The multiplier effect of violence online-offline: the third Islamophobia Report

15 MARCH 2022

The multiplier effect of violence online-offline: the third Islamophobia Report

The third Islamophobia in Australia report shows the mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 sparked a wave of online and offline hatred against Muslims.

  • The third Islamophobia in Australia report cites 247 incidents reported in 24 months (January 2018 to December 2019) and includes an analysis of the pre- and post-Christchurch massacre period, demonstrating the nature of offline-online interaction and how it can maximise harm
  • 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
  • The report also considers legal responses, pointing to the need for a comprehensive review of Australia’s response to Islamophobia

The third Islamophobia in Australia report shows the mosque massacres in Christchurch, New Zealand in March 2019 sparked a wave of online and offline hatred against Muslims.

This wave showed how online hatred can socialise individuals towards physical world violence, and offline violence can spark more violence online.

The report, led by chief investigator Dr Derya Iner in the Charles Sturt University Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, offers a multi-faceted analysis of verified incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia (IRA) by victims, proxies, and witnesses in the two years of 2018-19.

The report also reveals patterns and trends over the three reports since 2014-15.

The effect of the Christchurch mosque attacks on hate incidents

Beginning from the first hours of the Christchurch Mosque attacks and for the next two weeks, the ecosystem that socialised the Australian perpetrator became hyper-visible online.

Reporting of offline cases to the IRA increased by four times, while reporting of online cases increased 18 times within the two weeks after the Christchurch attacks.

When pre- and post-Christchurch incidents in 2018-19 are compared, an increase is observed in the hate rhetoric that presumes Muslims kill (from 21 per cent to 27 per cent), association with terrorism (35 per cent to 39 per cent), and attacks against religious appearance (46 per cent to 50 per cent).

Death threats sharply increased in the post-Christchurch period. Calls for mass killing of Muslims and civil war increased from 25 per cent to 58 per cent, threats to kill increased from 0 per cent to 19 per cent and calls to shoot Muslims increased from 0 per cent to 14 per cent.

Wanting to kill (the most severe hate) increased from 10 per cent to 28 per cent after the Christchurch attacks. The increase was sharper in social media platforms (25 per cent to 42 per cent).

Regardless of the increasing hate level and inciting hate, reporting to police remained low (29 per cent in offline and 9 per cent online cases).

On social media, sympathisers with the Australian perpetrator justified or glorified his attack, called for more deadly and bloody attacks on Muslims, or declared their willingness to follow the Christchurch terrorist by killing Australian Muslims once a ‘civil war’ starts in Australia.

Fraser Anning, an Australian Senator at the time, inspired support online by arguing Muslims were a hostile mass, missing in human qualities, and deserving of collective punishment.

Post-Christchurch intolerance and severity among hate circles indicate the mobilising effect of the Christchurch terrorist on far-right extremists who shared his views.

Seeing Muslims as a dangerous threat, outlining anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, and justifying why ‘Muslims deserve no lands’ (Case 74, 12 May 2019) echoed the narratives contained in his so-called manifesto.

For victims, unknown perpetrators were feared as much as the known ones.

“The nature of the Christchurch attacks and their origin and effects online prove that treating online violence as less real is illusory and unhelpful,” Dr Iner said.

“A person publicly calling everyone to mass-murder Muslims or expressing his joy online for the idea of burning every single Muslim was not any less real for the target groups.”

Offline experiences

The report also showed that Islamophobic hate incidents in physical circumstances continue to be very gendered.

Perpetrators were predominantly male (74 per cent), and victims were predominantly women (82 per cent). Of the 103 victims reported to the Register, 85 per cent were women wearing hijab.

Anti-Muslim abuse in guarded areas continued to increase (from 37 per cent in the first report, 60 per cent in the second, and 75 per cent in the present report). Anti-Muslim abuse frequented public places (63 per cent), pointing to the need to activate bystanders and security services.

The reported incidents disclose that the perpetrator profile is diverse, ranging from homeless people and drug addicts to university staff and art gallery visitors.

Some perpetrators carried out hate while in the presence of their own families, showing how socially acceptable this form of racism can be.

The 10 cases of mosque vandalism reported to the IRA after the Christchurch attacks were recapped as ‘memories from Christchurch triggered’.

‘Whole of Society’ approach needed

“Australia showcased its solidarity and support in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks,” Dr Iner said.

“This potential should be activated in a sustained, long-term way.

“A whole society approach can help us foster a strong culture to overcome racism and hate which lead to discrimination, vilification and even violence.”

Obtain copies of the Islamophobia in Australia report.

Report an Islamophobic incident.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Derya Iner contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

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