A car has been damaged and daubed with offensive comments, threatening letters have been sent and women have been abused in the street.
A backlash of hate crimes against the Muslim community after the police raids last week has also sparked a rash of social media comments such as “this is how they should deal with them”, “behead them all”, “give them a taste of their own medicine for a change” and “we just need to blow up parramatta n bankstown”.
One of the founders of the Australian Arabic Council and human rights activist Joseph Wakim said “everyone should remember that no faith tells you to harm innocent people”.
“It is not open season on Muslims,” Mr Wakim said. “It is not OK to go Muslim-bashing. The raids were about stopping people feared to be terrorists, yet it is the Muslim people who are being terrorised.” Mr Wakim, a former Victorian multicultural affairs commissioner, has reminded Australians to learn from history and not to make the same mistakes, in particular by treating one group as “collectively guilty”.
Anti-Muslim sentiment has been felt around the country and people are reporting graffiti on mosques and attacks on homes. Threatening letters have been sent to businesses, bookshops and religious leaders with handwritten messages such as “we will fight you … terror for terror … blood for blood and … bomb for bomb”.
NSW Police Superintendent Mark Walton said officers would not “stand guard” outside mosques that received bomb threats, purportedly from the Australian Defence League. He said that, other than the letter from the league, there were no credible threats to security being investigated during Operation Hammerhead, a NSW operation to increase police visibility that was launched after terrorism raids on Thursday.
The Australian National Imams Council expressed anger that one of its most senior members, an assistant to the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, was pulled up at Sydney airport on Thursday on the way to the Haj, a religious pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
The Imam, who met Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Attorney-General George Brandis recently, was stopped at the boarding gate, stripped of his mobile phone and iPad and kept in a room for two hours without explanation, the general manager of ANIC Samir Bennegadi said.
Mr Bennegadi said the Imam was treated in an unprofessional manner and he wondered, if this could happen to one of the most senior Imams in Australia, what could happen to the rest of the Muslim population when, “especially during this time, the Haj, we have hundreds of people leaving Australia every day”.
Rebecca Kay, the secretary of Salam Care, a community services group, said it also feared being the targets of a raid. “I know some women who have slept in their headscarves just in case,” she said.
Ms Kay was collating reports of hate crimes, including harassment, abuse or being targeted, to present to the Human Rights Commission. “We had some Aussie ladies standing making gun movements with their fingers towards some Muslim ladies,” she said. “It is trivial, but it does affect people.”
Ms Kay said the complaints were coming from across the western suburbs. “They seem to be more upset at first rather than scared,” Ms Kay said. “But then they do get scared that it might happen again, and they start worrying about whether they need to protect their children.”
See also “A siege of racism”, Red Flag, 21 September 2014