- The second Islamophobia in Australia report cites 349 incidents reported in 24 months (2016-17)
- This and previous reports indicate only the ‘tip of an iceberg’, as under-reporting of hate crimes and related incidents is an ongoing problem worldwide
- Islamophobia is not just a problem for Muslims, but requires national engagement if Australia is to maintain social cohesion
The 2019 Islamophobia in Australia report suggests that hate incidents are not just a problem for Muslims, but will need national engagement if Australia is to maintain social cohesion and live up to its multicultural legacy.
The report, which was led by chief investigator Dr Derya Iner from Charles Sturt University’s Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, offers a multi-faceted analysis of verified incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia by victims, proxies, and witnesses in the two-year period of 2016-17.
The report shows predominantly Muslim women and girls are being targeted with verbal abuse, profanities, physical intimidation and death threats in public places, most often while shopping, and most often by Anglo-Celtic male perpetrators.
Insults targeting Muslims’ religious appearance and religion was the highest in both reports online and offline, with almost all women respondents (96 per cent) targeted while wearing hijab.
Public visibility of
The most noteworthy difference between the first and second reports was the 30 per cent increase in harassment in places guarded by security officers and surveillance (60 per cent of incidents).
Perpetrators were not deterred by the public visibility of their attacks, or the vulnerability of their targets, with 57 per cent of female victims being unaccompanied at the time.
In at least 49 per cent of the 202 offline incidents, it was specifically mentioned that people were passing by but not offering help.
Muslim children vulnerable
The situation for Muslim children was particularly concerning and underscores the need for prevention strategies in schools.
The report shows that experiences of Islamophobic abuse start for children in pre-school years, when they were accompanied by their identifiably Muslim parents.
This continues in school years through multiple perpetrators in the school environment, such as school peers, teachers, school administration, other students’ parents or other adults targeting Muslim students on the way to school.
Intensity of hate rhetoric
The report shows the alarming intensity of hate rhetoric that groomed the Christchurch terrorist who carried out terrorist attacks in New Zealand earlier this year, as active in Australia three to five years ago.
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.
Following the previous report’s trend, the most severe level of hate, wanting to kill and/or harm Muslims, was the most dominant rhetoric, consisting of one-quarter of the entire online cases.
Online, there were dynamics of contagion at play with online communities reacting to the perpetrator’s posts with supportive emojis, comments and shares.
Sadly, the intensity of hate rhetoric was also present in physical cases, with 11 per cent of the 202 offline cases including death threats.
The fact some Australian Muslims could not go about their ordinary life without receiving a death threat from a stranger opens serious questions about how Muslim identity has been publicly crafted.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Dr Iner noted that the number of incidents discloses only the ‘tip of an iceberg’, as under-reporting of hate crimes and related incidents is an ongoing problem worldwide.
“This is especially the case where continuous anti-Muslim sentiment in political and media discourse becomes normalised, desensitising the public,” she said.
“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.”
The Islamophobia Register Australia is launching a crowdfunding campaign as it relies on community funds to maintain its independence. The next report will include data from before and after the Christchurch tragedy.Copies of the report are available at www.islamophobia.com.au.