There have been at least 30 attacks on Muslims – mainly against women wearing the hijab – in the three weeks since the police anti-terror raids and threats by Islamic State put relations between the Islamic community and mainstream Australia on edge.
Muslim community leaders are compiling a register of religiously motivated incidents, which includes reports of physical and verbal assaults, threats of violence against senior clerics and damage to mosques.
They claim “mistrust” with police had led to the real rate of anti-Islamic episodes going unreported and the threat of segregation for women wearing the niqab into Parliament had licensed a new wave of people willing to vent against Muslim women in public in recent days. Muslim groups have begun arranging escorts for women to go shopping.
While national security agencies have been boosted with almost $650 million in new funding, Muslim leaders are critical of the level of police resources put into stopping hate crimes at street level.
Among recorded incidents, a woman was threatened with having her hijab torn from her head and set alight, a cup of coffee was thrown through the car window of a woman driving in a hijab, and a pig’s head and cross were thrown into the grounds of a Brisbane mosque.
A mother in western Sydney was spat on and had the pram carrying her baby kicked, according to the list of incidents compiled by the western Sydney-based Muslim Legal Network and the recently launched Islamophobia Register.
A list of verbal attacks includes a Muslim mother in Melbourne who was warned to remove her child from playing with group of non-Muslim children at a play park.
At least four mosques have been targeted with written threats, graffiti and thrown objects. Queensland has the highest rate of personal assaults and threats to mosques, according to the list.
Solicitor Lydia Shelly, of the Muslim Legal Network, said: “We have noticed an increase in attacks against Muslim women in public places, of those who wear a scarf or a hijab. As a Muslim woman, I am very concerned that this is impacting on the rights or perhaps the freedom of movement for Muslim women, because they simply do not feel safe any more.
“We have had property defaced. We have had death threats issued to our spiritual leaders and threats to bomb the mosques and things like that.”
Ahmed Kilani, who edits the online Muslim Village publication, said it was “pathetic” that NSW Police had a single officer, Sergeant Geoffrey Steer, dedicated to “bias-motivated crimes”, the category that anti-Islamic attacks fit into. A police spokesman disputed that, saying each local area command took responsibility for bias crimes. He said NSW Police “has met with senior Muslim community leaders on a regular basis since Operation Appleby”.
Ertunc Ozen, chief executive of the Australian Turkish Advocacy Alliance, said the focus on the attire worn by Muslim women was doing the work of the Islamic State by “telling our youth that they do not belong in this country and they never will”. It was also being used by “the more extreme elements in the broader Australian community who actually feel that Muslim people and Muslim thought are totally incompatible with the Australian way of life”, he said.
Assaults or attacks on persons, including verbal abuse or hate speech
- A woman in hijab is physically attacked and her car subsequently vandalised with profanities spray painted on it in western Sydney
- A heavily pregnant woman verbally abused and intimidated in Sydney
- A mother and her baby verbally abused, spat on and their pram kicked in Sydney
- A mother and daughter verbally abused and a passer-by physically assaulted for intervening in Newcastle
- A mother and her child verbally abused and told to take her child away from the other children at a playground in Melbourne
- A woman in hijab has a cup of coffee hurled through the window of her car in Brisbane
- A mother and her baby approached by three men, has her hijab ripped off, is spat on and pushed to the ground in Brisbane
- A woman is approached by a man and told to take her hijab off so he can burn it in Brisbane
- A woman is verbally abused by a man who threatens to burn her house down
- A woman is approached by men in a Perth shopping centre who try to rip her hijab from her head
- Young woman takes off her hijab out of fear for her safety
Threats and/or attacks on property or institutions
- Lakemba Mosque and Auburn Gallopoli Mosque directly threatened in letters sent by the Australian Defence League
- Two cars belonging to a Muslim family has the words ‘Muslim Dog’ spray painted on them in Wentworthville
- Direct threats against the Grand Mufti of Australia issued by anonymous members of the Australian Defence League via a letter saying “Muslims…Australia will fight you ‘terror for terror’ ‘blood for blood’ ‘bomb for bomb’ “
- Maronite School – Catholic nun threatened by a group waving an IS flag reportedly yelling they would ‘slaughter the Christians’
- Minto Mosque receives a threatening letter from an anonymous source
- Mareeba mosque vandalised with the word ‘evil’ spray-painted across the front
- Logan Mosque subjected to hate attack with anti-Muslim pamphlets dumped on its grounds, saying ‘Terrorists born in Australia are not Australians – they are Muslims’ and ‘Muslims are not welcome in Australia, go back to where you came from’
- Holland Park Mosque has a pig’s head embedded with a cross dumped on its grounds
See also “Women bear brunt of Islamophobia”, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October 2014