SHAFAQNA – Muslims are just the latest group to be demonised in Australian society in a practice that dates back to the earliest days of European settlement, according to the head of Australia’s peak Muslim body.
Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) president Rateb Jneid says there can be no doubt anti-Islam sentiment in the country is growing.
“Australia has a history of isolating groups from the mainstream and there is no question that it is Muslims that are currently the focus of this practice,” Dr Jneid told AAP.
“There has been a clear trajectory of increasing negative stereotyping and discrimination of Muslims in this country for nearly two decades.”
Dr Jneid said the current climate left Muslims in Australia feeling ostracised and fearful.
He said Australian society needed to recognise its own struggles with discrimination before anything could be done to reverse the situation.
“Until such time as we are prepared to acknowledge the racism that underpinned the very creation of this country we will not be able to properly address the ongoing issues faced by other minority groups including Muslims,” he said.
“Secondly, this is a leadership issue. There will be no significant change on these issues until such time as our political leaders step up, call out this behaviour for what it is and denounce it as something which is not part of what Australia stands for.”
A 2017 report into Islamophobia in Australia by Charles Sturt University concluded there was a “disturbing amount” of the practice at institutional and personal levels in Australia.
The report also features statistics from the Islamophobia Register which showed external events such as “global and national terrorist attacks, sieges, legislation targeting Australian Muslims and protests” coincided with an increase in reports of incidents.
Dr Jneid is not surprised by those findings and says the rise of far-right political parties such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Australian Liberty Alliance showed anti-Islam sentiment was not an underground issue.
“We have politicians attending far-right and Islamophobic rallies, openly expressing views that clearly raise fear, anxiety and distrust of Muslim Australians,” he said.
“Almost every day there is a negative story of Muslims in one of the national media platforms.
“For all the cries of political correctness supposedly stopping people expressing themselves, there seems to be no shortage of individuals in the public domain who are openly and repeatedly demonising Muslims.”