Muslim leaders have accused Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott of fuelling the surge in Islamophobic crimes sweeping the country
Elham Asaad Buaras
Australia’s Muslim leaders have slammed their Prime Minister’s silence on the series Islamophobic attacks sweeping the country following the recent anti-terrorism raids.
Community leaders have said they are deeply worried that the provocative rhetoric by Tony Abbott and other ministers is fueling attacks against Muslims in Australia which have included mosques being vandalised and death threats issued to Muslim figures.
According to the Sydney-based Muslim Legal Network (MLN), as of October 9 there have been 30 attacks reported on Muslims since the first anti-terror raids in Sydney on September 18 and most of these attacks were on women wearing the hijab.
The incidents follow raids in Sydney and Brisbane involving more than 800 police officers, who allegedly disrupted an Islamic State (IS) plot to publicly behead a member of the public.
The Australian Government has committed forces to take on IS in Iraq and has raised the domestic alert level to “high”. New laws are set to be introduced to give intelligence officials greater powers when dealing with terrorism suspects.
While national security agencies have been boosted with almost $650 million in new funding, Muslim leaders are critical of the level of police resources put into stopping Islamophobic crimes at street level.
The recorded Islamophobic incidents includes a woman threatened with having her hijab torn from her head and set alight, a cup of coffee was thrown through the car window of a woman driving in a hijab, and a pig’s head and cross were thrown into the grounds of a Brisbane mosque.
In one alarming Islamophobic attack a 26-year-old Muslim woman suffered injuries after being abused, assaulted and thrown off a moving train in Melbourne.
Detective Senior Constable Michael Potter was said the attack had a “massive effect” on the victim, calling it “totally unacceptable.”
The victim had her head bashed into the wall of the train a number times by an unknown woman who was shouting abuse before being pushed off the train, said Victorian police spokesperson.
A mother in western Sydney was spat on and had the pram carrying her baby kicked.
A list of verbal attacks includes a Muslim mother in Melbourne who was warned to remove her child from playing with group of non-Muslim children at a play park.
In Brisbane a car and a house belonging to two separate Muslim families were shot at on September 26.
A shotgun was used to fire into the Kentish Street house, at Mount Gravatt East, while several hundred metres away shots were fired into a car at Dunbar Street.
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), met Government ministers to call on them to publicly condemn the Islamophobic attacks.
“We’ve told them they need to fire their speech writers,” said ICV executive member Almir Colan. “In private they say they support us, but we don’t want to hear it in private, we want to hear it in public.
“We want the Prime Minister to lower the rhetoric and concentrate on responsible, productive language. If Tony Abbott used strong words, if he said that an attack on Muslims is an attack on all of us, that would isolate the bigots and reassure Muslims.”
Colan said the Muslim community was dismayed at comments made by a Palmer United Party Senator, Jacqui Lambie, who told Parliament that supporters of Islamic Shari’a law were “maniacs and depraved humans” who would use rape and murder to force every Australian woman to wear a the niqab.
Colan asked, “Why is the Prime Minister not condemning those comments? He talks about team Australia, but we feel it’s like a citizenship test, that we have to keep proving ourselves. It gives indirect permission for bigots to attack us.
“We feel excluded from team Australia. That phrase has caused so many negative divisions in our community. It feels more like team Abbott.”
A note that the ICV said appeared to threaten Muslims with death was recently left near a mosque in Doncaster, Victoria.
Threats have also reportedly been made against the Grand Mufti of Australia, Lakemba mosque and Auburn mosque.
The word “evil” was daubed on a mosque in Mareeba, in Queensland, while anti-Muslim slogans were sprayed on a car in Liverpool, New South Wales.
Women wearing the hijab have reported being verbally abused on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne, with one woman claiming that a man tried to run her over at a school crossing as she attempted to pick up her daughter.
Islamophobic comments have become commonplace on Twitter and Facebook, with social media users calling on Muslims to be beheaded, deported or blown up.
Abbott has stressed that everyone is on “team Australia” and has called the Muslim community “absolutely first-class Australians”. But he has also criticised Muslims who protested in Lakemba over the raids and called the ICV “foolish” for not meeting with him in the wake of his “team Australia” comments.
“There are some signs the Government is listening, but the language isn’t catching up,” Colan said. “There must be more vocal support for Muslims.
“If there isn’t, I’m worried that more Australians will become radicalised against Muslims. All of this talk, especially from the media, is giving these bigots oxygen. They feel they have cover, they feel as if they are invisible in this cloud of Islamophobia.”
Co-founder of the Australian Arabic Council, Joseph Wakim, said that Abbott needed to make a “clear and bold statement” against Islamophobia.
“When he uses his rhetoric of team Australia, he needs to remind people that team Australia isn’t about the kicking of Muslims, it’s not about kicking fellow members of your team who have been part of this community for several centuries,” said Wakim.