A new large-scale study from Charles Sturt University reveals that women who wear head coverings (hijab) are most at risk of abuse.
The study analysed several hundred cases of alleged Islamic-based discrimination, known as Islamophobia and found that almost three quarters of victims of verbal abuse were women who wore a hijab at the time of the incident.
The report stated that “predominantly Muslim women and girls are being targeted with verbal abuse, profanities, physical intimidation and death threats in public places, most often while shopping, and most often by Anglo-Celtic male perpetrators.”
The data was collected by an online ‘‘Islamophobia register’ that feeds raw data to a research team at the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation at Charles Sturt University. In total, 349 cases were reported to the online register in the 24 months between 2016 and 2017.
The cases were not entirely self-reported. A startling 41 percent of incidents were logged by witnesses. The report claimed that this indicated “the majority of surrounding people did not ignore the case but did not intervene” but also that “This may have been because they did not know how to do so without putting themselves in danger”.
Almost three quarters of the abusers were men.
This latest report is the second study to be released from the ‘Islamophobia register’ since it was created more than 5 years ago. Since then, the report found a concerning shift in the level of ‘brazenness’ among perpetrators of abuse.
Harassment and abuse in public areas that were monitored by security officers and CCTV had jumped by 30 per cent since the last study, identifying shopping centres as a ‘hotspot for abuse’.
“The presence of security guards and cameras in shopping centres did not effectively deter perpetrators, nor did the presence of other people,” the report stated. “57 per cent of female victims being unaccompanied at the time.”
Shockingly, Islamophobic attacks requiring hospitalisation rose 3 per cent since the last study.
Even more concerning was the evidence that emerged that the second most common place for incidents occurred in schools and universities and that cases reported included racists slurs from other students, teachers, principals and sports coaches. Researchers of this study found that the presence of children did not deter abusers.
The study also collated 147 verified online incidents. The platform containing the more common occurrence of harassment was Facebook (63 per cent). It also reported a correlative spike in the level of abuse when overseas terror attacks occurred.
The study’s register, which was opened to the entire country, also concluded that Queensland was the third most likely state for an Islamophobic attack despite having the country’s fifth largest Muslim population.
Most concerning is the fact that these hate crimes and related incidents are most likely underreported.
“Islamophobia is not just a problem for Muslims, but requires national engagement if Australia is to maintain social cohesion,” the report stated.
Dr Derya Iner, chief investigator of the report, said the research indicates “the continuous anti-Muslim sentiment in political and media discourse,” and how it has “normalised, desensitised the public.”
“With Christchurch in our minds, we cannot afford to be complacent. Social cohesion is something that must be nurtured and repaired by all of us for the well-being and security of Australia.”