In February vandals sprayed white supremacist graffiti on a Perth mosque. In April a mosque in Toowoomba was the target of an arson attack which reportedly caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. In February a passing motorist in Melbourne allegedly verbally abused a 14-year-old Muslim girl. In April a woman on a Sydney train was reported having verbally abused a Muslim family; the family praised another passenger for intervening against the woman. In May two men verbally abused three Muslim women on a Melbourne train for wearing headscarves and punched another man in the face when he came to their defense. Police subsequently arrested a 20-year-old suspect.
In its 2015 anti-Semitism report, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry (ECAJ) reported 190 anti-Semitic incidents from October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015, down from 312 reported the previous corresponding period. Incidents included eight episodes of assault in which eggs or water balloons were thrown at people standing by a Jewish school or synagogue; 119 episodes of harassment or intimidation, including the use of profane language or gestures; and a number of incidents involving graffiti and property damage and vandalism, such as anti-Semitic graffiti along the walls above a pedestrian and bike path in Sydney, at a Jewish institution in Perth, and the home of a Jew in Melbourne. The ECAJ report said no seriously life-threatening anti-Semitic events occurred during the year.
In March the federal government announced security funding for 17 Jewish schools and 15 Islamic schools. In September Victoria’s largest Jewish school announced it would employ armed guards. The principal stated “this enhancement of the guards’ equipment reflects the heightened security levels now in place across Australia and worldwide, and is not in response to any particular threat to the College.”
In August a new political party, the Australian Liberty Alliance, became established and gained attention in the press for its anti-Islam stance. It announced it favored banning full face coverings in public, and under the section of its manifesto entitled “Stop the Islamisation of Australia,” called for a 10-year moratorium on resident visa applications by people from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Religious tolerance advocates and far-right nationalists who oppose the spread of Islam held competing peaceful demonstrations during a number of Melbourne and Sydney rallies. The police presence at many of these events outnumbered the protesters.
In the aftermath of the Paris bombings in November, eight people, including six in Victoria, were arrested following rival anti-Islam and pro-diversity protests in state capitals nationwide. Anti-Islam rallies organized by the anti-immigration Reclaim Australia group in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Hobart, Adelaide, and Melbourne were opposed by antiracism groups, who held their own protests at the same locations. The largest rally (approximately 500 people on each side) was in Melbourne, where Reclaim Australia and local residents protested the planned construction of a mosque. Police made six arrests for minor offenses including possession of a knife and animal cruelty (for punching a horse).
In the wake of the Lindt Cafe incident in downtown Sydney in December 2014, in which a Muslim man took the occupants of the cafe hostage resulting in the death of two of the hostages, the media reported an initial social media-based backlash against Muslims. Domestic and international media, however, also reported on the more rapid, larger spread of the hashtag #illridewithyou on social media. The idea was sparked by an individual who offered to ride with Muslim women who felt frightened to wear the hijab while riding public transport shortly after the Lindt Cafe incident. The hashtag appeared more than 250,000 times on social media within three days, with many celebrities and public figures voicing support for the campaign, which was seen as a show of support for the Muslim community and religious tolerance.
Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) promoted tolerance and better understanding among religious groups. These included the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations, the National Council of Churches in Australia, the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, and the Jewish Christian Muslim Association of Australia.
In November the Lebanese Muslim Association in Australia, supported by the Australian Department of Social Services, sponsored the second annual National Mosque Open Day. The goal of this event was to facilitate a greater understanding of Islam and Muslims in Australia by opening up mosques to the wider public. The Australian treasurer and the opposition leader visited a mosque in west Sydney, commending Muslim leaders for helping counter mistaken and negative images about Muslims.