Teenage thugs bashed a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab in what has been described as a racial attack in Wantirna South.
The high school student was walking home from Westfield Knox along Stud Rd when she was set upon by a group of teenagers, according to Knox councillor Joe Cossari, who said it was a racial attack. The teen was punched to the ground and kicked, but didn’t report the assault to police because she feared reprisals, Cr Cossari said.
Councillors condemned the violence after hearing details at a recent council meeting.
“We have to defend the right of all citizens so that our people can walk freely without fear,” Cr Cossari told the council meeting. “As a Christian and an Australian I will defend the rights of all religious groups and, in this case, the Muslim brothers and sisters of this municipality.
“To bash up a young girl because of what she was wearing is unacceptable. I will not tolerate this type of activity against any citizens of this municipality or this country. We pride ourselves on being a multicultural society, we talk about multiculturalism in our policies, but having this happen on our front door is not acceptable.”
Mayor Darren Pearce told Knox Leader he was shocked, but believed it was an isolated incident.
But Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Mohamad Tabbaa said it wasn’t as simple as Melbourne having “bad apples”, because many Muslims experienced racism from time to time. He said most physical and verbal attacks were against women who wore hijabs, which attackers tore off, creating fear in the Muslim community.
“We encourage them (victims) to contact us and police,” Mr Tabbaa said. If victims feared making an official report, the ICV could offer advice and support, he said.
Knox criminal investigation unit Senior Sergeant Neil White said the offenders could face assault charges, but police relied on victims to come forward. He said police collected information on racially motivated crime to identify emerging trends and worked with communities being targeted. Knox did not have a high number of racially motivated attacks, he said.
Interestingly, according to the profile on his website, Cossari was formerly a leading figure in the Australian section of Gianfranco Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale and then, following the 2007 merger with Forza Italia, of Silvio Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Libertà, for whom he stood as a candidate in February’s Italian parliamentary election.