Alleged terrorist plots in Australia have resulted in a backlash against the Muslim community.
This backlash has bolstered calls to bring-in the government’s proposed ‘anti-terrorism laws’ and to ‘ban the burqa’.
Earlier this month, two women wearing hijabs – a mother and daughter – were stuck in traffic at around 7pm when a 27 year old man is said to have approached them.
The defendant’s name is Scott Papworth.
He allegedly yelled abusive comments, such as “we are westerners and you are not supposed to be here” and punched the mirror on the driver’s side of the car, terrifying the two women inside.
The 26-year-old driver managed to drive away, although the man followed them.
It is alleged that Papworth continued to threaten the women when they later pulled over to fix up the mirror.
He is said to have forced the car door open, grabbed the steeling wheel and put his foot on the accelerator.
Fortunately, the car was parked and didn’t go anywhere.
Witnesses intervened and helped the women.
Six of those witnesses young skateboarders. Police were then called to the scene.
The witnesses say that Papworth started swinging punches, at least one of which connected.
They say that Papworth then stole two mobile phones from them.
Fortunately, the witness was not seriously injured and the phones were recovered.
It is claimed that one of the witnesses threw a skateboard at Papworth, giving them the opportunity to recover their property.
Police arrested Papworth near the scene.
He was not granted bail and faces two counts-each of intimidation, larceny and reckless damage, and one count of assault.
A major reason why Papworth was refused bail was because he was already out on bail for other charges at the time.
The magistrate therefore found that he poses an ‘unacceptable risk’ to the community.
The prosecutor labelled the attack “racially provoked”, and “very serious” given the current political climate in Australia.
Chief Inspector Dean Olsen drew comfort from the fact that six bystanders were willing to step in and help out.
One of the witnesses said he was frustrated that other cars kept driving by without stopping.
Unfortunately, this attack is not rare or isolated.
Racist crimes, including those motivated by hatred of another religion, have been numerous in recent months.
Muslims in particular have been subjected to racial vilification and hate crimes across Australia.
Examples include racist graffiti on Islamic schools, staff members being approached by a man with a knife at one such school, a ‘drive by’ shooting whereby the perpetrators shouted Islamaphobic remarks and attacks on burqa-wearing women.
One member of the Navy stirred up racial tensions by claiming that ‘men of middle eastern appearance’ assaulted him and threatened to slit his throat, although police found the report to be “baseless”.
That report led to sensationalist media reporting of an imminent threat against Australian defence force personnel and bolstered calls for the passing of proposed anti-terrorism legislation.
The Defence Chief later apologised to the community for the unfounded report.
Back to our earlier story – Papworth has pleaded not guilty in Newcastle court house and his lawyer has protested his client’s innocence on the basis of misidentification, declaring that Papworth was just one of many people in the vicinity at the time.
His lawyer further states that Papworth was completely unaware that there was a Muslim lady in the area or of any kind of altercation taking place.
Rather, it is said that Papworth was arbitrarily set upon by skaters for doing nothing more than innocently minding his own business.
Papworth will be back before Newcastle Local Court in November.