'Alarming' rise in attacks on Muslim women

A study reveals anti-Muslim behaviour is increasingly taking place in public places.
A study reveals anti-Muslim behaviour is increasingly taking place in public places.

The peak body for Australian Muslims says it's not surprised by a report that suggests Islamophobic incidents are on the rise, with girls and women the most likely to be abused in public.

Charles Sturt University's Islamophobia in Australia report, released on Monday, cites 349 incidents of Islamophobia over 2016 and 2017 involving "the perpetration of verbal and physical anti-Muslim abuse together with denigration of Muslim identity".

Almost three-quarters of the incidents were carried out against women, with 96 per cent of non-online female victims wearing a hijab at the time.

Almost four out of five reported perpetrators were of Anglo-Celtic origin and more than 70 per cent of all perpetrators were men.

The report also found 60 per cent of reported non-online Islamophobic incidents occurred in guarded places where police or security guards operated or where CCTV was installed such as shopping centres.

This was a 30 per cent increase on the prior two-year period.

"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," report lead author Dr Derya Iner said in a statement.

The report labels this "an alarming security problem".

Muslims Australia says the findings are troubling but not surprising.

"In an environment that has led to the Christchurch massacre and an increase in physical attacks on Mosques and community centres in Australia, these findings should be of concern to all Australians," the body said in a statement on Monday.

President Dr Rateb Jneid said: "The rise in far-right activism, racism, discrimination and the increase in cases of physical attacks is a threat to the social harmony of our country. Everyone has the right to live their life free of such hatred and vitriol."

The report found that of the 202 instances of non-online Islamophobia, 11 per cent involved damage to property and five per cent resulted in hospitalisation.

Online, some 63 per cent of the 147 reported incidents took place on Facebook, with 80 per cent "generically about Muslims" rather than targeted.

The report's authors said the data showed Islamophobic attitudes, particularly when directed towards women and children, were causing genuine harm.

A loud anti-Muslim minority also perceived a silent Australian majority as approving of public vilification, the report suggests.

"If unchecked, Islamophobia in rare but destructive cases can lead to tragic outcomes (as demonstrated in Christchurch)," the report says.

"This report serves as a call to Australian society as a whole, and to the Australian government, to overcome complacency and to actively address the dangers of religious-based vilification."

Federal Multicultural Affairs Minister David Coleman said the examples of discrimination in the report were "completely unacceptable".

"Freedom of religion is fundamental to Australian society," Mr Coleman said in a statement.

"Australians of all religions should be able to practice their faith free of prejudice.

"The behaviour outlined in the report is condemned in the strongest terms - Australia as a nation utterly rejects racism and religious discrimination of any kind."

Australian Associated Press