Melbourne community protests against racist bashing

A community protest has condemned the assault of a 26-year-old woman on the Upfield train in Melbourne on September 25.

The woman was attacked by a female passenger as the train pulled into Batman Station in North Coburg, and then thrown from the carriage while the train was still moving. The assault was accompanied by racist and Islamophobic abuse directed at victim.

Community activists gathered at the station on October 1 to condemn the racist attack.

Sue Bolton, Socialist Alliance member and Moreland City councillor, who represents North-East Ward, in which the crime occurred, said the responsibility for the attack lies not only with the perpetrator but with the federal government and its media allies, which have been stoking racist hostility to Muslims for political gain.

“In the past few months we have seen an intensifying campaign to convince Australians that Muslim members of the community pose a threat to security,” Bolton said.

“Exaggerated and hyped up reports of potential terrorism have been backed up by new laws currently going through parliament that give impunity to security agencies while criminalising criticism or even reporting of their activities. Existing laws brought in during the John Howard government already allow for theatrical police raids to be staged in front of the media in which lurid allegations can be made without any evidence.

“Prominent government politicians such as Cory Bernardi have called for laws banning women wearing clothes that are associated with Islam. Government-aligned media feed their readers a steady diet of racist scaremongering. Right-wing radio shock-jocks and the Murdoch-owned media have been particularly culpable, with headlines in the Herald Sun such as ‘Jihad Bludgers’, but other media have also been at fault.

“The result is to create a perception of threat that is not based on reality. People in Australia are at very little risk from terrorism. They are far more likely to die from slipping in the shower, let alone from the more serious causes of injury and death such as industrial accidents and domestic violence. But this racist scaremongering creates a real threat to the security of Muslims and people who may be mistaken for Muslims. People are being taught to fear them and people in the community with a predisposition to violence are getting the message that violence directed at Muslims is legitimate.

“In such an environment attacks like that at Batman Station become inevitable.”

Bolton said that it was not enough for the assailant to be caught and charged. She said: “The encouragement and enabling of racist violence by politicians and other opinion leaders must stop. The current government has been unpopular in the opinion polls since this year’s budget, which launched multiple attacks on people’s living standards and quality of life. However, their standing in the polls has increased since the scaremongering began. It is simply not acceptable for politicians to encourage violence and division in the community for cynical electoral gain.”

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