Break the cycle of hate

Kerri Carr

Mariam Veiszadah advocates against Islamaphobia

It’s important for all teachers to understand the scale of Islamophobia and xenophobia so they can help tackle it, Islamophobia Register Australia President Mariam Veiszadah told Federation’s Women’s Conference.

The register, which was set up as a platform to report, record and analyse incidents of Islamophobia, has on file cases of:

  • graffiti on the back of a toilet door naming a student as a terrorist
  • students discussing potential genocide of Muslims during Ramadan
  • the mocking of the call to prayer
  • deep fingernail marks on a student’s arm
  • a young boy playing soccer called a terrorist by a parent on the sideline
  • a child spat on and abused
  • “******* Muslims go home” shouted outside a school.

“These are the realities that some Australian children have to contend with and navigate,” Ms Veiszadah said.

“I’m not saying that it happens to every Salma, Achmed and Muhammad, but this is the current reality and as educators you need to be aware because this could be happening in your classroom. It could be happening under your supervision and you might not know about it.”

Ms Veiszadah said advocating against Islamophobia has put her at the coalface: “For me it’s been quite harrowing — I’ve been sent bacon in the mail.”

“We know women face a lot more criticism when they speak out but try being an Australian Muslim woman,” she said.

“I can’t even tweet about being on the bus and enjoying the view despite the fact that I’m running late for work without someone coming back and — this is real — saying you’re taking a look at the streets and thinking how you can take over. True story.”

Ms Veiszadah said: “When it comes to privilege, Australian Muslims are squarely at the back of the room. We can help break it eventually.”

“As educators you have the ability to help reduce [the gap between the most and least privileged in society], to empower future generations, to take them out of this cycle so that by the time my niece is my age she will be able to be a blabbermouth like me and not have to deal with [Islamophobia],” she said.

Federation’s anti-racism information and resources can be found on the website, under “My Interests”.