By Sahar Foladi
Islamophobia reports have quadrupled in Australia since war has escalated in Gaza according to the Islamophobia Register Australia.
In some incidences, direct references were made to the current Israel-Palestine situation.
Dayla Sabawi, a restaurant owner in Greater Dandenong for three years, has not just her relations but her husband’s family members in Palestine.
“It makes us feel helpless, that we can only watch and pray but can’t really do anything.”
Ms Sabawi was confronted with a firsthand exchange of racist slurs in a city famous for its multiculturalism where its residents speak more than 150 languages.
“I had someone swearing and using foul language against Muslims, saying they should go back home and how Hamas beheaded 20 children.
“I told him that’s not true and I asked someone else, and they said it was on channel 9 and 10,” she said.
“I was shocked. There’s an increase of hatred against Muslims because of fake news like this.”
The alleged atrocity took the media by storm but there are counter-claims that it was an “unverified” rumour.
Ms Sabawi says they don’t feel supported in their own community and environment.
“Despite what we’re going through at the hands of Israel, there are circulation of lies.
“Without any investigation or proof they just share the lies and feed it to the world.”
The register’s executive director, Sharara Attai said violence in the Middle East often lead to increased Islamophobia in Australia.
“We also know that diverse political rhetoric can lead to increased Islamophobia.
“We call on all leaders and senior figures to use careful and considered language that works to advance social cohesion and ensure that they aren’t fanning the flames to racism and division.”
The Register heard reports on threats to mosques and Islamic schools and physical assaults of Muslim women.
Executive Officer of the Interfaith Network of the City of Greater Dandenong, Helen Heath said the escalation has created “tensions here.”
“We have so many people from all faith living in City of Greater Dandenong and everybody is affected.
“It’s just very sad what ‘s happening overseas, and people here are unsettled.”
She hopes for a peaceful solution to the issue.
Wellsprings for Women organisation in City of Greater Dandenong expressed its concerns over the impacts of the war in Australian communities.
Chief executive director, Dalal Smiley urges community leaders to lead by example.
“Such tragic events can trigger extremist actions of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism.
“We ask all community leaders to lead by example, use language of peace and human rights, and apply a humanitarian lens when discussing this topic.
“Wellsprings for Women is a safe place for women and children and we respect and support women of all faiths and backgrounds.”
The organisations is made up of staff and participants who’ve migrated to Australia escaping war, violence, tyranny and oppression.
Australia’s white and blue colours lit in support of Israel in Australian landmarks has further created division as Ms Sabawi questions the message they’re trying to send.
“I’m not surprised to be honest because the Western leaders have always sided with Israel, but to light up landmarks white and blue, it was too much they went too far.
“It’s disappointing and when we come to our defence, they frame us as terrorists and the media move to show sympathy for Israel instead.”
President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni said he felt “disgusted and completely othered.”
“The humanity of the world is diminished to such a degree that we’re not even considered worthy of saving.
“I’ve experienced racism in my life, but this is the first time I felt like I don’t belong.
“We’re devastated because we’re abandoned by the world. We’re dehumanized and degraded to the point where nobody cares about the genocide that’s about to happen.”
The Register also acknowledged the reports of anti-semitism and the “widely reported” anti-semitic chants at a pro Palestine protest in Sydney by a small number of people.
“We note that the organisers of that protest have publicly stated those people were asked to leave the protest and those views weren’t shared by either the organisers or the vast majority of the protesters,” the register said in their statement.
It also mentioned that irrespective of majority of protesters views on the Israel-Hamas situation, anti-semitic views are rejected as demonstrated.
The Jewish faith leader representative on the Greater Dandenong Interfaith Network, Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann says hate speech needed to be called out.
“We must do everything we can to eradicate both islamophobia and anit-Semitism and call it our for what it is – hate speech.
“It’s up to the faith leaders, parents and educators to call it out when they see it in their communities.”
Mr Kaltmann also expressed his “shell shocked” reaction to the events of 7 October.