Australian Muslim community leaders have voiced concerns about pressures they are facing from spy agencies, putting them under constant surveillance or stressing them to work as informants in their community.
Islamic Council of Victoria executive member Mohamad Tabbaa said ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization) and the AFP (Australian Federal Police) had contacted Muslims as part of counter-terrorism operations.
"It's very common knowledge around the mosques, especially, that most people have been contacted by ASIO or have been asked to attend an interview or things like that," he said.
"There's a general feeling of living under suspicion and being under surveillance constantly."
Mr Tabbaa said Preston Mosque had complained about its members being targeted by intelligence agencies. A number of Australian Muslims have been convicted of terrorism-related offences.
Mr Tabbaa and other council members raised the issue at a forum on police racial profiling held by the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre.
The two-day "People's Hearing into Racism and Policing", which finished yesterday, is the first of its kind in Melbourne.
Racial profiling occurs most often in police decisions about who to stop, question, search, and at times who to arrest. Evidence has shown that in a particular area in Melbourne, African males are 2.4 times in certain areas more likely to be stopped by police than other members of the public and yet are under-represented in crime statistics. Muslims as a faith community also suffer from profiling.
The CEO of Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, Anthony Kelly, said the event represents a unique opportunity for the people of Victoria to hear directly from the people most affected by racism in policing.
âTestimony from witnesses, victims and community representatives will be recorded and transcribed and a report summarising key findings will be submitted to government and to the Victorian Police Inquiry. The People's Hearing will identify the nature and extent of racial profiling by Victoria police and look for systemic changes to prevent it,â said Mr Kelly.
There are reports of "over-policing" of members of African-Australian communities that indicate that "race" is used in Victorian policing practices, either consciously or unconsciously, in a manner that is illegitimate and unnecessary.
Combined with overly racist incidents such as the âstubby holderâ and email scandals in recent years, racism within Victoria Police members has led to a break down of trust between Victoria Police and the wider community.
âVictoria Police has a legal responsibility and moral duty to stamp out racism within its ranks, which includes tackling the practice of racial profiling', that causes harm to individuals and corrodes public confidence in our police force,â said Mr Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
âStudies have shown that racial profiling is ineffective and police are more likely to properly identify criminals where they do not use stereotypes and instead rely on intelligence, information or specific behaviour,â added Mr de Kretser.
Law Institute of Victoria president Reynah Tang, who welcomed the inquiry, said stop and search policy and police recruiting needed to be overhauled. Advertisement
He said implementing a component of training that identified racial bias would better inform recruits about implicit profiling and the search policy recommended by the institute would increase transparency.
"Policing is going to work best if there's confidence in the community," Mr Tang said.
"We need to remove the feeling some people have that they're being victimised."
John Masanauskas, "Security surveillance worries Muslims" Sunday Herald Sun August 17, 2013
"Racist stereotypes and profiling corrode trust and hinder policing" Human Rights Law Centre August 16, 2013
Nino Bucci, "Push for anti-racism search laws" The Age - Victoria August 16, 2013
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today