs because his employer found out that he lived in a hotspot area and told him not to come to work.

Mr Salman said media crews have been sent out to hotspot areas and are targeting Muslim residents with ill-informed views and then portraying them as if they are representative of the whole community.

“That’s completely ridiculous. You can find ill-informed people like that in any suburb in Melbourne, they don’t represent the whole community,” he said.

“Muslims and the Muslim community have been very responsible throughout this pandemic, we have been exemplary by and large."

Last month, Prime Minister Scott Morrison commended Australia's Muslim community for their actions over Ramadan.

"Australian Muslims, like all Australians, have made great sacrifices in recent times ... You have willingly done this and so much more to protect each other, demonstrating the love of faith through sacrifice," he said.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

Published 27 June 2020 at 11:59am, updated 27 June 2020 at 3:04pm
By Jarni Blakkarly