Australian Islamic College firebombing prompts call for WA religious vilification legislation
A firebombing outside a mosque and Islamic school in Perth has sparked renewed calls for dedicated religious vilification legislation in Western Australia.
The Australian Islamic College was targeted in the attack on Tuesday night, with a four-wheel drive destroyed and offensive graffiti sprayed on a nearby wall.
The attack occurred while hundreds of people were praying at a mosque on the Thornlie campus.
Western Australia's Ethnic Communities Council is concerned the incident is the latest in a string of anti-Islam crimes.
"There was a similar act of religious vilification at the Southern River Mosque on Saturday where a pig's head was thrown at the front door," the council's Suresh Rajan said.
"It is a concern that it is happening right now. It's an indication that this is not an isolated incident.
"That leads us to concern that there is an escalation of these activities from these people."
Mr Rajan said the latest attack highlighted the need for the WA Government to introduce legislation covering religious vilification.
"There are provisions in the Criminal Code that account for racial vilification. But they don't apply to people of Islamic faith because that is a religion not a race," he said.
"We've been calling for state legislation for a long time. Whether it's incorporated into the Criminal Code or whether we have a separate religious intolerance act is something we can discuss.
"But certainly it is something we think is long overdue."
Attackers no better than extremists: Nahan
Several state and federal politicians have condemned the attack, among them Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Justice Minister Michael Keenan.
WA Labor leader Mark McGowan described the Thornlie attack as an example of urban terrorism.
"This by signalling out a certain [part] of the community, in this case the Muslim community, this is an attack on us," Dr Nahan said.
"Just to the people, this is no different to ISIS. These people are no different than ISIS."
The Minister said the people who committed the crime demonstrated the worst kind of hatred and discrimination.
"It sends a signal to our guests, our foreign students and their children, that Western Australia is not a hospitable place," he said.
"I'd like for all of us in Government, and the Parliament, to stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters at this time."
Local incidents 'often fuelled by overseas events'
Mr Rajan said recent studies had shown only a small percentage of the Australian population exhibited strong racist attitudes, but those people were often encouraged to action by events overseas.
"Every time there was an escalation in activities overseas we would see an uptick in the number of racist incidents that occurred here," he said.
"So there is a strong correlation between what happens overseas, in places like England, Turkey et cetera, and what happens here in Australia, there is no question about that."
But Mr Rajan said anti-Muslim and anti-immigration sentiments were often inflamed by comments from opinion-makers in Australia, as well as conservative politicians.
"Every time someone in power, some of the opinion leaders around the world, around Australia, takes a position on this, and we see this from people like George Christensen and Cory Bernardi, what happens is that it emboldens those racists," he said.
"It emboldens them to believe that they are a group that can be listened to and can be heard, because there are people like those I mentioned who will take their views seriously."