‘Do I say anything or do I survive?’: Muslim Australians share experiences of Islamophobia

When Mona El Baba was in highschool, a trainer informed her she was “too stupid” to take a authorized research class and was destined to be “another Muslim housewife”.

“He said, ‘if my mum were to see you she would spit on your hijab’,” El Baba says. “I have never forgotten that”.

According to a brand new survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission, 80% of Muslim individuals dwelling in Australia have skilled some type of unfavourable remedy based mostly on their faith, race or ethnicity.

Half of all respondents had acquired unfavourable remedy from legislation enforcement, or when searching for employment. Some 29%, like El Baba, had been discriminated in opposition to in a faculty setting. And but regardless of that harassment, 74% of the 1,017 respondents mentioned they felt Australian, and 63% mentioned they discovered Australia welcoming.

El Baba is now 32-years-old and the principal solicitor and founder of El Baba attorneys in western Sydney.

She has skilled harassment on the premise of her faith for 20 years, since she donned the hijab on the age of 12. She additionally represents others who’ve misplaced work or been harassed by police attributable to their religion.

“I find sometimes that if I have the hijab on, but I am in a different part of the city, I experience discrimination to this day,” she says.

The survey was commissioned within the wake of the 2019 Christchurch mosque assaults, by which an Australian man shot lifeless 51 worshipers. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents mentioned the phobia assault made them really feel afraid to be in Australia, whereas 60% mentioned they weren’t stunned {that a} mosque had been focused.

One man who responded to the survey mentioned, “we are afraid while standing for Friday prayers that it could be our last prayer”.

A younger girl informed the survey she “felt like a target with my hijab”.

“I didn’t want my family to go out. I just didn’t know how to keep anyone safe but at the same time felt too scared to not do anything.”

Rita Jabri-Markwell, a spokesperson for the Australian Muslim Advocacy Movement, says she hopes the survey will encourage individuals to speak concerning the trauma of the Christchurch assaults.

“We don’t talk about it fully,” she says. “A lot of men in our community are very stoic about it … I think it will spur a lot of conversations around the Eid table about how it has affected us.

“The fact that it was an Australian terrorist, he was born and raised here, and since the attack the Australian government has not really accepted that Islamophobia is a problem”.

There is a reluctance to acknowledge the position that Islamophobia in Australia had within the Christchurch assaults, says Jabri-Markwell.

“I think on some deep level people do hold the idea that it’s OK to discriminate against Muslims because of terrorism,” she says. “And that is inherently racist. You can’t attribute responsibility to a whole group of people based on the actions of a few.”

New South Wales has no civil legislation protections for discrimination on the premise of faith. Only Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory have civil protections for each spiritual discrimination and non secular vilification.

Sydney lawyer Zaahir Edries is in-house counsel for GetUp. He says the shortage of uniform authorized protections for Muslims dealing with discrimination is consultant of the political tradition in Australia, which has used Muslims as a political soccer in anti-terror legal guidelines and immigration legal guidelines since 2001.

Edries was learning engineering at college in Perth on the time. After the September 11 assaults, he says, friends and lecturers started treating him otherwise. “Even though I sound like I do, and play all the sports, and I do all the things that a good immigrant should do … it was not good,” he says.

Edries was born in South Africa however has a broad Australian accent. Before 9/11, he was singled out for his pores and skin color, or for being a migrant, however by no means for his faith.

Afterwards, he turned each scapegoat and spokesperson, anticipated to clarify and apologise for the actions of a small group of individuals on the opposite aspect of the world. “Your relationship with the world adjusts immediately,” he says. “I was not looking to hide my Islamic identity … but the questions you would get asked – anyone could come up to you and the curiosity that may have been there before was replaced with a sense of entitlement.

“I needed to reassure people about something that happened on the other side of the world, that had nothing to do with me, with my culture, with my upbringing. Now suddenly you had to be an expert in everything that’s going on in the world; an expert in geopolitics, in my faith. No one else is asked all these complex questions about their faith other than Muslims.”

The expertise prompted him to change to legislation college.

Like Edries, Jabri-Markwell was learning at college in 2001. She doesn’t put on hijab, and says many of her classmates appeared to not realise she was Muslim.

“I was hearing the racism but not saying anything. Which was killing me from the inside, it was like drinking poison.

“I was hearing people in my class joking that we should just nuke the whole Middle East, destroy Arabs like bugs. And I was sitting there thinking, do I say anything or do I survive?”

Edries was fortunate, he says, to have been in his late teenagers in 2001, sufficiently old to see the way in which the political rhetoric round Muslims modified, and to see the Islamophobia sweep in. Younger individuals have by no means identified completely different.

“We have young adults now who were born politicised,” he says.

Race discrimination commissioner Chin Tan says the report reveals the necessity for pressing nationwide consideration to help Muslim communities and “improve social cohesion”.

“It’s not enough to simply condemn racism,” he says. “We need a coordinated strategy that works on many fronts to actively counter racism at the various levels that it occurs.”

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