Pregnant Muslim woman attacked in Australia

Seemingly without provocation, the suspect is seen lunging over the table to attack a woman, who police said is 38 weeks pregnant.
Seemingly without provocation, the suspect is seen lunging over the table to attack a woman, who police said is 38 weeks pregnant.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

SYDNEY • A Sydney man has been charged with punching and stomping on a heavily pregnant woman unprovoked, in what was described as an "Islamophobic" attack by a leading Australian Islamic association.

Shocking security camera footage showed a man approaching a table of three women wearing headscarves as they chatted at a cafe in the city's west on Wednesday. Seemingly without provocation, the 43-year-old suspect is seen lunging over the table to attack a 31-year-old woman, who police said is 38 weeks pregnant.

After several frenzied punches, the woman fell to the ground and was stomped on, before bystanders wrestled the assailant away.

Police said a suspect was charged with "assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray" and denied bail. They declined to comment on the attacker's motives, but left open the possibility of additional charges being laid against him.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) said on Thursday that the man was heard "yelling anti-Islamic hate speech at the victim and her friends".

"This was clearly a racist and Islamophobic attack and we expect it to be treated as such," said AFIC president Rateb Jneid.

Police inspector Luke Sywenkyj said: "If it were not for the brave actions of these members of the community in stopping the assault, the victim may very well have sustained much more serious injuries."

The woman was taken to hospital following the attack and discharged, the police said yesterday.

A recent report by researchers at Charles Sturt University found Islamophobia in Australia was "a continuous phenomenon" and women wearing a headscarf are especially at risk. Of 113 female victims who reported being physically intimidated, researchers found 96 per cent were wearing a headscarf.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2019, with the headline 'Pregnant Muslim woman attacked in Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe