Wollongong leaders take stand against racism

A Muslim woman in Wollongong has had enough of two years of ‘’systematic online bullying’’ and decided to speak up.

While the woman in question fears ‘’backlash’’ and prefers to remain anonymous, Fairfax Media has seen most of the almost 20 hate emails she has received.

The correspondence, which started in October 2014, was also directed to other Muslims in the community as well as the Illawarra People 4 Peace group.

Keira MP Ryan Park and Omar Mosque Wollongong chairman Munir Hussain. Picture: Sylvia Liber

Keira MP Ryan Park and Omar Mosque Wollongong chairman Munir Hussain. Picture: Sylvia Liber

One of the worst was a Facebook message last July in the lead-up to Pauline Hanson’s appearance on ABC program Q&A.

The message read ‘’we will be waiting for you! Filthy muslim [sic}  scum! Our weapons are aimed at your neanderthal skull’’.

‘’When I got this message I was really disgusted and distraught by it,’’ the woman said.

‘’If this was a random message I would have thought nothing of it but it came from the same guy who sent me all the other emails. It was definitely threatening and it really scared me.

‘’I’ve felt really demoralised and concerned for my own family’s safety but I know this is a much bigger issue than just me being bullied.

‘’I know a lot of younger girls, who are much more active on social media, who are getting bullied and harassed online as well as in their local community for being Muslim and choosing to wear a hijab.

‘’Something needs to be done to protect us.’’

Keira MP Ryan Park has seen some of the emails and said there was no place in our society for online bullying.

‘’I want to reiterate that that type of behaviour, whether it is behind the anonymity of a keyboard or whether it is in the street is something that we should never tolerate. I know the police won’t tolerate it. I won’t tolerate it,’’ Mr Park said.

The Shadow Minister for the Illawarra said it was important to contact police if you received that type of ‘’vitriol and hate correspondence’’.

‘’Police always encourage me to tell and ask residents to report it if they feel threatened or concerned,’’ Mr Park said.

‘’I don’t want people to think that type of behaviour is appropriate. I don’t want people to think that they have to put up with that sort of intolerance in 2017. I don’t think it is appropriate. I wouldn’t like to receive it.

‘’I certainly encourage everyone, regardless of religious or ethnic background, if they receive that type of correspondence please let the police know.’’

Mr Park said it was important for people who felt threatened to go through the right channels and not take matters into their own hands.

‘’Keyboard warriors who act silently behind these things are not going to be tolerated and the police will use every means possible to try and track them down,’’ he said.

‘’I’m certainly happy to make sure the police are aware of things and let police go about their business the way they need to do things.

‘’If they don’t feel like they can contact the police, people like their local member are here to make those representations and refer that on – but certainly they should not sit in silence.

‘’...because we are not going to sit by and be quiet and be silent while someone feels threatened or attacked just because of their different cultural or religious background.

‘’That’s not the way we do things here in Wollongong. That’s not the way we do things in this country, that is so strong and has been so great because of people from diverse backgrounds.’’

Omar Mosque Wollongong chairman Dr Munir Hussain thanked Mr Park for his support of the Muslim community at this ‘’time of need’’.

Mr Munir said the whole community was ‘’very stressed out’’ following the incident on January 20 where three Omani students were attacked outside the mosque.

Two men were rushed to hospital as a result.

‘’Police were wonderful in this case. To my knowledge they have increased the hours of patrol between the hours of 8-10.30pm around the mosque,’’ he said.

‘’I’m very grateful to police and I hope they continue supporting us.

‘’We just want calmness and to live peacefully in this multicultural community.’’

The story Wollongong Muslim woman harassed online for two years first appeared on The Advertiser Lake Times.

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