Alwaght- Anti-Islam rallies have been held in many parts of Australia on Sunday amid a worrying upsurge of Islamophobia in Western countries following recent Paris terror attacks.
Waving placards displaying slogans screaming “Say No to Sharia Law” and “Halal is Extortion”, protesters attended nationwide rallies organized by far-right wing group Reclaim Australia and splinter group, LoveAustraliaOrLeave.
Hundreds of anti and pro-Islam demonstrators faced off at marches in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane as part of Reclaim Australia’s national day of activism against what they call the “Islamization of Australia”.
The number of anti-Muslim incidents, including attacks on women and hateful graffiti, has risen sharply across the US, Canada and several European countries especially France and Britain.
Islamophobia (or anti-Muslim sentiment) has been described as the prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam or Muslims especially as a political force.
Abdallah Zekri, the head of France’s National Observatory of Islamophobia, said on Friday that while the group usually records four or five weekly attacks on Muslims, 32 such incidents had occurred in a single week since November 13.
Another rights group, the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), reported 29 incidents during the same time.
CCIF spokesman Yasser Louati said his office had been flooded with reports and complaints of attacks on Muslims as well as requests for advice on whether it was safe to send children to school.
France’s five-million-strong Muslim community, which is Europe’s largest, accounts for about eight percent of the country’s total population.
Meanwhile Muslims living in Britain have suffered more than 100 racial attacks since the terrorist atrocities in Paris, figures prepared for ministers reveal.
A report to the Government’s working group on anti-Muslim hatred shows a spike in Islamophobic hate crime of more than 300 per cent, to 115, in the week following the killings on November 13 in France.
Most victims of the UK hate crimes were Muslim girls and women aged from 14 to 45 in traditional Islamic dress. The perpetrators were mainly white males aged from 15 to35.
The figures were compiled by the Tell Mama helpline, which records incidents of verbal and physical attacks on Muslims and mosques in the UK. They are likely to be a significant underestimate of the total, as many victims are too frightened to contact police or community groups.
The report said a large number of the reported attacks were in public places, including on buses and trains. Thirty-four victims were women wearing the hijab, while eight involved young children.
“The vast and overwhelming majority of the victims are visible Muslim women between the ages of 14-45,” the report states. “This is concerning since the cases show that women who wear the hijab are the ones being targeted for general abuse and threats.
Meanwhile, in the United States, a week after terrorists killed at least 130 people in carefully-orchestrated, simultaneous attacks in Paris, Muslims are again on the defensive, both in terms of their beliefs and their physical safety.
A Nebraska mosque was vandalized; shots were fired at a Muslim’s Florida home, and a Christian Uber driver in North Carolina was attacked by a passenger who thought he was Muslim.
“I think, unfortunately, that we’ve seen the gradual mainstreaming of Islamophobia,” says Ibrahim Hooper, Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR’s national communications director. “It’s really peaked recently with [front-running GOP presidential candidates] Ben Carson and Donald Trump, who are really legitimizing it,” Hooper says. CAIR is the largest Muslim advocacy group in the US
Muslim Americans have reacted with anger and dismay to the incendiary remarks of Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race who called for a database of all Muslims in the country to be set up, in order to track their movements.
In Canada, a string of Islamophobic attacks are leaving Muslims fearful and afraid for their safety.
The incidents began a day after the Paris attacks when a fire broke out at a mosque in Peterborough, Ont. Though no one was inside the mosque when it was set ablaze, the fire caused $60,000 worth of damage to the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association’s mosque.
Alia Hogben, an executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said Muslim women especially are easy targets for discrimination.
“I think they’re being targeted, definitely, because as soon as you see a woman with a hijab on, with a head covering on, you know she’s probably a Muslim and therefore fair target for your discrimination and your hatred and intolerance.”