Human rights commission and Muslim Australians

A new report from the Australian Human Rights Commission has found that Muslim Australians suffer discrimination and abuse on a daily basis. Since the Lindt Cage siege last year communities say that the discrimination has been particularly noticeable. Research finds that the Racial Discrimination Act has only a limited ability to protect Muslim Australians because “religious identity” is not covered under the act.

Many claim hostile treatment towards Muslim Australians is impinging on people’s freedoms. There are reports that many Muslims were changing where they shopped, and that a group of Muslim musicians had cancelled a performance due to fears that they would be attacked on public transport.

The Human Rights Commission found that there is little distinction between religious and racial discrimination for many Muslims. “Being on the receiving end of anti-Muslim sentiment is often described in terms of racism.”

Despite this, the Racial Discrimination Act still only has limited ability to protect Muslim Australians because it only covers discrimination based on race, colour, ethnic or national origin, or immigrant status — not religion. This is different from the protection that is granted to Jewish Australians however, as the Federal Court has found that they have a common ethnic origin.

Mariam Veiszadeh, the founder of Islamophobia Register of Australia, said there had been an increase in reports of verbal and physical violence against Muslims since the group began tracking cases a year ago. The cases include attacks on Muslim women targeted for wearing Hijabs, Niqabs, and Burqas, assaults on public transport, online threats, property damage, and graffiti.

Australia has an extremely long history of racially fueled violence and hatred; often spurred on by propaganda spread by groups such as Reclaim Australia, and through the ignorance of politicians looking to widen the gap between Australians and immigrants.

Jakob Barrett