Reported societal incidents included physical and verbal assaults and vandalism. Prominent societal leaders condemned such occurrences and took positive steps to emphasize religious freedom and tolerance.
In the 12-month period ending in September 2014, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ), a nongovernmental organization (NGO), reported 312 anti-Semitic incidents had been logged by it, Jewish community umbrella groups in each state and the Australian Capital Territory, and community security groups, compared with 231 recorded by those same organizations during the previous 12-month period. Incidents included physical and verbal assaults, such as throwing eggs at Jews walking to and from synagogues, vandalism, and harassment. The ECAJ stated in its report it was likely the overall increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents during the year was due to reaction to the conflict in Gaza.
In July, a man in Melbourne reported being attacked and injured by several men who shouted anti-Semitic statements. No arrests had been made in the case by year’s end. In August five male teenagers were arrested for threatening 30 Jewish school children on a school bus in Sydney. Media alleged the perpetrators, who were released into their parents’ custody pending further investigation, threatened to slit the children’s throats and yelled “kill the Jews” and “heil Hitler.”
In 2013, five Jewish adults were assaulted in Sydney during a suspected anti-Semitic confrontation that reportedly resulted in the hospitalization of some of the victims. Police arrested two minors and two adults soon after the incident. The minors were subject to closed proceedings in juvenile court and media reported in July they remained in a facility for minors. The case against one adult was withdrawn in May by the prosecutor’s office, which cited “insufficient evidence.” The case against the second adult was dismissed in June by the magistrate, who said he could not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the man committed the alleged offenses.
On November 3, a Shia Muslim leader was shot outside a Sydney mosque. Media reports speculated the perpetrators may have been Sunni supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as several individuals had shouted pro-ISIL slogans at the mosque while driving by in the preceding hours, but there was also suspicion that the attack may have been connected to an internal dispute. The man survived and a police investigation of the shooting was ongoing.
In April vandalism of an Islamic center in Canberra reportedly caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. A police investigation into the incident was ongoing. In September there were reports of incidents targeting Muslim and Christian communities. This followed high-profile counterterrorism raids in Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, and the stabbing of two policemen in Melbourne by a Muslim, identified by the justice minister as a “known terror suspect," who was shot and killed by police. A number of mosques were vandalized, and media reported at least 30 cases of Muslims – particularly women wearing the hijab – subjected to physical and verbal abuse in the weeks following the raids. In Sydney, police charged a man with “armed intent to commit an indictable offense” after he entered a Muslim school on September 26 armed with a large knife and asked if the school was Islamic. Following a September 16 incident in which death threats were allegedly yelled at a Christian school from a passing car that was said to be displaying an ISIL flag, two juveniles in Sydney were charged with intimidating a school staff member and behaving in an offensive manner.
Several NGOs promoted tolerance and better understanding among religious groups. The Columban Center for Christian-Muslim Relations and the Affinity Intercultural Foundation co-hosted in May the 12th annual Abraham Conference promoting interfaith communication. The Australian Council of Christians and Jews organized a lecture on religious liberty by the Attorney-General. The Lebanese Muslim Association, supported by the Department of Social Services, organized the first National Mosque Open Day on October 25 to promote dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims and to counteract religious prejudice and stereotypes.