‘I just saw her hand, she pulled my hair and my scarf violently, pushed me and started shouting abuse …’ This is how Siham recalled experiencing her scarf being ripped off her head by an ‘Anglo’ woman in a Sydney supermarket during the Gulf War. Incidents such as the tearing off of the scarf, along with many other acts of harassment directed at Arab and Muslim Australians, were widely reported as examples of ‘racism’ or ‘racist violence’ in the Australian press and in government reports at the time. The tearing off of scarfs was the most common incident registered in a report, Racist Violence, which followed from the government-financed National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia (NIRVA). According to NIRVA:

There have been widespread reports of Muslim women having their hijab pulled off in the street; such attacks are more significant for their symbolic impact on the victim than for any physical harm they may do. 1