The 38-weeks pregnant Muslim woman Rana Elasmar, 31, was with friends at a Parramatta eatery on Wednesday night when 43-year-old Stipe Lozina allegedly approached their table and spoke to them.
Lozina then allegedly leaned over and punched Ms Elasmar several times in the head and upper body, causing her to fall to the ground as her friends tried to hold him back. He then allegedly stomped on her head.
Since then two other women aged 29 and 63 have alleged that Lozina shouted at them and threatened them at a shopping centre in Liverpool on October 1.
NSW Police says the women told security and that they later told police officers they saw Lozina again on George Street in Liverpool.
Police are looking at Islamophobia as a potential motive for the alleged attack on Ms Elasmar who was wearing a hijab at the time. It’s been reported the man made anti-Muslim comments to Ms Elasmar.
Posting publicly on Facebook under the name of Rana Haider, Ms Elasmar, who identified herself as a Muslim, said she has experienced verbal abuse and hate in the past but never thought “physical abuse of this nature could happen to me”.
The verbal abuse was “already too much,” a feeling which Ms Elasmar said the Islamic community shares.
“It is NOT ok. How somebody feels like they have the right to abuse another human being baffles me. It shows a lack of humanity. It shows weakness,” Ms Elasmar said in the post on Friday.
The man who attacked her “verbalised his hatred of Muslims prior to hitting me” but “he neither knows me, nor my religion,” she said.
“I do not want this attack to happen to anyone ever again. I want to see a world where people defend one another against cowardly acts like this and band together to protect the victims.”
“We cannot allow behaviour like this to become the norm and sit silent.” Ms Elasmar suffered a number of bruises and has some swelling. She was taken to Westmead Hospital but was later discharged.
She thanked her friends and members of the public who came to her aid, as well as thanking those who have offered support through social media posts, messages and phone calls.
“The overwhelming support I have received is a reflection that this was a story that many can relate to,” Ms Elasmar said.
“We are mothers, wives, daughters and we deserve to feel safe wherever we go. We deserve a night out to unwind without being fearful of an attack like this happening again.” “I fear for the world our children will grow up in, if this issue is not addressed.”
“I call all Australians, Muslim or non-Muslims, of all faiths and cultures to come together, as you have already done for me, and voice your solidarity in protecting innocent people from any future racial/religious attacks.”
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils labelled the attack “horrific and cowardly” and commended friends and bystanders who stepped in to help – including one who struck the alleged attacker with a chair.
“This was clearly a racist and Islamophobic attack and we expect it to be treated as such,” federation president Dr Rateb Jneid said in a statement on Friday.
The attack came days after a Charles Sturt University report into Islamophobia in Australia prompted fears abuse was spilling into the open.
The report found that of all reported non-online Islamophobic incidents in Australia in 2016 and 2017, more than half occurred in guarded or patrolled areas and security guards did not deter the abuse.
Of 349 total incidents, almost three quarters were carried out against women, while 96 per cent of non-online female victims were wearing a hijab.
“In the week a report was released outlying the growing incidents of Islamophobia in this country, such an attack is tragic, real-life proof of the dangers that Muslims, and Muslim women in particular, now face,” the AFIC said.
Lozina, 43, appeared before Parramatta Local Court on Thursday charged with affray and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. He was refused bail to return to court on December 5.
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