The page, Australians against Sharia 2 (ID: 1849829035265159), was created on March 15 2017. It currently has 422 people who follow the page and 409 people who have liked it. According to a post they made on November 17 2018, this is their second page (hence the number 2 in their name) as their first page was “hacked and hijacked”. They describe themselves as a ‘news personality’, where as seen throughout their page, they post certain news with a summary of the incident, only making a few comments of their own opinions here and there.
The page owners created a forum for hateful comments by only posting the news and letting their followers comment about the incidents, all of which are negative and hateful. Some of these comments incite violence towards Muslims. The name of the page attracts Australian followers who are islamophobic, thus the comments on all their posts about Islam will always be targeting Muslims.
More recently, the page has been increasingly adding posts about China, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, slowly bringing into play racism towards the Chinese. Majority of its posts since March 2020 have either been about Muslims or the Chinese, whereas previously it was always mainly focused on Islam. This shift shows that this page may continue to introduce different forms of hate to various groups as the page continues to grow.
Below we provide different examples of the comments made by followers that illustrate various hateful remarks towards Muslims and the Chinese, to showcase the Islamophobic and racist nature of the page.
Examples of Islamophobia
By selectively posting negative news articles regarding muslims, the page encourages hateful and Islamophobic comments. This was exemplified in the page’s post regarding the recent incident of a Muslim woman allegedly spitting on a police officer while being arrested for driving offences. The post itself was a snippet of the news story, however the comments that it attracted were both harmful and Islamophobic in nature.
The act of using a ‘biological agent’ to threaten others has been acknowledged by leading officials and the mainstream media as possibly constituting terrorism. One commenter expressed extreme concern about this by stating that the woman should be jailed for her terrorist act. Although this comment itself is not hateful, it is important to consider the way that this issue will be handled in the future. The danger in classifying the act as terrorism lies in the fact that this can be used as a basis for justifying more extreme and Islamophobic sentiments.
Other comments on the same post, as shown below, involve the incitement of violence against the Muslim woman. They indicate their desire for the woman to be harmed or killed, with one comment referencing ‘Allah’ in an attempt to mock the Islamic religion.
The page’s trend of posting news articles on radicalised Muslims continuously attract a trend of Islamophobic comments from avid followers. As shown below, a follower has posted two photos in response to news regarding the release of a convicted terrorist. The text within the first image demands for the ‘extermination’ of Islam in Australia; which in other words, calls for the destruction of a whole religion, their followers and culture. The second image, on the other hand, depicts the ‘reality’ of Islam as being violent and full of bloodshed – once again embracing the Islamophobic belief that Islam is connected to terrorism.
The terrorist narrative is further exemplified in the comment below in response to a news article about the ban of the burqa while driving in Germany. The comment is both Islamophobic and misogynistic in nature by indicating that Muslim women should never be allowed to drive because it poses a threat to people.
Examples of Xenophobia Against China
Recently, the page has also started posting about China by highlighting news regarding China’s economic influence over Australia and the impact of COVID-19. The shift in news has resulted in more hateful comments about China and has furthered the spread of misinformation about the Coronavirus. For example, in the comment below, the follower implies that China is using the virus as a weapon to gain world dominance. This conspiracy regarding the virus being bioengineered is a dangerous misconception during this time.
Further comments regarding China seek to incite violence as shown below. The comments push for punitive measures and generalises Chinese people as ‘bad people’ and ‘communists’.
Encouraging Islamophobic and Xenophobic Behaviour
Australians against Sharia 2, is a page that encourages Islamophobic and xenophobic behaviour from their followers through their selective posting of news stories regarding radicalised Muslims, terrorism, and as of recently, China. The environment facilitated by this page allows their followers to express opinions and comments highly harmful to the Muslim community and the whole of society. Especially with their attention shift to China, the page is expanding the boundaries of their intolerance and hatred; which also risks the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19.
The encouragement of Islamophobia and the increase of comments which incite violence against Muslims can cause some individuals to take matters to hand outside of the page. Their negative outlook on Muslims may continue to grow and even cause some to take action of violence against Muslims. On the page there are various posts about the Christchurch Mosque shooting that took place last year in New Zealand. Followers of this page reacted with the laughing face, thumbs up and heart reacts to the posts the page shared about the incident. Such behaviour can encourage others to commit similar acts since the man guilty of the offence was praised by so many. This is why the encouragement of Islamophobia on this Facebook page is dangerous and is important for other similar pages to be removed.
The xenophobia that was present on this page was directed at Chinese individuals amid the COVID-19 situation. Individuals are not only blaming the creation and spread of the pandemic on the Chinese but are also making violent remarks saying that they should all be punished and killed. Such racism is unacceptable within Australia and all over the world. Pages, posts and comments which promote xenophobia and direct racism at certain people should be shut down by Facebook to ensure the social media platform is a safe place for everyone.
Further analysis of the followers of the page has also found that they follow similar pages such as: Leaving Islam, Take Action Against “Halal Certification” and Animal Barbarity Australia, Wake Up Australia – My Unpopular Opinion, Australians Against Radical Islam, Stop the Mosque, and Boycott Halal Certification in Australia. OHPI calls on Facebook to remove the “Australians against Sharia 2” page and other similar pages, which also encourage Islamophobic and xenophobic behaviour.
Alongside asking Facebook for its assistance, we also ask for your help. Please report the page Australians against Sharia 2 and the comments linked throughout this briefing so that we can send our message across to this page and other similar Facebook pages and users that such behaviour is not acceptable, and to finally eradicate Islamophobia and Xenophobia and other forms of hate on this social media platform.
Written by Sarah Ngo and B.K.
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This article is part of the Online Hate Prevention Institute’s special focus on Coronavirus: Racism, Hate Speech and Fake News.