How Australia is fighting bigotry against Muslims

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SHAFAQNA – Joining efforts to combat growing Islamophobia in Australia, two Victorian women have launched an online initiative to show support for victims of anti-Muslim attacks in the south-eastern state.

“I don’t think people realize how it impacts on individuals,” Susie Latham told Herald Sun on Sunday, May 31.

“If you don’t agree with what’s being said there’s nowhere to say ‘hey, if you’re saying stuff about Muslims you’re not saying it on my behalf.’”

Disturbed by the surge of Islamophobic attacks across the country, Latham along with her friend and human rights academic Linda Briskman launched a website that aims to fight bigotry.

The website, voicesagainstbigotry.org, urges Australians to add their name to a list of people denouncing discrimination against Muslims.

Launched last month, the anti-hate website drew more than 400 names in just over a week.

Besides fighting rising anti-Muslim sentiments, the initiative was also prompted by reports about the launch of an anti-Muslim political party by the end of this year.

“It’s just something that was the final straw for me, I just thought we don’t really need that sort of thing in Australia, we should try to at least provide an alternative voice,” Latham said.

In the post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted by suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.

A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.

A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and racism  treatment like never before.

The Preston’s anti-Islamophobia initiative reflects growing opposition to Muslim hatred in Australia.

Last week, an Australian man was assaulted and punched in the face after standing up for three Muslim women who were the targets of a racial and bigoted attack on a train in Melbourne.

Praise

The Muslim community welcomes the online initiative as a step in the right direction.

“We do receive a lot of abusive emails, but you can count on your fingers the people who email or ring to say ‘we are with you, and we sympathize with you,’” Islamic Association of Australia president Muhammad Wahid told Herald Sun.

“The website is a good initiative. It’s very welcomed in the community.”

The website serves as a platform where Muslim victims of discrimination can share their abuse experiences.

In one case, a Muslim working as a halal butcher recalled how he was horrified after a woman shouted racial slurs at himself and his cousin, calling them “boat people”, “rapists” and “murderers”.

“The whole of the shopping centre was watching. No one said a word,” the supporter wrote.

“As she was storming us with hatred words my mind was away. Believe me, l hated myself.”

He went on saying:  “I never felt frightened, not even during the killing days in central Baghdad, but that day at the butcher shop l was horrified, frightened, less secure.”

Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7% of its 20 million population.

Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.

Recent statistics revealed that a growing number of Australian Muslim parents were enrolling their children in Islamic schools, seeing it as the best way to avoid bullying and harassment they face in state schools.

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