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Report shows women and children most threatened by Islamophobia

Australian women who are identifiably Muslim, because they wear the headscarf, are almost three times more likely to experience an Islamophobic incident.

Background

This was a key finding in a research study conducted by the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilization, Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the Islamophobia Register of Australia.

The report defined Islamophobia as a type of racism that includes "various forms of violence, violations, discrimination and subordination" and goes beyond mere criticism of Islam and Muslims.

The report critically analyses 243 incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia between September 2014 and December 2015.

Helping launch the study in Sydney at NSW State Parliament earlier this month, lawyer and founder of the Islamophobia Register, Mariam Veiszadeh said the report “offers a window into the types of religiously motivated Islamophobic incidents taking place out in suburban Australia and its release is especially timely as there is a continuing debate over the existence and the scale of Islamophobia in Australia.”

Veiszadeh told the audience the report, which is a first of its kind in Australia, needed to be done.

“My friends and people that I knew kept telling me about these experiences and encounters they would have and at the time it was all anecdotal. This report attempts to capture those anecdotes, verify those incidents of Islamophobia and present it as legitimate data. This is a real issue and it’s not just a minor one, it’s impacting the civic movement of women.”

Charles Sturt University’s Dr Derya Iner, principle researcher and editor of the report, said the evidence used in the research report proves Islamophobia is a real lived experience.

“Islamophobia manifests itself in different forms and it can be at different levels including individual or institutional. The media also plays a role in not necessarily being the sole reason of Islamophobia but certainly fueling it and adding legitimacy to those who might have Islamophobic tendencies.” 

"They yelled out 'ISIS B****' 'go back to where you came from' and snickered and said 'shh or she'll behead you’. They followed me down the street. None of the train staff helped me out or stopped them."

– Victim

Key findings

The report found that women who adorn the hijab (Islamic head covering) were 79.6 per cent of the female victims of Islamophobia, and more than half of the female victims had their children with them at the time of the reported incident.

98 per cent of perpetrators were identified by victims as ethnically Anglo-Celtic, and the average perpetrator tended to be male.

Most victims reported physical assaults occurring in New South Wales at 60 per cent and in Victoria at 26.7 per cent.

Most offline incidents of Islamophobia took place on busy public places such as shopping centres, train stations and mosque surroundings.

Dr Iner said Islamophobic attacks were more than just threats or verbal abuse. Often it was physically threatening, with reports of Islamophobic incidents peaking after terrorist attacks such as the Lindt cafe siege and the Parramatta shooting.

In one case, a woman reported, "They yelled out 'ISIS B****' 'go back to where you came from' and snickered and said 'shh or she'll behead you’. They followed me down the street. None of the train staff helped me out or stopped them." 

In another incident, a woman reported being verbally assaulted by a truck driver who yelled at her: “‘Go blow yourself up in your own country and other things.’ Instead of helping or offering support, another white Anglo woman got involved and stuck up for the truck driver and began to abuse me.”

The release of the report comes soon after two high-profile incidents of Islamophobia made headlines.

Earlier this month, white nationalist posters calling for the deportation of TV host Waleed Aly and former ABC employee Yasmin Abdel-Magied, among others, were spread across various Sydney locations.

The offensive posters caused online outrage and sparked yet another public debate on Australia’s tolerance of racism. The NSW Police Force is reportedly investigating who is behind the posters.

In another incident, Zohab Zee Khan, an Australian poetry slam champion and fourth generation Australian-Pakistani made headlines while visiting the Woden Plaza shopping centre in Canberra, where several members of the public expressed concern over his appearance and the fact he was ‘typing frantically’ on his laptop and ‘looking around’. A security guard approached Khan and said concern had been expressed over his appearance, suggesting he might pose a security threat.

Khan said he was “flabbergasted” with people’s concern and felt targeted.

The study has further highlighted the role and responsibility of witnesses, in cases like this, to report incidents of Islamophobia.

The Islamophobia study found that non-Muslims made up about 25 per cent of those reporting incidents of Islamophobia. In 75 per cent of the attacks reported, nobody intervened in the incidents.

Veiszadeh, who has also been on the receiving end of serious Islamophobic attacks in the past, said that Islamophobia undermines what Australia stands for. She said the Islamophobia study was only the start of a body of work that is needed to find solutions to the problem.

“Our goal is to essentially put ourselves out of a job where there is no need for this work, but I know this will take time and a lot of hard work.”  

Chief Executive Officer of the Diversity Council of Australia, Lisa Annese, told the audience this report was long overdue.

“Up until yesterday, when people said Islamophobia isn’t real, I can now show them the data.” 

The Point

New report shows women and children most threatened by Islamophobia

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