The Islamophobia Register Australia has just appointed Sharara Attai as its Executive Director and completed appointments of its Board of Directors. Here are a few words from Sharara…..

I have recently been appointed as the Executive Director of the Islamophobia Register Australia and I couldn’t be happier to be leading such an important organisation.

In 2014, social justice warrior Mariam Veiszadeh had the vision and foresight to establish the Register in response to growing anecdotal evidence of Islamophobia. Since its inception, Mariam and her team have taken the Register from strength to strength and the Register has quickly grown to become a significant organisation tackling Islamophobia in Australia.

I’m immensely honoured and humbled to be taking the reins.

Sharara Attai, Executive Director of Islamophobia Register Australia.

To tell you a bit about me and my background, I was most recently a refugee lawyer at the Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS) where I practised refugee and immigration law for 8 years. During my time there, I provided legal advice, assistance and representation to countless asylum seekers and refugees from a wide variety of countries. Assisting vulnerable and traumatised people has characterised much of my work over my time at RACS.

As well as refugee rights, I have also been involved in various forms of advocacy on a range of other issues including raising awareness on issues facing Australian Muslims in the West, promoting meaningful cross-cultural dialogue, and the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

At the same time that I was appointed in this role, an absolute powerhouse Board of Directors was also appointed. Our full (volunteer) board now comprises of Mariam Veiszadeh (Chair), Dr Derya Iner (Deputy Chair), Dr Susan Carland, Hilal Yassine, Mobinah Ahmad, Diana Sayed, Dr Nora Amath, Basim Alansari, Silma Ihram, Safiah Rind and Naima Ibrahim.

It’s an enormous privilege to be working alongside this board of incredible trailblazers, and with my dedicated team, to realise the Register’s vision and mission.

I am no stranger to Islamophobia. I have lived it, I have witnessed it, I have challenged it. I have personally experienced numerous instances of it over the years. From constant micro-aggressions, to being at the receiving end of the unimaginative yet deeply offensive verbal retort of ‘go back to where you came from’, to being physically harassed – I have felt the deep impact that Islamophobia can have.

I remember being in a shopping centre when a random woman saw me as she walked past and instantly started hurling abuse at me. I was 15 at the time and wearing my school uniform. The woman started calling me a terrorist and shouting at me that ‘your men raped our women’. She was an adult and I was a child. She didn’t know anything about me, other than that I was Muslim and ethnic….and a school student with less power than her.

Experiencing Islamophobia can leave you feeling scared, angry, humiliated, paranoid and blindsided, amongst other things. It can make you feel like a stranger in your own country and lead to an unfair and unhealthy fixation on constantly trying to prove your worth and your peacefulness.

When people can’t freely practise their religion or feel otherised and ostracised because of their religion – something that is so basic and core to a person’s identity – it eats away at their psyche and self-confidence and it threatens the very fabric of society. No woman, man or child should have to feel like that.

If we do experience or witness Islamophobia, we need to report it, call it out and hold perpetrators to account. If the scale of the problem isn’t known, it can’t adequately be addressed. Victims must be given the critical support they need to minimise the adverse effects of Islamophobia.

It’s for these reasons and more, that I’ve joined the Register. The Register offers a unique platform for victims, witnesses and allies alike to report instances of Islamophobia. We monitor Islamophobic incidents and publish reports detailing the prevalence of Islamophobia in Australia.

However, we know that Islamophobia is massively underreported and so I strongly encourage the community to get in touch with us if they experience Islamophobia – report, report, report! The Register also provides victim support services such as legal advice referrals, mental health referrals and advocacy. This year, we are looking to expand our activities and reach.

I am committed to raising awareness about Islamophobia and its impact, with a view to ultimately reducing the incidence of Islamophobia within Australia. I believe in the power of unity and collaboration, both within the Muslim community and externally.

Our efforts to tackle Islamophobia are infinitely stronger when we are united and work together. And so I invite people from all backgrounds and sectors to reach out to me – let’s meet and work out how we can work together to tackle Islamophobia.
We have developed an invaluable partnership with AMUST, who do incredible work in amplifying Muslim voices and who have committed to supporting us to combat Islamophobia in an impactful way. It is through these kinds of valued partnerships and collaborations that we can make maximal impact in this space.

We, at the Register have very exciting things in store for 2023 and we can’t wait to share more with you as the year progresses!