My Daily Advertiser Op Ed column for Tuesday 18 July 2017: Islamophobia flourishing at home and abroad, unfortunately

by ray goodlass

My main story for this week comes from a report published by own Charles Sturt University (CSU), which was headlined “Australian Muslim women who ventured out on their own were almost three times more likely to face harassment of an Islamophobic nature”.

This was one of the key findings in a first-of-its-kind research report on Islamophobia in Australia, released last week at the NSW Parliament as a joint study conducted by the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, CSU and the Islamophobia Register of Australia.

The report captures and critically analyses 243 verified incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register Australia between September 2014 and December 2015.

The key points of the report, which are unpleasant reading and something to be ashamed about, also show that there is a clear relationship between Islamic terrorist attacks and an increase in Islamophobic incidents.

Furthermore, media coverage is found to exacerbate Islamophobic attitudes, and 79.6 per cent of women abused were wearing head covering, and more than 30 percent were with children.

In cases where the gender of the victim was known, 67.7 per cent were female. Nearly three-quarters of abusers were male.

Linda Briskman, Margaret Whitlam Chair of Social Work at Western Sydney University and a key contributor to the study, said the gendered nature of the attacks was disturbing. “Women are often quite vulnerable, they’re out there in public spaces, they’re out with their children, and they’re not seen as being likely to speak back or attack,” she said.

“It’s a finding of great concern, and not only women themselves. When women are targeted it has an impact on their children.” She’s not wrong, these are disturbing findings.

“The Report offers a window into the types of religiously motivated Islamophobic incidents taking place out in suburban Australia and its release is especially timely as there is a continuing debate over the existence and the scale of Islamophobia in Australia” said Mariam Veiszadeh, Lawyer and President of the Islamophobia Register Australia.

The principle researcher and editor of the report Dr Derya Iner, a Senior Lecturer at CSU said, “The report documents and analyses the present manifestations of Islamophobia in Australia both at an institutional and individual level and provides authentic and vigorous data by quoting from the victims, their proxies and witnesses”.

Women, especially those with Islamic head covering (79.6% of the female victims), have been the main targets of Islamophobia and more than half of the female victims had their children with them at the time of the reported incident.

98% of perpetrators were identified as ethnically Anglo-Celtic, as indicated by the reporter and the typical perpetrator tended to be male.

On the same day as I read of this Australian research I read a key report that Israeli universities discriminate against their Palestinian students (‘Survey: Half of Arabs in University suffer racism’, Haaretz, Jerusalem, 5 July 2017).

The report went on to say that half of all Arab university students reported experiencing racism and discrimination in the academic setting, and some 40% say racist comments come from the faculty.

Readers might not be aware that Palestinians account for 20% of Israel’s population, that they also suffer discrimination in many other walks of life, and that the Israelis incorrectly insist on referring to them as Arabs rather than as Palestinians, no doubt in large part so as to avoid acknowledging their rights as a conquered people.