Immigration Minister David Coleman has denounced the occurrence of Islamophobia in Australia, detailed in the “Islamophobia in Australia – II” report, announcing that he was “appalled” by the findings. The report released on Sunday 17 November 2019, outlines an alarming rise of Islamophobic incidents, which have been found to disproportionally target females (more than 70% of the victims) in public spaces.
In a statement, Minister Coleman stated that the government has no tolerance for racial or cultural prejudice which denigrates Australian Muslims and is “completely unacceptable” in our society.
The document 2019 Islamophobia in Australia report evaluated nearly 350 alleged incidents conducted by the Islamophobia Register Australia between 2016 and 2017. This is the second review, conducted by the Islamophobia Register Australia which reveals that the proportion of recorded incidents have doubled in the previous 15 months.
Frequently, insults focused on appearance with 96 per cent of female respondents wearing a hijab at the time.
The research exemplified a concerning trend with harassment in public areas guarded by security officers and CCTV surged by 30 per cent. It found that the perpetrators were in most cases men of Anglo-Celtic background. Most disturbingly, there has been an increase in severe attacks requiring hospitalisation, which jumped from 2 per cent to 5 per cent.
In numerous examples, victims noted that people who were passing by did not offer to help. These incidents recognised individuals that were subject to verbal abuse, profanities, physical intimidation and death threats in places such as shopping centres.
Providing further clarity to the findings, lead author Dr Derya Iner from Charles Sturt University admitted that the true number of incidents is likely to be much greater than that of the 349 recorded cases, due to the persistent problem of under-reporting.
Certainly, the report has succeeded in raising awareness of the necessary actions for ensuring justice moving forward.
“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 findings concurred.
“This is especially the case where continuous anti-Muslim sentiment in political and media discourse becomes normalised, desensitising the public,” elaborated Dr Iner.
The report highlights that an endemic social problem exists within the wider community that cannot be ignored or downplayed any longer. Furthering this, Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan acknowledged the detrimental effects on the society at large.
“Australian society has a responsibility to ensure the safety of its Muslim communities, and we must be united in condemning Islamophobia and all forms of racial hatred,” declared Commissioner Tan.
Amongst dozens of examples were cases which involved a fake gun, as well as a number of circumstances where bystanders failed to assist the victim.
In painful memory following the Christchurch mosques attack in March, discrimination is increasingly pronounced for the faithful especially as the government continues to draft protections under religious freedom law.
“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,” asserted Dr Iner.
Across the political divide, politicians including Labor’s immigration spokesperson Andrew Giles has condemned the behaviour stating his rejection to racism and religious discrimination of any kind.
“It’s time for all Australians to stand together in hope and reject hate,” declared Mr Giles.
Whilst, in the NSW parliament, Muslim Senator Shaoquett Moselmane formally presented a motion acknowledging the report and the corresponding community endorsement from Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) & Australian National Imams Council (ANIC).
“Everyone has the right to live their life free of such hatred and vitriol. AFIC calls on Australia’s political leadership to stand firm against such actions and to work with the community to introduce policies that will foster social harmony and bring the perpetrators of such incidents to justice,” proclaimed AFIC.
Indeed, freedom of religion is fundamental to Australian society. Australians of all religions should be able to practice their faith free of prejudice.
Ultimately, where should the line be drawn between freedom of speech and ethical expression? If the monster of self-expression becomes out of control, then where will it stop? There will be no winners.