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Australia attack on pregnant woman highlights rising anti-Muslim hate

  • 22 Nov 2019

Victim Rana Haidar was attacked without provocation by a man in a Sydney cafe. The attacker was then apprehended by others nearby and arrested by police.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 3 : A woman standing under an umbrella holds a banner reading 'Muslims are welcome racists are not' during a protest speaking out against racism and in particular Islamophobia in opposition to the far right groups such as the United Patriots front and Reclaim Australia at the Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia on April 3, 2016. ( AA )

A series of viral surveillance videos capture the moment a man shouting anti-Islam slurs launched a vicious and unprovoked attack on a Muslim woman at a cafe in the Australian city of Sydney.

The videos show the man approaching a group of women wearing the Islamic head covering, known as hijab, then appear to berate the group before throwing punches at one of the women sitting at a table.

Rana Haidar said the attack, which happened on Thursday while she is 38 weeks pregnant, revealed  “weakness” and a lack of “basic human empathy”.

The attacker was apprehended by those in the cafe after the other women sitting with Haidar tried to stop his attack. He was later arrested by Australian police and charged with assault.

In a Facebook post, Haidar wrote: “I am a Muslim. I have experienced occurrences of verbal abuse and hate from other Australians in the past but I have never thought that physical abuse of this nature could happen to me.”

“This man verbalised his hatred of Muslims prior to hitting me. He decided that he was going to take it in his power to act upon his hatred and he neither knows me, nor my religion.

“I want to see a world where people defend one another against cowardly acts like this and band together to protect the victims.”

The footage of the attack caused outrage on social media with many users pointing out it was just the latest instance of anti-Muslim violence in Australia and the wider Western world.

One Twitter user named Avril wrote: “Islamophobia is rampant in Australia and must be condemned by religious and political leaders.”

Most infamously, it was an Australian who launched the March 2019 terror attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, which killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in the city.

A widespread trend

Anti-Muslim hatred has become normalised at the public and government level in many western states.

Media outlets routinely carry stories vilifying Islam and Muslims that are either falsified, misrepresentations, or exaggerated. 

Anti-Muslim polemicists are also given prominent platforms by state broadcasters and social media platforms. Some have also been syndicated by large broadcasters, as was the case with far-right commentator Katie Hopkins at British radio station LBC.

Conversely, when Muslims are subject to discrimination or violent attacks, their religious identity is often omitted from headlines.

Journalist and presenter Mehdi Hasan pointed out that in its coverage of the attack on Haidar, News.com.au did not mention the fact she was a Muslim in its headline, which read: “Pregnant women ‘stomped on’ in horror Parramatta cafe random attack.”

It was only in the summary of the article that the anti-Muslim nature of the assault is referred to.

Hasan wrote: “Weird that the clear evidence this was a horrific anti-Muslim attack, down under in Australia, was buried in the second half of the piece. Western media continues to downplay Islamophobia. Sigh.”

Anti-Muslim hatred and the state

Besides terror attacks and anti-Islam violence, Muslims, especially women, have had to deal with discriminatory measures introduced by Western governments.

France and several other Western states have banned the wearing of the face veil and have placed restrictions on the wearing of the hijab and other coverings. 

After initially targeting just students, French politicians are now looking at ways to exclude parents wearing the hijab from taking part in school activities with their children, such as school trips.

Far-right anti-Islam groups also poll well or have participated in government in a number of European countries, such as Hungary, Italy, and Austria.

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