Islamic leaders say anti-terrorism laws must strike a balance between security and civil rights.

A mother has been spat on, a baby’s pram kicked, a pig’s head has been impaled on a cross and mosques vandalised in a worrying escalation of attacks against Australian Muslims.

A church and a Catholic school have also been targeted in “hate crimes”, Mariam Veiszadeh from the Islamophobia Register told reporters in Sydney.

“A number of women, particularly in hijab, and children have been verbally abused and threatened,” she said on Wednesday.

“A man in Perth tried to rip the scarf off a woman’s head.”

Threats have been made against at least four mosques across Australia and cars have been spray painted with threats, Ms Veiszadeh said.

Muslim leaders including the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed have condemned “the horrors conducted overseas in the name of religion” as “crimes against humanity and sins against God”.

“The recent so-called fatwa from overseas making reference to Australia as a target has no religious authority and must be rejected,” they said.

Australia’s terror alert level was this month elevated by ASIO to high and in the past week counter-terrorism raids have been carried out in Sydney and Brisbane while Parliament House in Canberra has beefed up its security.

“The sanctity of life is of paramount importance to all people of faith,” the Muslim leaders said.

Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association said anti-terrorism laws being debated in parliament needed to strike a balance between the need for safety and freedom.

“Our concern, first and foremost, is security, as long as it doesn’t infringe of civil rights of any citizen of this country,” he said.

Dr Abu Mohamed, Mr Dandan and Sheikh Yahya Safi on Wednesday met with Bishop Robert Rabbat of the Melkite Catholic Eparchy and other Christian leaders to promote peace and harmony in their communities.

The Islamophobia Register is a Facebook page set up by members of Australia’s Muslim community to track religious hatred and discrimination.