Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 December 2019

Pregnant Australian woman punched and kicked in shocking Islamophobic attack

Victim calls for Australians to stand in solidarity against religious and racial violence

A screenshot from video footage of the attack on a pregnant Muslim woman in cafe in Sydney, Australia on November 20, 2019.
A screenshot from video footage of the attack on a pregnant Muslim woman in cafe in Sydney, Australia on November 20, 2019.

A Sydney man has been charged for punching and stomping on a heavily pregnant Muslim woman unprovoked, in what was described as an "Islamophobic" attack by a leading Australian Islamic association.

The man "verbalised his hatred of Muslims prior to hitting me", according to a statement issued by the victim in which she called for all Australians to voice solidarity against religious or racial attacks.

"I have experienced occurrences of verbal abuse and hate from other Australians in the past but I have never thought that physical abuse of this nature could happen to me," Rana Haidar said in a statement shared on Twitter by the Australasian Muslim Times, a community newspaper.

Shocking security camera footage showed the man approaching a table of three women wearing headscarves as they chatted at a cafe in the western Sydney suburb of Parramatta on Wednesday.

Seemingly without provocation, the 43-year-old suspect is seen lunging over the table to attack the 31-year-old woman, who police said is 38 weeks pregnant.

After several frenzied punches, the woman falls to the ground and the assailant stamps on her before being wrestled away by bystanders.

Police said a suspect has been charged with "assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray" and denied bail, while the woman was taken to hospital and discharged. They declined to comment on the attacker's motives, but left open the possibility of additional charges being laid against him.

Rateb Jneid, president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said: "This was clearly a racist and Islamophobic attack and we expect it to be treated as such."

Police did not identify the victim or the attacker, but local press gave the man's name as Stipe Lozina.

Ms Haider, who said she was born and raised in Sydney, thanked the people who came to her assistance. "I want to see a world where people defend one another against cowardly acts like this and band together to protect the victims. We cannot allow behaviour like this to become the norm and sit silent," she wrote.

"If it were not for the brave actions of these members of the community in stopping the assault the victim may very well have sustained much more serious injuries," said police inspector Luke Sywenkyj.

The attack came just days after a report by researchers at Charles Sturt University found Islamophobia in Australia was "a continuous phenomenon" and women wearing a headscarf are especially at risk.

Of 113 female victims who reported being physically intimidated or harassed, researchers found 96 per cent were wearing a headscarf.

Updated: November 22, 2019 11:40 AM

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