SYDNEY – Concerned about the sharp increase in hate attacks targeting Muslims and people of color, an Australian Muslim rights advocate has stressed that children should never become the target of racism and abuse.
“I’ve had friends who have been attacked, I’ve had friends driven off the road; I’ve had friends who’ve had their hijabs torn off in public,” Inaz Janif told SBS.
A report released on Wednesday found more Australians are reporting being the target of racism compared with 10 years ago.
The Scanlon Foundation’s “Mapping Social Cohesion” survey found the number of people saying they’ve experienced discrimination because of skin color, ethnic origin, or religion has more than doubled – from nine percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2017.
The results were not a surprise to Janif, who has experienced racism since she was a young teenager.
Applying for her first job, the then 18-year-old student was told to remove hijab if she wanted to work for the company.
“I guess it was difficult as an 18-year-old to know what to do,” the Victorian-based teacher and Muslim advocate told SBS News.
“But I stayed true to myself. A piece of fabric on my head has nothing to do with my employability.”
Seeing Muslim teenagers being abused by an adult, Janif decided to get vocal about racism.
“They told me ‘it’s happened before, I’m fine,’” she said.
“That’s a signal that young people are accepting of the violence and the hate that comes towards them, and that’s unacceptable to me and should be to everyone here.”
Janif added that she discovered Islamophobic posters targeting children at a primary school in another incident.
“Children should be off limits” to racist abuse, she said.
“And when grown adults are putting up this sort of thing on the weekend to target children I think we should all stand up and say this is unacceptable.
“It has a long-term impact on your mental health and wellbeing … It messes with your self-worth.”