The Christchurch terror attacks emboldened far-right extremists and has been followed by an increase in real world and online instances of Islamophobia, a new report has found.
The third Islamophobia in Australia report was released this morning to coincide with the third anniversary of the shootings.
It outlined the shocking abuse and violence experienced by Muslims in Australia.
Online Islamophobia was reported 18 times as often in the immediate aftermath of the attacks and real-world Islamophobia quadrupled.
Just months after a terrorist stormed into two Christchurch mosques and gunned down dozens of worshippers, ultimately resulting in the death of 51, someone desecrated one of Australia's oldest mosques.
A swastika was spray-painted onto it, along with a racial slur lifted from the Christchurch terrorist and a message referring to him as a saint.
The report's chief investigator, Derya Iner, from Charles Sturt University, said 58 percent of Australia's mosques were the target of violence ranging from graffiti and vandalism to arson and death threats between 2014 and 2019, with 29 percent targeted in 2019 alone.
In the wake of the Christchurch shootings, such attacks were even more terrifying for their victims.
"The person who is doing that vandalism or that level of attack, you never know if he will go further. So that trauma, especially after Christchurch, was really triggered and it has a long lasting impact on the community," Dr Iner said.
The report painted a painful picture of the abuse endured by Muslims in Australia.
The cases showed anyone could be a victim.
"The reported incidents disclose that the perpetrator profile is diverse, ranging from homeless people and drug addicts to university staff and art gallery visitors. The reported cases indicate that anti-Muslim hate breaches social and professional hierarchies," the report said.
"A person begging for donations on a university campus can shout at an Australian Muslim woman to leave her country. A patient in the chair of a Muslim dentist can call all Muslims terrorists. Physical cases also display that racist disrespect to Australian Muslims is normal social behaviour from ordinary people - fathers, mothers and children, and sometimes whole Australian families."
However, the victims were overwhelmingly women (82 percent) and the vast majority of the perpetrators were Anglo men.
Victims were often vulnerable, either women or children by themselves or in the company of other women or children.
Muslim women were often readily identifiable by their hijab, though there was also an underlying sexism behind many attacks, Dr Iner said.
"In some cases, the perpetrator is attacking a Muslim woman not knowing her husband is about to come, so the behaviour changes right away when male company approaches and confronts. The men who are perpetrators are looking for easy, weak, vulnerable targets."
While the report dealt with Australia, the Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand national coordinator Aliya Danzeisen said it was mirrored here, where Islamophobia was also on the rise.
"We have academics based in New Zealand saying that it's increasing. We have intelligence and security saying that there's been an increase, and in November they even issued a warning that there was a possibility of another attack. There is definitely a notable increase from where we were before March 15th three years ago."
Just last month, three Muslim schoolgirls were attacked with one teenager suffering a concussion and having her hijab torn off by other students.
"This report emphasises why we as a nation need to get in front of this hate and not wait until it shows up on our front lawns or at the doors of our houses of worship and community centres to act," Danzeisen said.
"The council urges the New Zealand government to put forward legislation to address harmful speech as recommended by its own Royal Commission and to consider legislation that will ensure digital platforms are not actively distributing and augmenting such hate and can be held to account if they do. Every day of delay is another day that the government allows the virus of hate to grow in Aotearoa."
Real-world abuse and violence was fed by an online ecosystem of Islamophobia.
The report outlined some of the vile commentary which followed the Christchurch terror attacks including some who celebrated the murder of children.
Much of the hatred was based on the idea Muslims were inherently violent and deserved what occurred in Christchurch.
"Seeing Muslims as terrorists and killers was 12 percent in the first report when the ISIS threat was heavily reported in mainstream media in 2014-15. This proportion increased to 27 percent in the second report based on the 2016-17 reports. This number reached 40 percent in 2018-19 when ISIS was deactivated and no ISIS terrorism was recorded," the Australian report said.
"The noticeable spike from 12 percent to 39 percent proves portrayal of Muslims as unconditionally terrorists and can be explained with the increasing influence of far-right extremist rhetoric and conspiracy theories, which justify extremist levels of anti-Muslim hate by demonising all Muslims as potential terrorists and killers. This narrative was one of the most popular post-Christchurch anti-Muslim narratives online."
Australian Muslim Advocacy Network adviser Rita Jabri Markwell said the online community that helped create the Christchurch terrorist then celebrated what he had done.
"It's not fair that ordinary people are being manipulated by disinformation to the point of feeling disgust and fury towards other members of the community, and that those bad actors are allowed to get away with doing that with impunity."
Australia and New Zealand's governments needed to enforce stronger regulations on social media platforms, forcing them to take a harder line on policing and moderating hate speech, she said.