Around 8 PM Tuesday night several cars were set ablaze in front of a mosque in the Perth suburb of Thornlie. The incident occurred during evening prayers at the mosque, and graffiti was left at the scene reading "Fuck Islam."
While many news agencies have reported last night's incident as a bomb blast, a spokesperson from WA police told VICE, "there was no bomb blast, there was no bomb whatsoever." A statement on the WA Police Facebook page later confirmed it's "believed an accelerant was used to start the fire."
Local Labor MP Chris Tallentire labeled the incident an act of "urban terrorism." Certainly, the incident firmly falls within the Australian Government's official definition of a terrorist attack.
"This act of hatred is a criminal act aiming to frighten Muslims," Voices Against Bigotry co-founder Susie Latham told VICE when asked about the incident. "Unfortunately when you have six parties with an anti-Muslim platform running for election in Australia, and divisive political leaders in the UK and US, people who commit violent acts like this feel their bigotry is legitimate and they grow in confidence."
Latham is referring to the slew of minor parties running for the July 2 election that have strong anti-immigration and anti-Islam policies as part of their platforms: the Australian Liberty Alliance, Pauline Hanson's One Nation, the Rise Up Australia Party, the Jacqui Lambie Network, the Christian Democrats, and the Australia First Party.
The Australian Liberty Alliance proudly asserts on their website that, "Islam is not merely a religion, it is a totalitarian ideology with global aspirations." Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is publicly suggesting there to be an essential problem with Islam itself.
The Islamophobia Register Australia, established in 2014 in response to a rise in the anecdotal reports of Islamophobic violence, found "an average of 5.4 incidents per week" of reported Islamophobic behaviour in Australia.
The report also found that "There are noticeable spikes in reported incidents [of Islamophobic behaviour] following certain events, including… the September 2015 anti-terror raids and…Tony Abbott's national security statement where he said that he'd heard 'Western leaders describe Islam as a religion of peace' and that he "wished more Muslim leaders would say it and mean it.'"
The Thornlie attack is the latest in a string of crimes target Perth's Islamic community: "White Power" was graffitied onto Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Mosque in June 2015, and later, in November, a pig's head was left outside.
WA Police are currently seeking three men who were seen running down an alleyway during the Thornlie blaze.