WIDESPREAD discrimination is normal for Australian Muslims, according to a report by the Australian Human Rights Commission.
The report, released July 2021, shares the stories of Australian Muslims, inclusive of the good, bad, and ugly.
The ugly, otherwise known as Islamophobia is a “form of racism that includes various forms of violence, violations, discrimination and subordination,” according to the Islamophobia Register.
The cultural ostracization felt by the Muslim community after the terrifying Christ Church NZ attack on March 15, 2021, is the catalyst for Sharing the Stories of Australian Muslims.
Eighty per cent of the report’s survey respondents had experienced prejudice or discrimination against their Muslim Heritage.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan said Australian Muslim communities are significant contributors to economic, social, and charitable infrastructures in society, yet they are still victims of “widespread discrimination.”
“Australia prides itself on being a diverse country, where equality and opportunity are afforded to all,” he said.
“If we are to live up to these values, urgent national attention is required to improve social cohesion.
“Supporting and including diverse communities enriches the whole country.”
According to the report, one in four Australian Muslims feels powerless at the brunt of discrimination.
Many fears centred around women and the wearing of the hijab.
“My mother told me to take off my hijab or stay at home,” said a female participant in the 35-44 age group.
“I felt like a target with my hijab,” said another woman from the 18-24 age group.
“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 do anything,” she said.
Under the 1975 Racial Discrimination Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person on the grounds of race, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, or immigrant status.
However, the survey found 50 per cent of unfavourable treatments towards religion, ethnicity and race occurred when dealing with the law.
This was the most common situation in which respondents experienced prejudice.
In response to the Act’s insufficiencies, the Commission has suggested an amendment to “render it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of a person’s religious belief or activity.”
It also proposes a National Anti-racism framework since Australia lacks a clear articulation of the Government’s commitment to addressing racism.
“It is not enough to simply condemn racism. We need a coordinated strategy that works on many fronts to actively counter racism at the various levels that it occurs,” Mr Tan said.
The Framework’s concept paper, released March 2021, establishes the purpose of a National Anti-Racism body.
“Such a framework would outline a coordinated and shared vision to tackle and promote racial inequality in Australia,” he said.
“It would be a statement of our commitment to tackling racism and our intention to protect and promote racial equality.”
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s report is a reminder that racial discrimination is across the board in contemporary Australian society.
The Anti-Racism Framework is still in its early stages of development; however, the Commission believes it will be a starting point for tackling Islamophobia.
Tia Haralabakos is a Media Communications student at Monash University specialising in Journalism and human rights. She is interested in the multi-faceted landscape of digital media, particularly addressing challenges to online reporting like diversity and content moderation. Tia’s journalistic interests include human rights and social affairs.