OHPI featured in an ABC Radio National documentary

El Khoury, Christine,”Background Briefing” November 22, 2015, ABC Radio National http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/backgroundbriefing/2015-11-22/6954444

Over the weekend, ABC Radio National broadcast an in-depth documentary “Anti-Muslim Extremists: How far will they go? on the rise in far right, anti-Muslim groups in Australia. OHPI’s CEO Dr Andre Oboler was extensively interviewed for it. The documentary has been put together by Christine El-Khoury.

The documentary speaks to the leaders of anti-Muslim groups and also to various academic experts, government and police spokesperson, and independent anti-racism activists examining and combating anti-Muslim, neo-Nazi and racist groups in Australia. It explores the history and political context of this ideology, the language employed by such groups, how it is promoted, why is it attractive to Australians, and how it has been on the rise in the country. It also discusses how and why such speech has a negative impact on society and community relations.

Dr Oboler provided a background on how social media is being used to promote groups, and what terror tactics they use online to intimidate and threaten Muslims. He also draws a parallel between how traditional antisemitic speech and anti-Muslim hate speech operates.

The documentary states that “The online network is where it’s at. Once upon a time, the far right groups would have been printing leaflets and scrambling to get people together for a rally. But the rise of social media, has enabled them to narrow cast their views and reach out to thousands of like minded individuals in Australia and overseas. The Internet has given a platform to the extremists in which to build a sense of community outside of real world, where hate can flourish with little risk of reprisal.”

Here’s a transcript of Dr Oboler’s contribution to the documentary:

“We’ve seen many cases of, for examples, where members of the Muslim community has their photograph put up on one of these hate groups. They have their name, their address other details published and a vague comment that someone should do something about this person. Sometimes, it makes a suggestion that this person supports ISIS or something to that effect. And it is this environment where online vigilantes can first identify a person and what we call “doxx” them: putting their information out there publicly and if enough people decide that this person should be targeted, you know, the worst could happen. Now the people they are targeting are usually just random members of society, there is no real reason for targeting that individual other than that they found a Muslim person, they found their details, and they said let’s target them. So we’ve seen that happen. We’ve also seen that when women engage and try to counter this, we’ve seen threats of rape, we’ve seen one case where someone threatened to come and slit someone’s throats and the throats of their children. It gets really really nasty.

When we were looking at it at the end of 2013, we had groups like Petition to Ban Halal Foods in Australia that had about 1,200 people, Petition to Ban Burqa had 1,500 people, we had other groups which were getting to the 2,000s, 4,000 mark – that’s sort of range. The largest groups which were not Australian were in the order of 30,000 or so. But those groups would be considered small compared to what we’re seeing online today. Most of the Australian groups are already to the 8,000, 10,000, 20,000 size. So we’ve seen an online presence where people have joined and gathered. Part of it is also because they have heard about these groups from the mainstream media.”

He also added: “Many of those who espouse antisemitic views, have now turned to Muslims. A lot of groups who now attack the Muslims, previously attacked the Jewish community. So there is certainly a link there. But certainly a lot of the messages we are seeing are very similar to what we have seen with antisemitism. The dehumanisation messages we are seeing, the idea that people don’t fit-in, that they are a threat, that’s the sort of thing which we have decades worth of experience within the Jewish community. It’s all there – you can match them side-by-side and you can see where it is coming from and where it is going. It is quite concerning to see.”

Among other experts also interviewed in the documentary are Dr Anne Aly, an expert in anti-Muslim hate speech working at the Curtis University, Andy Fleming, a journalist and blogger tracking racist and neo-Nazi groups, and Professor Kevin Dunn of Western Sydney University, who is currently researching hate speech on social media. Dr Anne Aly is an expert who will help us vet the anti-Muslim hate speech data we are collecting via our current campaign against anti-Muslim hate speech Spotlight on Anti-Muslim Internet Hate (SAMIH). Andy Fleming is a supporter of OHPI, as well.

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The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) is Australia’s National Charity dedicated to tackling the problem of online hate including online extremism, cyber-racism, cyber-bullying, online religious vilification, online misogyny, and other forms of online hate attacking individuals and groups in society. We aim to be a world leader in combating online hate and a critical partner who works with key stakeholders to improve the prevention and mitigation of online hate and the harm it causes. Ultimately, OHPI seeks to facilitate a change in online culture so that hate in all its forms becomes as socially unacceptable online as it is in “real life”.