Sydney’s Asma Fahmi was one of the women who reported an Islamophobic attack to the Islamophobia Register of Australia.Source:News Corp Australia
Sydney’s Asma Fahmi was one of the women who reported an Islamophobic attack to the Islamophobia Register of Australia.Source:News Corp Australia

75 per cent of people wouldn't stop Muslim abuse, report

IF you saw a woman being verbally attacked by a man in the street, would you stop to help?

The answer for many of us would seem to be a no brainer.

But a disturbing new report has revealed that if the woman being attacked is wearing a hijab, three out of four times we look the other way.

The startling statistic emerged in new analysis of Islamophobic-fuelled attacks reported to the Islamophobia Register of Australia in a 14-month period between 2014-15.

Charles Sturt University's Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp examined the 243 cases and made some confronting finds.

Women wearing a hijab or other Islamic head coverings are overwhelmingly bearing the brunt of public Islam hate attacks - and the overwhelming majority of the attacks are perpetrated by men.

Assoc Prof Ozalp's analysis found about 80 per cent of verified anti-Islam attacks were inflicted on Muslim women and about 75 per cent of the attacks were inflicted by Anglo men.

But perhaps even more frightening is the reluctance of bystanders to call out the often random, hate-fuelled attacks.

Just 25 per cent of victims reported that witnesses attempted to intervene.

One third of the women who reported being attacked had children with them at the time.

Assoc Prof Ozalp wrote in The Conversation that while there was a spike in attacks after terrorist-related events, mostly, the attacks were fuelled by the tightly held belief among many Australians that Muslims simply do not belong in Australia.

"They are simply at the receiving end of the anger and rage caused by the Islamophobic generalisation that something is inherently wrong with Muslims and Islam," he said.

"Significantly, evidence presented in the report suggests that Islamophobia is not rooted in Islamic terrorism as previously thought but rooted in Muslims' presence in Australia."

Sadly, it often takes little to provoke an attack on Muslims.

Yesterday, a Perth court heard carpenter Adam Peters ripped a headscarf from Hulya Kandemir, 35, and threw his beer bottle and rocks at her late last year, after she replied "happy holidays" to one of his children who wished her a Merry Christmas.

Perth Now reported Peters was sitting outside on a bench near a shopping centre drinking a beer before the scuffle ensued.

He urged his daughter to wish Ms Kandemir a Merry Christmas and attacked her with a volley of racial abuse when he did not like her reply.

Ms Kandemir told the court that Peters called her a "f***ing Muslim c***" before the attack took place.

He allegedly also hurled rocks at her as she ran away.

A witness said she heard Peters tell the Muslim woman he would kill her next time he saw her.

It also emerged yesterday that fourth generation Pakistani-Australian and spoken word poet

Zohab Zee Khan was spoken to by a security guard in the food court of a Canberra shopping centre, after he set up his laptop to work and shoppers raised concerns about him.

"This might sound funny, but quite a few people have been complaining about you typing and looking around," the security guard told him.

"They think you might be up to something."

Mr Khan described the incident as a "kick in the guts".

"I genuinely cannot remember the last time I have been more upset at the utter rubbish that is paranoid ignorant xenophobes," he said.

But while there remains an apparently deeply-entrenched suspicion of Muslims in some parts of the Australian community, the study by Assoc Prof Ozalp also unearthed those who do not stand for it.

While 25 per cent of witnesses did not get involved in attacks on Muslims, the same percentage of non-Muslims actually reported attacks they had witnessed to the Islamophobia Register.

Assoc Prof Ozalp wrote that Islamophobia had long been a problem in Australia, and, in particular, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But he said should the issue continue to be ignored, it will become entrenched more deeply.

"The reaction has often been the attitude, 'Australians always pick on the latest arrivals, it seems it is the Muslims' turn, it will soon go away as it did for others in the past.'

"The problem is it is not going away. It is increasing.

"Recognition of Islamophobia does not diminish the achievements of Australian society and the success of its multiculturalism.

"It will merely highlight a social problem that cannot be ignored or downplayed any longer."

"An important aspect of Australian liberal democracy is the protection of its minorities.

"Minorities do not always have a voice in politics or media, and can often find themselves overwhelmed by negative perceptions and antagonism.

"Ignoring Islamophobia will only entrench the problem more deeply."