A CASEY-first event that aims to unite Muslims and non-Muslims is being held this month in a bid to ease tensions and help tackle Islamophobia.
Muslim woman Inaz Janif, a Casey teacher, will hold a “coffee with a Muslim” event at the Hampton Park Uniting Church.
She said Islamophobia was rife in Casey and throughout Melbourne, and was worse after terror attacks.
She said she had friends who had been assaulted at the Fountain Gate shopping centre, and she and her friends had also had people deliberately try to run them off the road.
“There is obviously growing anti-Muslim sentiment locally and globally and I felt moved to do something about it, especially when I saw young people attacked for being visibly Muslim,” she said.
“In southeast Melbourne, women have had their hijabs torn off, been run off the road and also families physically attacked.
“Last year, the sign for the proposed Narre Warren Mosque itself was burnt down.”
Ms Janif said a Christian man had been kicked out of his church for standing up for Muslims.
“This event is not about this, it’s about taking the courage to meet someone different and discovering what we have in common and also our differences,” she said.
Ms Janif, who has lived in Casey all her life, said it was intimidating organising such an event, but she hoped people would come in the right spirit.
Earlier this year, local Christian Michael Boss sent 105 churches in Casey a letter asking them to pledge friendship to Muslims and stand against Islamophobia.
The Hampton Park Uniting Church was the only one that agreed.
Reverend Mat Harry said the church wanted to help Ms Janif because Christians had a duty to stand with Muslims. He said the church held a free meal for the needy at Christmas and many local Muslims volunteered.
“People may see each other at Fountain Gate, they might live next to each other, but they have never really had an opportunity to have a friendly dialogue,” he said.
This month, a report about Islamophobia in Australia found 80 per cent of victims were women in Islamic dress and nobody intervened 75 per cent of the time.
Of reported attacks, 26 per cent happened in Victoria. Shopping centres, train stations and places near mosques were danger spots.
Coffee With a Muslim will be held at 11am on July 29 at 1 Coral Drive, Hampton Park.