BY CHARLOTTE GRIEVE
On Monday, July 25, a footpath located on the grounds of the University of Sydney was littered with Islamophobic messages.
The chalked message on Manning Road called for the “stopping of mosques” and declared that “Islam is not a race.”
This incident is part of a wider string of assaults against Muslims on the grounds of the prestigious Sydney University.
Earlier this year in March, a Muslim prayer room located in the Old Teacher’s College at the University’s Camperdown campus was broken into, vandalised and trashed. Hate mail was left addressed to the Sydney University Muslim Students Association (SUMSA).
“We’re disappointed that these sorts of things are happening at a university that is usually quite accommodating” said Shahad Nomani, member of the SUMSA.
These assaults have been reported and monitored by not-for-profit organisation, Islamophobia Watch Australia (IWA). The group has developed a smart phone application whereby incidents of religiously-motivated violence or discrimination are able to be reported, verified and recorded online.
“This has been going on for a while, last semester they [Islamophobic incidents] were pretty regular” said Mr Nomani.
The IWA considers the “under-reporting” of such incidents as a “serious problem.”
“There is this opinion that this stuff is confined to the Sutherland Shire or the Northern Beaches but there are physical assaults [against Muslims] happening in the city all the time” said Oishee Alam, a volunteer research for Islamophobia Watch Australia.
“Some of my friends have been attacked, or spat on or have had their scarves forcibly removed,” she said.
Ms Alam believes that while the mainstream media continues to be saturated by images of Islamic extremism, the rise of far-right groups is often overlooked.
“Research in New South Wales has shown that far right, white supremacist groups are increasing at far more greater rates than extremist Muslim groups.”
“These groups [far-right] don’t tap into the ingrained social anxieties that targeting Muslims do,” she said.
While members of the SUMSA are unsure as to whether these attacks have been instigated by an individual or part of an organised group, steps are being taken by the University to prevent further attacks.
“They have upgraded the lock system for the prayer room and there are plans to install a security camera in the Old Teacher’s College” said Mr Nomani.
Despite such efforts, these incidents raise questions about the University’s management of on-campus racism as well as the increasingly hateful climate prevalent in Sydney towards Muslims.
The University was not available for comment in time for publication.