Muslim hacktivists target Australian institutions after fashion label uses Arabic text for ‘Allah’

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks were launched against dozens of Australian institutions and businesses in retaliation for a “disgraceful display” of religious texts during a fashion show in Melbourne.

Not A Man’s Dream, an Australian fashion house, has come under fire for featuring Arabic text for “Allah” printed on the garments it sent down the catwalk during the Melbourne Fashion Festival.

Following the public outcry, festival organizers and the fashion house apologized, but the damage was done. Muslim hacktivist groups retaliated by launching a DDoS and website defacement campaign targeting dozens of Australian organizations.

These were religiously-motivated attacks carried out by a bloc of Muslim hacktivist groups such as Team Insane pk, Eagle Cyber, and Mysterious Team, according to a new report from Radware, a cybersecurity provider. At least 70 Australian websites were targeted, it said.

Religious retaliation

Radware noted that the website of the offending label was the first to suffer a DDoS attack. The fallout expanded to include government agencies, ports, banks, and other private businesses.

For example, Mysterious Team claimed it took the websites of the Australian Police and the Citizen Emergency Health Service offlines, while Team Insane targeted IBM Bank and Bank of Sydney.

“A fashion label made an offensive statement while governments, ports, banks, and several smaller businesses paid the bill,” said Pascal Geenens, Radware’s director of threat intelligence.

According to Radware, the attacks were carried out under operation tags of #OpAustralia and #opsjentik. It said that religiously-motivated Muslim hacktivists are well-connected and influential, noting a concurrent #OpIndia and multiple other operations attributed to them.

DDoS attacks “are not the hardest to pull off” and are usually used by hacktivists to get noticed and send a message.

“Denial-of-service has always been an important tactic for hacktivist groups, and this will not change any time soon. Any organization, independent of size and vertical, can become a target of hacktivists as the fallout in Australia has demonstrated,” Geenens warned.

Designs ‘wrong on so many levels’

Not A Man’s Dream markets itself as an “androgynous women-led brand” that promotes inclusivity and diversity within the industry. However, critics said its designs displayed during the Melbourne Fashion Festival offended Muslims.

Some garments with an Arabic inscription reading “Allah walks with me” were transparent and revealing.

Online backlash ensued after Melbourne-based fashion blogger Mona Khalifa, who attended the event, criticized the “disgraceful display” in posts on TikTok and Instagram, where she has a sizable following.

“To use religious texts or write Allah (God) in Arabic, which is sacred to both Muslims and Arab Christians, and also to have it styled in such a nude and immodest manner is wrong on so many levels,” Khalifa said in an Instagram post.

Some pieces had the heads of the models covered, which she said “feels like a direct dig at hijab and Muslim women.”

Melbourne Fashion Festival apologized for “any offense caused,” and removed pictures of upsetting designs from its channels. Samantha Saint James, the founder of the fashion label, also issued an apology “for any offense or disrespect caused by certain pieces” shown during the festival.

“I have come to understand how some garments have caused offense. It was the opposite of my intentions, and for that, I’m truly sorry,” Saint James said in a statement to The Age, a Melbourne-based newspaper.

The Instagram account of Not A Man’s Dream was set to private at the time of the publication, but the website appeared to be running normally.