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‘Our Differences Are the Best Part’: Woman Hopes Australians Can Accept Muslims

Growing up as a hijabi Muslim in Australia, Inaz Janif believes the time has come for those in power to take action against rising hate crimes targeting the religious minority, SBS reported.

“I think people who are influential have to set the bar, they have to set the tone for society and make sure that everybody, no matter where they come from and no matter their characteristics or the unique features they have, are accepted,” she told SBS News.

“I think our differences are the best part of us.”

Janif was particularly worried after the annual Scanlon Foundation report, released last Tuesday, which found negative attitudes about Muslims in Australia remain high.

Though she has never been physically assaulted, verbal abuse is common.

“It’s quite often while driving, even with my children with me, that I’m verbally assaulted. I’ve had my children ask me ‘why is that person so angry mum?’ ‘Why are they saying things about us being Muslim?'” she said.

Members of the Muslim community at Lakemba Mosque in Sydney.
Members of the Muslim community at Lakemba Mosque in Sydney. AAP

Government Action

Supporting Janif’s opinion, Mohammad Al-Khafaji, CEO of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, said anti-Muslim sentiment is an issue the government needs to address.

“That should be a warning sign for all of us, and especially for our political leaders, to make sure that we address this issue before it becomes a bigger problem,” he said.

“We know that there was a recent study released by the Islamophobia Register that has quantified some of those complaints and some of those attacks on people from Muslim backgrounds.

“We need to make sure that there are policies and social cohesion programs in place that facilitate a meeting between people so they understand each other’s differences, each other’s faiths, each other’s cultures.”

According to the 2016 Australian Census, the number of Muslims in Australia constituted 604,200 people, or 2.6% of the total Australian population, an increase of over 15% of its previous population share of 2.2% reported in the previous census 5 years.

Rising Hate

Women wearing a hijab or other Islamic head coverings are overwhelmingly bearing the brunt of public Islam hate attacks, making up almost 80 percent of victims.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of the attacks (75 percent) were perpetrated by Anglo men and NSW has the most reported physical assaults — 60 per cent.

The alarming statistics were revealed by the Islamophobia Register Australia in July 2017, showing 243 verified incidents of harassment between September 2014 and December 2015.

The Islamophobia Register Australia was established in 2014 in response to growing anecdotal evidence of Islamophobic discrimination.