There has been a three fold increase in the reported incidents of Islamophobia in Australia after the Paris attacks.

The preliminary findings, which are based on reported incidents to the Islamophobia Register, Australia over a 12 month period were presented to the Second Australasian Conference on Islam in Sydney.

“Our preliminary findings offer a small window into the types of racially and religiously motivated hate incidents taking place out in suburban Australia.” Mariam Veiszadeh, Lawyer and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia told the conference.

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“Based on our preliminary observations, the victims appear to be predominately women wearing religious headwear and an alarming number appear to be taking place in the presence of young children.” She said.

The conference on Radicalisation & Islamophobia, Roots, Relationships and Implications in Religiously Diverse Societies was held in Parramatta, Western Sydney from Monday 30 November to Tuesday 1 December organized by ISRA and Charles Sturt University.

A report titled “The resilience and ordinariness of Australian Muslims” containing a survey of almost 600 Muslims in Sydney by Western Sydney University and Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA) was released at the conference

The study found that Muslims in Sydney experience discrimination at three times the rate of other Australians, but most believe relations between Muslims and non-Muslims are friendly.

The report’s main author Professor Kevin Dunn, said the survey was further evidence of high rates of Islamophobia in Australia.

But he said the fact that Muslims face high levels of discrimination “yet still believe Islam is compatible with Australian norms, bodes well for the future”.

“Because of things that are happening in the world and the various representations of Muslims, and these are problematic, and it means that some people unfortunately feel more emboldened to say things and do things which are prejudicial and which are hurtful towards Muslims,” Professor Dunn said.

He also said that most Sydney Muslims had a high sense of religiosity that was positively associated with a sense that Islamic ways align with Australian norms.

Some of the key findings of the study included:

  • 57 per cent had experienced racism.
  • 62 per cent had experienced racism in the workplace or when seeking employment.
  • 1 in 10 Sydney Muslims had “very high” rates of exposure to racism.
  • 86 per cent believed relations between Australian Muslims and non-Muslims were friendly.

The conference also witnessed the launching of a book by the conference convenor Dr Derya Iner, and Salih Yucel published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing “Muslim Identity Formation in Religiously Diverse Societies as well as the launch of an e-journal  “Australian Journal of Islamic Studies”.

The two day conference included a large number of presenters from US, UK, New Zealand and all states of Australia, mainly academics  and researchers on Islam and Muslim Societies as well as PhD students and professionals.

The keynote speaker Professor John Esposito, from Georgetown University, USA spoke at length on the root causes of radicalization that need to be addressed.

“One of the things that does wind up alienating some youth is the extent to which anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic diatribe, hate crimes, attacks on mosques make people feel alienated and marginalised from their societies,” he said.

On a global level he said that radicalization and violent extremism was not as a result of religious teachings but use of religion for political purposes specially among societies living under authoritarian regimes suffering from injustice and repression.

He advised that Western governments need to review their foreign policies with respect to support for authoritarian regimes in the middle East as well as to check Islamophobia in general.

Deakin University Professor Greg Barton, a counter-terrorism said that a recent spike in protests against mosques and multiculturalism fuels the ISIL message.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s comments after the Parramatta shooting had strengthened ties with the Muslim community”, he said.

Professor Barton concluded that Mr Turnbull’s rhetoric was inclusive and measured in comparison to those of former prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Ms Randa Abdel-Fattah in her third year of PhD at Macquarie University told conference attendees the anti-halal debate in Australia was being fuelled by Islamophobic remarks from politicians and the media.

Ms Abdel-Fattah said the language from certain politicians and media commentators had contributed to an increased sense of fear towards Muslims and Muslim-related issues, such as halal food.

In a message to the conference Senator Concetta Fierraventi-Wells, Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs welcomed the conference’s focus on the causes of radicalization as well as looking at Islamophobia in the Australian Society.