SHAFAQNA – Women wearing hijabs are most vulnerable to public Islamophobic attacks in Australia, while only one in four bystanders speaks out on behalf of victims.
These are the findings of a first-of-its kind report compiled by a number of universities alongside the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy of Australia and the Diversity Council Australia.
The study also found a rise in Islamophobic incidents in the aftermath of Daesh terrorist attacks.
The report, Islamophobia in Australia, used 243 reported incidents involving physical, verbal and online attacks between September 2014 and December 2015 and found that over two-thirds of attacks where gender was recorded, they were female.
Of those women attacked, 79.6 per cent were wearing a hijab.
Worryingly, intervention from onlookers is rare, with just one in four people speaking out on behalf of victims, despite about half of attacks taking place in public places, including shopping centers and train stations.
Linda Briskman, Margaret Whitlam Chair of Social Work at Western Sydney University, made significant contributions to the study and revealed the alarming nature of the findings.
‘The findings from the data collected by the Islamophobia Register reveal a disturbing number of reports from women’, she said, The Daily Mail reported.
Professor Briskman also added that perpetrators, nearly three-quarters of which were male, are targeting women as they see them as an easy target.
‘Women are particularly vulnerable in public places, especially those wearing head covering,’ she revealed.
‘We found that they are more vulnerable when pregnant or accompanied by children,and they’re not seen as being likely to speak back or attack.’
There was also a spike in incidents following media coverage as incidents tripled following the reports of the Federal Government’s 2014 plan to ban full face-coverings in the public gallery in parliament.
One particular incident saw Sydney mother Gada Omar verbally threatened by a group of men while sitting with friends while out shopping in the Sydney suburb of Rouse Hill.
‘All of a sudden we hear a guy say, “Have you seen how many effing Muslims there are?”‘ she revealed.
‘We looked up and there were five guys standing over us, they were probably in their early 20s. They said to us, “Do you know what a crow bar looks like?”‘
Ms Omar revealed after the incident, her 13-year-old son now fears going out in public.
‘He gets scared where he feels there might be gangs and they might target us because I’m a Muslim.’
Such fear has led to over two-thirds of Muslims failing to report attacks as Professor Briskman suggested despite the disturbing nature of the findings, it doesn’t reveal the full extent of the problem.
‘We believe that there is under-reporting as many people who are targets of Islamophobia are reluctant to report events.’
She also suggested the study will expose the deep-rooted issue and in turn provoke a change to the way the nation approaches the problem.
‘The purpose of collecting data is not to tell authorities what to do but it is hoped that by drawing attention to the extent of the problem that action will be taken to tackle Islamophobia in Australia.’