Video shows racist rant on Sydney train (ABC News)
A video that captures the moments a Muslim woman was the subject of a racist verbal attack on a Sydney train has been viewed nearly 80,000 times.
The video was recorded on a phone by Stacey Eden, 23, who can be heard telling the older woman to stop disrespecting the Muslim woman who was with her husband and wearing a headscarf at the time.
Ms Eden, a pathology worker, told the ABC she was catching a train home to Mascot on the Airport Line at around 1:40pm on Wednesday afternoon.
She said she noticed a group of people enter the train, particularly a man and woman wearing a scarf with a baby.
At that point she said an old lady walked over and started speaking to them.
“I was just listening to my music,” Ms Eden said.
“The old lady actually bent over and touched the lady’s scarf while she was talking.
“I didn’t think anything of it.”
Verbal abuse made reference to Islamic State
Ms Eden said she noticed the old woman was verbally abusing the couple, who said nothing.
“The lady next to me was saying things like ‘all the people that were dying were because of the Muslims in the world and look what’s happening overseas’,” she said.
Photo: Stacey Eden intervened on a Sydney train when a Muslim woman was verbally abused. (Supplied: Facebook)
Ms Eden said the woman continued by saying: “Read the newspapers, why are you following this religion for, why do you wear things like that so you can marry a man who’s going to go marry a 6-year-old?”
“I was like ‘this isn’t right, why are you saying these kinds of things?'”
In the video, Ms Eden can be heard telling the old woman to leave the other woman’s dress alone.
“She wears it for herself, OK,” she said in the video.
“She wears it because she wants to be modest with her body, not because of people like you who are going to sit there and disrespect her.”
The older woman can be heard mentioning beheadings, the Sydney siege and suggesting the woman was an “ISIS supporter”.
Ms Eden said she got angry and started recording the incident.
“She was picking on her for the way she was dressed and that’s what really got to me,” she said.
“This lady that was sitting across from me wearing a scarf, she was minding her own business, she never said anything out of line, she never even spoke.
“That’s why I decided to say something because it just made me really angry and upset.”
Police encourage victims of racial abuse to come forward
Ms Eden said she missed her Mascot stop to make sure the couple felt safe and once she saw them get off at the International Airport stop, she got off at Wolli Creek.
“I was actually worried about what was going to happen,” she said.
“I stayed on the train for a few more stops just to make sure everything was going to be OK.
“As they got off they thanked me.”
The victim’s husband, Hafeez Ahmed Bhatti, posted a thank you message on Facebook which said: “This video was not made by me. That is what happened to us on a Sydney train, God bless Stacey Eden she supported us”.
Facebook screenshot of racist rant victim Photo: The husband of the woman who was verbally abused posted a thank you message on Facebook. (Supplied: Facebook)
Ms Eden said she felt compelled to stand up because no one else was doing anything.
“I just felt like if no one said anything, it was just going to keep going, so I had to say it,” she said.
“People like that are just very ignorant. They’re never going to listen to what you say.
“I didn’t want to cause an argument or have a confrontation, I just wanted her to stop talking just so she wouldn’t keep making them feel bad about themselves.”
A New South Wales police spokesman told the ABC they would review the video footage.
“NSW Police is aware of an incident which occurred on at train travelling on the Airport, Inner West and South line involving alleged racial vilification yesterday,” a spokesman said.
“The Police Transport Command is reviewing a video posted online in an effort to identify the alleged offender.”
Police said they had not received a report of the alleged assault and were encouraging the victims to come forward.
“We encourage anyone who is the victim of a biased motivated crime to report the matter to local police or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” they said.
Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane from the Australian Human Rights Commission said the video was “inexcusable”.
“It’s always disappointing to see people being subjected to harassment or abuse in public places,” he said.
“There’s simply no excuse to be abusing people or to be harassing people because of their religious beliefs or their racial background.”
Dr Soutphommasane said it was encouraging to see Ms Eden stand up to the discrimination.
“It’s always encouraging to see people respond to racism or bigotry,” he said.
“If it’s safe to do so, people should feel free to speak out against abuse or harassment.
“By speaking up, we send a powerful message that we don’t accept or condone bigotry and racism Source
A fringe anti-Islamic group’s hate campaign against Muslims has sparked a backlash, with police investigating death threats and an apparent attempted murder, and a warning that this report contains offensive language.
SARAH FERGUSON, PRESENTER: Police and Australia’s domestic spy agency are investigating a fringe anti-Islamic group waging a hate campaign against Australian Muslims.
The Australian Defence League has been following and photographing Muslim women on public transport, displaying anti-Islamic posters outside mosques and filming at Muslim schools and posting the videos online.
The League, which incites its followers to violence, is led by a former soldier who claims to have support from within the Defence Force.
His group has only a few paid members, but an unknown number of followers. The campaign has fuelled a backlash, with police investigating death threats and an apparent attempted murder.
Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop has been investigating the Australian Defence League, and a warning: this report contains some offensive language.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP, REPORTER: This is the Australian Defence League in action, waging a vicious hate campaign against Muslims on the streets of Sydney.
AUST. DEFENCE LEAGUE MEMBER: We are not a hate group, but we are a group that does hate Islam – period.
RALPH CERMINARA, PRESIDENT, AUST. DEFENCE LEAGUE: We have Muslims gang raping, killing the father and mother for an unpaid bill, just the other day. Molestering seven girls in one day. Multiple wives. Female genital mutilation. Spreading their disgust for our country and our Government.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Australian Defence League is a far-right anti-Islamic group set up in 2009. It’s a registered not-for-profit organisation. Its mission is to have Islam banned in Australia.
RALPH CERMINARA: Hello everyone. I am the president of the ADL, the Australian Defence League. I’m also an ex-soldier from the Australian Army.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Ralph Cerminara has been the Australian Defence League’s national president for more than three years. He’s been visiting mosques to put up anti-Islamic posters, ratcheting up tensions with the Muslim community with his poisonous rhetoric.
RALPH CERMINARA: So we’re not out there going after Muslims with pitchforks and things like that.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: But you are going after Muslims individually?
RALPH CERMINARA: Well of course. They’re coming after us. They’re raping our children. They’re raping our families. They are – now in the west, it’s pretty much a crime capital of Sydney and we all know what’s going on down there.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Ralph Cerminara uses social media to campaign against the country’s Muslims. This was recently posted on Facebook.
RALPH CERMINARA (male voiceover, Facebook post): “I’m calling for the end of Islam in our country and hopefully the world. If Muslims have to die then so be it. It is us against them.”
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: And Ralph Cerminara made this call to action to more than 12,000 followers.
RALPH CERMINARA (male voiceover, Facebook post): “Do you have bed sheets walking around in your community? Do you know what is under that sheet? Take photos wherever you are and send them to us.”
(In person)… We’ve encouraged the public to actually take photos of people in public areas where, legally, you’re allowed to take it.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The Australian Defence League has been stalking Muslim women on public transport.
This mother of three was on the morning train in Sydney just over a fortnight ago when she was secretly photographed by an Australian Defence League member. She had no idea what had happened until she got to work. She’s still so scared; she’ll only speak to us anonymously.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: My friend called to warn me that my picture was up on the ADL Facebook page. As soon as I saw the picture, I went into shock.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The picture was accompanied by this caption.
ADL FACEBOOK PAGE CAPTION (male voiceover): “Are you having problems getting a man? Then join Islam, taking the world’s rejects, paedophiles and weak-minded people for thousands of years.”
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: It provoked vile comments on the Australian Defence League Facebook page.
Fearful for her safety, the woman turned to Maha Abdo from the Muslim Women’s Association.
MAHA ABDO, MULSIM WOMEN’S ASSOCIATION: Why are they attacking women? Why are they taking photos without their consent? Whether it is racism or it is not, it’s not about that anymore. It’s about the effect of their words and their – you know, their reaction on normal, average people.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: The woman is now on stress leave.
ANONYMOUS WOMAN: When I’m alone, I have panic attacks. I need to, you know, see a counsellor and work through my fears to see if I can go back on a train and get over this.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Ralph Cerminara is unapologetic about targeting Muslim women.
RALPH CERMINARA: They are putting that hijab on themselves, the same as a person putting up a satanic star around their neck. We know what they stand for by putting that on.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: So they deserve to be ridiculed online?
RALPH CERMINARA: Um, well, in a public forum, if that’s the way it has to happen, well then so be it.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: In the videos it makes, the Australian Defence League boasts of strong support from within the Defence Force, including amongst naval officers in Operation Sovereign Borders.
This song, by an ADL member, is called Border Patrol. It’s a violent call to arms against Muslims and asylum seekers.
RALPH CERMINARA: We have a huge support from the Defence Force – or the personnel in the Defence Force, I should say. There’s a lot of members in the Army that are still naturally involved with us, and when the time comes, they will be on our side.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Earlier this year, the Navy launched an investigation into the involvement of Navy personnel in the Australian Defence League. This month it announced several sailors had been dismissed for bigoted posts on social media, but it found no serving Navy personnel were ADL members.
Two months ago, Nathan Abela was made the Australian Defence League’s Western Sydney president.
He’s been stirring up trouble by handing out anti-Muslim pamphlets at shopping centres.
Nathan Abela also targeted Australia’s biggest Islamic school.
NATHAN ABELA, ADL PRESIDENT, WESTERN SYDNEY: Absolutely ridiculous. Why do you need 10-foot walls outside a school with a security checkpoint for a simple mosque and school? What’s going on in there?
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Last month, he filmed the Malek Fahd School in Sydney’s south-west and posted the video on YouTube.
NATHAN ABELA: Why do we need four f***ing locks in the middle of Sydney with a mosque in it and children like this? So, I dare say they’re keeping and locking up people inside there…
RAY BARRETT, PRINCIPAL, MALEK FAHD ISLAMIC SCHOOL: He was indicating that things might’ve been going on here, like terrorism. Why somebody would indicate that there was something un-Australian going on behind the walls when all it is is one of New South Wales’ top schools.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: It so worried headmaster Ray Barrett that he called the police, who alerted the counter-terrorism command and ASIO.
RAY BARRETT: It was the subsequent Facebook comments that disturbed some people. Comments like, “Wait until people are inside the mosque and then we’ll do an RPG and a C4,” and for people my age, I had to Google that to know it’s rocket-propelled grenades and plastic explosives and, you know, pretty damaging – or inciteful – inciteful stuff.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Students were appalled by the comments about their school.
RAY BARRETT: What did you think about it?
RAY BARRETT: Stupid?
STUDENT II: Terrible.
STUDENT III: It was very racist.
RAY BARRETT: Yes.
STUDENT III: Yes.
RAY BARRETT: And how’d you feel about that?
STUDENT III: Threatened.
STUDENT IV: I thought it was really disrespectful of him to start trouble throughout the community.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Nathan Abela’s campaign provoked a series of threats from Muslim activists.
ZAKY MALLAH, MUSLIM ACTIVIST: Hey, Nathan? You and your other ADL thugs … we will take you on, nose to nose.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Some went even further.
MUSLIM ACTIVIST II: Nathan, you are making yourself a clear target for the Muslims out there. … If you do not accept Islam as your salvation, there will come a time where Jesus, peace be upon him, he will come back. And when he comes back, he won’t be in (inaudible). It’s either you will accept Islam as your salvation or you will die by the sword.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: A few days later, gun shots were fired into Nathan Abela’s home.
NATHAN ABELA: Went like this (opening blind and looking out of window), looked, (closing blind) went like that, “Nathan, is that you?” Turned around and f***ing yes, it is and just f***ing – from about here to where the table is, I jumped and I was bang, bang, bang, bang, fired at.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Where did the bullets go?
ZAKY MALLAH: I was surprised that it happened, but I was more surprised that it didn’t happen sooner.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Muslim activist Zaky Mallah says the ADL was looking for trouble.
ZAKY MALLAH: I think everything that Nathan Abela and Ralph have done has built up to the point where an individual or a group of individuals have taken the laws into their own hand and decided to do something about it.
NATHAN ABELA: I’m adamant it’s – the Islamic community have their hands deep into what happened. They are involved in what happened, definitely.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Nathan Abela claims the ADL is still receiving threats like this one:
CALLER: I’m going to put a whole clip in you, you f***ing dog. Do you know who you’re f***ing with, you piece of s**t?
MALE VOICE: Who am I f***ing with?
CALLER: The whole f***ing clip, I’m going to f***ing put it in you, you ****sucking mutt, righteously.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Last week, anxious Muslims met with police to demand action against the Australian Defence League.
REBECCA KAY, COMMUNITY ADVOCATE: Why aren’t you saying that this is not acceptable in Australian society the same way that everyone’s quick to jump on the barrel as soon as a Muslim person steps out of line?
DR JAMAL RIFI, COMMUNITY LEADER: They are a serious threat to public order and danger to community harmony and that’s why we are here tonight.
NICK KALDAS, NSW DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER: It’s unacceptable, we will not tolerate it and we will be there to do something about it.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Senior police say they’re taking the conflict seriously.
NICK KALDAS: There is a fairly large investigation going on at the moment in relation to all the stuff they’ve done on the internet. There’s also some legal advice that we need to get and some of the offences we can’t charge until approval’s given by the Attorney-General’s Department, and that will be pursued, obviously.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: Police have since laid charges against Nathan Abela, including trespassing and using the internet to menace, harass or offend.
Australia’s most senior Muslim leader, the Grand Mufti, is urging Muslims not to turn to violence.
IBRAHIM ABU MUHAMMAD, GRAND MUFTI OF AUSTRALIA: Angry reactions will not bring your rights. Angry reactions will make you a suspect, instead of a victim. And this will open avenues for the real suspect to evade justice.
SEAN RUBINSZTEIN-DUNLOP: He warns the ADL poses an extreme danger.
IBRAHIM ABU MUHAMMAD: They want to explode society. Organisations created in the name of defending Australia want to start a fire in all Australia. They deal with the most precious thing a human being has, and that is his beliefs.
SARAH FERGUSON: Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop reporting.
ABC News presenter Jeremy Fernandez says he has been racially abused on a Sydney bus in front of his young daughter.
Fernandez tweeted on Friday morning that a female bus passenger had called him a “black c**t” and told him to “go back to my country”.
But, in what he described as his own Rosa Parks moment, Fernandez refused to move his position on the bus and, as a result, copped 15 minutes of racial abuse from the woman, who was accompanied by her primary school-aged children.
“Anyone who says racism is dying is well and truly mistaken,” he tweeted.
“Coppef [sic] 15 mins of racial abuse. Bus driver said ‘your fault for not moving) [sic],” he wrote.
“Worst thing is- i had my 2yo daughter with me. She had her primary school aged kids with her. All heard every word of her racist rant.
“It’s a sad thing when a coloured man in 2013 has to show his kid how to hold their nerve in the face of racist taunts.”
Fernandez has been contacted for comment.
Late last year, a French woman was targeted in a racist attack on a Melbourne bus in which she was called a c—, a dog and threatened with having her breasts cut off after she sang a song in her native tongue.
Another passenger captured footage of that incident, which showed passengers verbally abusing French tourist Fanny Desaintjores, 22, and her friends on board a bus in the city’s southern suburbs.
Ms Desaintjores said she and about nine friends were on the bus, having spent the day at the beach for a barbecue, and were singing “French popular joyful songs, not coarse at all”.
Footage of the racist taunts was viewed more than a million times on YouTube and been reported around the world.
Police have spoken to three people over that attack, and investigations are continuing.
ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez has long experienced racism since moving to Australia as a teenager, but a 15-minute racist tirade he experienced in front of his young daughter left him particularly shaken. He asks, what makes people so ready to vent their hate in 2013?
Photo: I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” (Giulio Saggin, file photo: ABC News)
Earlier today I had what I like to think of as my own Rosa Parks moment on a Sydney bus travelling through the inner-west from Marrickville to Stanmore.
It culminated in a woman, in the presence of her two school-aged kids, calling me a “black c***”. She told me to go back to my “own country”, and threatened to drag me off the bus as she raised her fist to my face.
The entire encounter lasted about 15 minutes, and is one of the most confronting instances of abuse I have experienced recently.
I am absolutely sure this episode isn’t unique or even rare. I cop racist abuse from time to time – most recently from a checkout operator at Woolworths who had been moaning her disapproval about the influx of asylum seekers to our shores. When my turn came to go through the checkout, she scanned and piled my groceries on a tiny bit of the counter top until everything fell on the floor. As I picked my groceries up from the floor she kept going, sending more groceries off the edge of the tiny bench.
You never know when you’ll be hit next, and having your mug on TV doesn’t offer much of a shield.
However, this episode on the bus shook me particularly strongly because I had my two-year-old daughter with me. In fact, it was in her defence that the confrontation started.
The woman’s daughter had been flicking and pinching my daughter from behind. It was harmless child’s play, but it made my daughter uncomfortable and confused. So I put my arm around her as protection. The little girl kept clipping my arm. I turned and told her softly, “That was my arm.”
The girl’s mother asked what was going on, and I told her what had happened. She denied her daughter had even touched me.
What happened next took me by surprise.
She began hurling abuse and accused me of reaching behind our seats and touching her daughter. Of course, I had not done anything of the sort. This accusation hit me pretty hard.
At this point, I considered moving to another spot on the bus. However, the woman then launched into a racist rant that continued for the longest 15 minutes of my life. I thought to myself, “What would Rosa Parks do?” She would stay put. So I did, especially since it is 2013.
As the woman’s rant continued, I did argue back, telling her she was a piece of work for even talking like this in front of children. She raised a fist to my face, and threatened to drag me off the bus if I didn’t move.
A Caucasian gentleman sitting next to the woman told her to stop. She told him off, before continuing her rant at me. No one else said anything, and for that I have no resentment. Any further outside involvement risked escalating the situation.
I used my phone to record the tail end of the woman’s rant, while she got her phone out to take photographs of me. She muttered threats, saying that she knew where I lived and would round up a few men to show me a lesson.
After she got off the bus to drop her children off at school, a couple of people offered me their names and contact details as witnesses.
The sting was yet to come. As I alighted from the bus, I told the driver that as someone who had carriage of passengers on his vehicle, it would have been nice if he had pulled this woman into line.
He said, “It’s your fault, mate. You could have moved.” I was keen to press the point that I didn’t move from my seat on principle because I had every right to be on that bus in that seat. It surprised me that as a European migrant himself, he failed to recognise that.
Discrimination on the basis of race, colour, gender, economics, disability, sexual preference, and other differences is an unfortunate part of our modern society. People across the country put up with all types of abuse and move on. For me, this incident wasn’t about race. It was about hate.
If I were gay, disabled, elderly, or spoke poor English, this woman would have attacked that, perceiving it to be the most shameful aspect of me.
Racism has been a part of my life since I was a young child growing up in Malaysia, when the fairer-skinned kids would call me the ‘oily man’ because I looked to them like I’d been dipped in a barrel of oil.
I moved to Australia as a 13-year old with a ‘weird accent’, and learned to embrace being a novelty. One of my best friends at school, on learning I wanted to be a journalist one day, advised me not to worry about never getting a job: “There’s always SBS,” he said.
I cut my teeth in journalism when Pauline Hanson was becoming popular. I attended her first speech in Perth, during which all of my belongings apart from a pen and paper were confiscated, in case I used them as missiles. It saddened me equally to see the people who turned out to hear Ms Hanson speak being pelted with fruit and vegetables.
Ever since my family migrated to Australia, I have been asked what I think about racism. I rarely talk about it publicly because there is nothing new to say. Why are we still having conversations about immigration, embracing difference, and acceptance in 2013? And what makes people so ready to vent their hate?
I have to admit that I had a bit of a cry after dropping my daughter off at daycare. It saddened me to realise that I’ll have to teach her how to be stoic and stand up for herself in the face of an abusive person. Perhaps naively, I hadn’t thought that far ahead, especially because Sydney is said to be one of the most open and inclusive cities in the world.
I have been heartened and deeply humbled by the messages of support I’ve received today, many from strangers on social media outlets.
I bounce back pretty easily. But I am now wondering about where and how we can change things so our kids don’t have to explain hate to their kids.
Jeremy Fernandez is a journalist and newsreader for ABC News. View his full profile here.
Now of course as yet it cannot be shown what caused the fire without an investigation by the appropriate authorities and no news source even speculated on what might have been the cause.
However this didn’t stop a US-based anti-Muslim hate page from picking up the story, and to put their own spin on it, even though they’d be hard-pressed to tell you where Adelaide even was.
And of course they were ably assisted by some of our local self-appointed fire experts.
According to this hysterical huddle of xenophobes, the butcher shop in the complex was supposedly “fire-bombed” and not only that but the supermarket in the complex carried “no pork or bacon” after alleged “attacks on the products”.
However in the real world which most people inhabit here is absolutely NO EVIDENCE FOR ANY SUCH THING
The theme was actually taken up on another forum, again with no supporting evidence whatsoever but with plenty of bilious grunting.
And you might be interested in “Jack Johnson”. We certainly were after we read his paranoid rants to a US forum on combat knives.
In fact we know him as this loser.
And here’s a picture of him amusing the people of the Inner West a couple of years ago at a community forum.
He was also quite happy to get up close and personal with former self-appointed Mahdi to the Muslim masses Ibrahim Sidddiq Conlon, while also making baseless claims to having been involved with Australian volunteer veterans who dismantle mines on former battlefields in Indo-China.
So bizarre were his fantasies that even the far right, no strangers to bizarre delusions and outrageous utterances themselves, were unable to stomach him and he was ejected from both the Pathetic Party and an anti-lefty whinge group.
Ah bogots – the same yesterday, today and tomorrow
The Defence Department has charged and reprimanded two serving soldiers involved in making violent and racist comments in the wake of last month’s Islamic protests in Sydney.
Thirteen other soldiers have been formally counselled over their actions.
Defence launched an investigation after a group of Australian soldiers from the Townsville-based 3rd Brigade made threatening comments against the Muslim community on Facebook.
Those involved joked about using sniper rifles and machine guns on Muslims.
The remarks were made in the days after the Sydney protest sparked by an anti-Islamic film insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
These were some of the comments left on the Facebook page:
Give me a M4 and send to Sydney and I’ll do the dishes.
Could add a new meaning to clean up Australian day.
What about an SR-25? You could say some of those blokes look like farmers. Smile.
Mate, what I would given to drop the legs on a MAG 58, slap on a 500 round belt, adopt a stable firing position in the middle of the street and lay waste to every single one of those cancerous ****.
At least 20 people added that they liked what was being said.
And on the day of the Sydney protests, these comments were left:
The protests were triggered by a US film Innocence of Muslims, portraying the Prophet Mohammed as a womaniser and a paedophile.
Um, they are. And how many of these Muslims weren’t born in Australia? How many have read the Koran or been to Mecca?
And a sign said, ‘behead all those who insult the Prophet’. I know what I’m doing this week – getting my gun licence.
I’m getting one too.
Cronulla round two.
I was going to say Cronulla, ha ha.
I wonder if I could buy a flame thrower legally.
(From a previous report – Ed)
Some of the men making the comments have photos of themselves in uniform, including one person who has a variety of pictures of himself holding different machine guns.
Another of the men appears in a helicopter pilot’s uniform.
A simple search reveals photos of them on the Australian Defence Force’s public website or in Townsville media either during or after serving in Afghanistan.
Several Muslim organisations, including the Islamic Council of New South Wales, have received links to the Facebook page.
The council’s chairman, Khaled Sukkarieh, says he hopes the Facebook comments are just rants.
“We would be very concerned if former or current personnel of the ADF held such views, especially if they have served in Muslim countries or are serving in Muslim countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said.
“We would hope that these comments are just the ignorant rantings of a very small minority and not indicative of a big Islamophobic issue in the ADF.”
The Australia Defence Association told AM in a statement that if these men are serving members of the ADF they will have breached regulations about the responsible use of social media.
It says a second rule could have also been breached which is one of common sense, saying: “You don’t make the diggers’ life on the frontline harder by making stupid comments.”
In a statement to AM, the Defence Department says it was not aware of the Facebook page in question but it is now looking into it.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith says he has not seen the comments, but says ADF members need to act appropriately on social media sites.
“What they do with modern digital media runs the risk of what they think is private becoming public, and they’ve got to conduct themselves accordingly,” he said.
“They represent a uniform and represent the nation, so their comments have to be appropriate and their comments have to reflect the modern Australia, and the modern Australia is an Australia which says we are sensitive, sensible and tolerant about the different make up of Australia.
“We’ve got a well-deserved and hard-fought for reputation and we don’t want that sullied by stupid actions of a minority.”
Defence says two soldiers have been charged under the Defence Force Discipline Act and were formally reprimanded.
Disciplinary action is pending against one other soldier.
The Islamic community has welcomed the action.
Ahmed Kilani, who runs the Muslim Village website, says he is satisfied with the outcome:
“I think it sends out a strong message that we need to stamp out this type of mentality in the Defence Force or elsewhere in society,” he said.
Khaled Sukkarrieh from the New South Wales Islamic Council says he hopes other soldiers take note.
A parliamentary inquiry into Australia’s immigration detention centres is recommending asylum seekers be detained for no longer than 90 days.
A majority of members of the joint committee say asylum seekers who pass initial health, character and security checks should immediately get a bridging visa or be moved to community detention.
The inquiry also calls for a change to the current situation where the immigration minister is also the legal guardian of unaccompanied children in detention.
Committee chairman, Labor’s Daryl Melham, says where possible the maximum time in detention should be 90 days.
“The committee’s fundamental conclusion is that asylum seekers should reside in held detention for as little time as is practicable,” he said.
“The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that prolonged detention exacts a heavy toll on people, and most particularly on their mental health and wellbeing.
“While academics and psychologists tell us that mental health begins to erode after three months in detention, there are people with adverse security assessments in Australia’s immigration system who have been detained for well over two years.”
The report also recommends an international medical representative be present at detention facilities 24 hours a day and calls for an independent review of the appropriate qualifications for detention centre staff.
The report recommends that when people are held for more than 90 days, the reasons for their prolonged detention should be made public.
The committee also criticised the regular use of remote facilities, saying asylum seekers in detention should be accommodated in metropolitan areas wherever possible.
“There can be little doubt that, while the use of remote facilities has at times been necessary, they should be used only as a last resort,” the report said.
“This will not only better serve the needs of detainees, but save on some of the vast expense required to run large-scale facilities in extremely remote locations.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the deputy chair of the committee, has urged the Government to adopt the recommendations.
“The committee was able to agree to removing the guardianship of unaccompanied minors from the hands of the immigration minister, needing to replace that role with someone who will not be seen to be in a conflict of interest, time limits on detention, dealing with the mental health issues, getting people out of remote facilities.
“These are all very practical and much-needed steps.”
The committee wants spy agency ASIO to come under much greater scrutiny, including periodic reviews of adverse ASIO findings.
They also recommended laws be amended to allow for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review ASIO’s security assessments of asylum seekers.
Mr Melham, a lawyer who has worked in the criminal justice system, says there needs to be someone to guard the guard.
And that’s no criticism of ASIO, but there’ll be more confidence in the system.
In the old days, if Nelson Mandela, when he was being jailed in South Africa, had hopped on a boat and come to Australia, under these guidelines he’d have been kept in detention.
Labor MP and committee chairman Daryl Melham
The majority of the report was supported by Labor and Greens members of the committee, along with independent MP Rob Oakeshott.
The Coalition has supported only 16 of the 31 recommendations and has issued a dissenting report.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison says problems in detention centres have increased because of the number of asylum seekers coming to Australia.
“Our detention network collapsed because simply too many people turned up on too many boats as a result of Labor’s border protection failures,” he said.
Mr Morrison says the committee was set up after immigration detention riots last year, but he does not think it has focused enough on that aspect of the detention system.
“I’ve focused very heavily on the riots in my statements today because they have not been focused on, I believe, in the majority report made public today,” he said.
“The Australian people particularly wanted answers as to how and why this happened, so firstly it was because of the Government’s decision to abolish the border protection regime of the Howard government.”