Australia

Government condemns 'appalling' cases of Islamophobia detailed in new report

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The 2019 Islamophobia in Australia report shows perpetrators aren't put off by the prospect of being seen by other people or security guards.

Immigration Minister David Coleman has said he is "appalled" by the examples of Islamophobia in Australia detailed in a new report which found women and girls in hijabs were most likely to be targeted. 

The analysis of nearly 350 incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia in 2016 and 2017 also showed perpetrators were becoming more brazen, with a 30 per cent increase in attacks in places guarded by security officers.

The 2019 Islamophobia in Australia report, released on Monday, found 60 per cent of attacks occurred in public in 2016 and 2017.

That was double the proportion of recorded incidents in the previous 15 months. 

The report, produced by Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, found more than 70 per cent of the victims were Muslim women and girls. 

Among dozens of examples included in the report were three cases involving a fake gun.

One mother said she was travelling with a school choir from Melbourne to Adelaide when a man with an imaginary gun pretended to shoot at the bus filled with children when they stopped at traffic lights opposite a pub. 

"Our bus had several covered women in hijabs, one of them being myself... One of the patrons was sitting looking out onto the road. He began spraying our bus with his imaginary machine gun."

Mr Coleman said the government has no tolerance for racial or cultural prejudice. 

"The instances of discrimination against Australians of Islamic faith which are documented in the report are completely unacceptable," he said in a statement. 

Other reported incidents include a mother and daughter being rammed by a car while crossing a road and women having their head scarves ripped off. 

Labor's immigration spokesperson Andrew Giles said Islamophobia must be condemned. 

"Racism and abuse are completely unacceptable. It's time for all Australians to stand together in hope and reject hate," Mr Giles said. 

Insults focus on appearance 

Excluding online abuse, in at least half of the 202 offline cases, victims noted that people who were passing by did not offer to help.

They were subjected to verbal abuse, profanities, physical intimidation and death threats in public places, most often while shopping.

Anglo-Celtic males were the perpetrators in three-quarters of cases. 

Many of the insults focused on Muslims' appearance and religion with 96 per cent of women respondents wearing a hijab at the time.

New Zealand
Two New Zealand women embrace in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack in March.
Getty Images

While the period examined by researchers is well before the Christchurch mosques attack in March, they note the alarming intensity of hate rhetoric in those years that may have groomed the suspected terrorist, including a high number of death threats.

“Online and offline, people have detailed how they would like to murder all Muslims and yet there appeared to be no investigation or prosecution, raising serious questions about the fitness of existing laws,” the report states.

Lead author Dr Derya Iner said the real number of incidents is likely to be much higher than the 349 recorded due to the ongoing problem of under-reporting.

“This is especially the case where continuous anti-Muslim sentiment in political and media discourse becomes normalised, desensitising the public,” Dr Iner said.

“With Christchurch in our minds, we cannot afford to be complacent.

"Social cohesion is something that must be nurtured and repaired by all of us for the well-being and security of Australia.”

The Islamophobia Register Australia has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its next report that will examine the period leading up to and immediately following the Christchurch tragedy.

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