A pregnant woman wearing a headscarf was viciously attacked in a café in a town near Sydney, New South Wales police said Thursday.
The incident happened on Wednesday night in Paramatta, about 15 miles west of Sydney, the police said in a statement.
The 31-year-old woman, who the police said was 38 weeks’ pregnant, was sitting at a table, eating and chatting with friends.
CCTV footage of the incident shows a man slowly approaching the victim, leaning over the table before punching her in the head.
In the statement, the police said the man allegedly “punched the woman in the head multiple times before she fell to the ground where it’s alleged the man stomped on her head.”
The footage shows fellow customers eventually restraining the man, who was then arrested by the police at the scene.
The police said the 43-year-old man has been charged with assault causing bodily harm and affray.
The victim was admitted to hospital for observation after the attack, the police said.
The woman, Rana Haidar, gave CNN permission to publish comments she posted on Facebook after the assault.
“This man verbalised his hatred of Muslims prior to hitting me,” Haidar wrote. “He decided that he was going to take it in his power to act upon his hatred and he neither knows me, nor my religion.”
She added that she’s experienced “verbal abuse and hate from other Australians in the past but I have never thought that physical abuse of this nature could happen to me.”
Haidar thanked the people in the restaurant who stepped in to defend her during the attack. And she expressed hope that speaking out about her assault might prevent future attacks motivated by race or religion.
“I do not want this attack to happen to anyone ever again,” she wrote. “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 behavior like this to become the norm and sit silent.”
The Australian National Imams Council, the body that unites Australia-based Muslim clerics and scholars, said it was “appalled” by the attack. In a statement issued on Friday, the council called on the government to “acknowledge that Islamophobia is a serious danger and act in protecting its citizens.”
The council said it reached out to the victim, who said “the offender made anti-Islamic comments before attacking her.”
Mehreen Faruqi, a Greens senator for New South Wales and the first Muslim woman to sit in Australia’s parliament, called the attack “absolutely sickening.”
“We should all be able to go about our lives free from violence, harassment and intimidation,” she tweeted.