The majority of bystanders do not intervene when they witness an Islamophobic attack in public, according to a report released this week.
The Islamophobia in Australia report was conducted by the Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation, Charles Sturt University and the Islamophobia Register of Australia. It is believed to be the first study of its kind in Australia.
The researchers analysed 243 incidents reported to the Islamophobia Register of Australia between September 2014 and December 2015.
In 75 percent of the cases, no one intervened to help the victim.
One woman described her sense of helplessness as she was verbally attacked at a train station while witnesses watched on silently.
“…I was walking with my head down and a group of young males yelled out ‘ISIS B****’ ‘go back to where you came from’ and snickered and said ‘shh or she’ll behead you.’ And followed me down the street. None of the train staff helped me out or stopped them.”
Muslim women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of Islamophobic attacks, with 67.7 per cent of reported incidents involving women.
Nearly 80 percent of female victims were wearing a hijab and one in three had their children with them at the time of the attack.
Lone males were more likely to be the perpetrator, while lone Muslim women tended to be the victims. A staggering 98 percent of perpetrators were identified as Anglo-Celtic.
While the study found a spike in Islamophobic attacks immediately after terrorist-related events, terrorism was only explicitly mentioned in 11 percent of the reported incidents. The most common verbal insults were targeted at the victims’ gender, race and religious clothing.
The report identified several ‘harassment hotspots’ where Islamophobic attacks were most likely to occur, such as shopping centres, train stations and schools.
Lead researcher Dr Derya Iner said the occurrence of attacks in public spaces makes anti-Muslim sentiment visible to a wide audience, including children.
“These locational details alarmingly indicate that Islamophobia is becoming ‘acceptable’ for everyday Australians while becoming ‘expectable’ for everyday Australian Muslims,” Dr Iner wrote in ABC Religion and Ethics.
“The normalisation of Islamophobia is destructive, not only for the vilified individuals, but also for the silent audience.”
Rebecca Beisler from UCA Relations with Other Faiths has written an op-ed on why it is time to take a stand against Islamophobia.