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Policy brief – Australian Muslims’ Experiences of Policing and Surveillance

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There is a strong sense of concern over the amount of scrutiny faced collectively by Australian Muslims, with the whole Muslim community bearing the brunt of perceived ‘guilt by association’ with terrorism. There are concerns that  community policing is now morphing into an intelligence gathering strategy, with detrimental effects on community confidence in law enforcement agencies. The success of community policing rests on community trust and support for police counter-terrorism efforts. 

Impact on Australian Muslims

Members of the Muslim community have stressed the importance of engaging with the community as a key factor to counter violent extremism. The success of community policing is often undermined by the police’s focus on surveillance and intelligence gathering, rather than on genuine efforts to include Muslims in creating counter-terrorism strategies and policies.[1]

The question of trust – Anti-Muslim sentiments

Anti-terror tactics employed by the police against Muslims have contributed to the erosion of confidence in the police. Among these include ‘stop and search’ powers against Muslims, informal questioning of Muslims, and raids and searches of Muslims’ houses. Anti-terror police raids remain a source of contention, with many respondents expressing that the way such raids are conducted is offensive and upsetting to Australian Muslims. 

The politicisation of police

Many Muslims are disillusioned with the way politicians and the media sensationalise terrorist attacks and imply that there is a link between Islam and terrorism. This sensationalism is seen as fear mongering, often by politicians to advance ‘their own agenda.’  There is an overwhelming feeling that Australian public opinion of Muslims is skewered by sensationalism. Effective community policing facilitates two-way engagement between the police and Muslim community and requires that the police are responsive to Muslim concerns and recommendations. 

Valued as a citizen

The spike in anti-Muslim discourse following 9/11 has led to feelings of isolation within the Australian Muslim community. There are also sentiments that Muslims have to work significantly harder than non-Muslims for their voices to be heard and that when it comes to counter-terrorism strategies, their opinions, concerns and recommendations were not taken seriously by authorities. 

Freedom of religious expression and freedom

Members of the Muslim community have discussed this in relation to voting in elections, which they claimed was their ‘strongest power’ in validating their opinions, however, there are overall feelings of being treated as ‘second class citizens’.

The Muslim community and consultation

The feeling of not being heard among Australian Muslims is elevated at times of crisis. Many respondents expressed frustration over the lack of meaningful consultation with the Australian Federal Government and police regarding anti- terror laws and strategies.

To download the research paper, visit here.

Citation: Akbarzadeh, Shahram (2021) Australian Muslims’ Experiences of Policing and Surveillance (Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights: Melbourne).

[1] Cherney, Adrian and Kristina Murphy (2016) ‘Being a ‘suspect community’ in a post 9/11 world – The impact of the war on terror on Muslim communities in Australia’, Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 480 – 496