CAIRO - Recent revelations that Muslims-populated areas in northern Australia are identified as potential terror hotspot and put under police surveillance are sparking a storm of fury for stigmatizing the whole community, The Herald Sun reported Thursday, May 17.
"It makes my life difficult because when I tell people I'm a Muslim they have an impression that Muslims are terrorists," Muslim convert Tony Vlahos said.
The Herald Sun revealed Wednesday that Australian police have identified the northern suburbs in Melbourne as potential terrorist hotspots.
It also found that the Muslim community in the northern suburbs has been put under surveillance for security concerns.
"My area, having such a high concentration of Australians of Muslim faith, was an area of interest to the federal police and to ASIO, especially immediately in the aftermath of September 11," Labor MP Maria Vamvakinou said.
"Most people who live in Broadmeadows, they might be of Muslim background, but they pretty much live ordinary lives."
The federal Attorney-General's Department has confirmed that several places have been identified as potential breeding grounds for terrorism.
It, however, declined to name the areas.
Vamvakinou, whose federal seat of Calwell includes suburbs with high populations of Muslims as Broadmeadows and Dallas, said the whole area has been under surveillance.
There was a time in that early period especiallyâ¦where the constant presence of Federal Police, even the Federal Police Commissioner himself, would attend our (functions) and the Federal Police would have little booths, she told the Herald Sun.
But the revelations have drawn fire from Australian Muslims for stigmatizing the whole minority.
"The type of people who do these terrorist acts are certainly not representative of us, said Vlahos, who converted to Islam 11 years ago.
We shouldn't be labeled for their actions."
Muslim Australian Mohamed Elrafihi, who lives in the area, said the surveillance stigmatizes all Muslims in Australia.
"It just reinforces the notion that Muslims are terrorists or a threat to wider society and they need to be watched so they can be controlled," he said.
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
In post 9/11-era, Australian Muslims have been haunted with suspicion and have had their patriotism questioned.
A 2007 poll taken by the Issues Deliberation Australia (IDA) think-tank found that Australians basically see Islam as a threat to the Australian way of life.A recent governmental report revealed that Muslims are facing deep-seated Islamophobia and race-based treatment like never before.