Last weekend as reported in both the ITV and the Birmingham Mail Islamophobic and anti-semetic racist graffiti were found inside the University of Birmingham campus. Not only was the University of Birmingham targeted, racist thugs also spray painted Islamophobic graffiti at Jahalabad mosque in the student hub of Selly Oak.
Post-Charlie Hebdo, there has been an increase wave of vile Islamophobia that has put extra strain on the an already beleaguered Muslim community. This Islamophobia is seen everywhere, including in the classroom. There has been a significant rise in anti-Muslim racism against British Muslim school children as reported in the Independent:
“Teachers unions and anti-racism groups […] have recorded an increase in Islamophobic incidents in schools with the 400,000 Muslim pupils in British schools increasingly likely to be taunted as “terrorists”, “paedophiles” or “immigrants”. The NASUWT, the teaching union, said the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment is causing “uncertainty and fear” in schools.”
This vile and insidious anti-Muslim racism is also present and growing within colleges and universities. Last month, Birkbeck College buckled under pressure from PREVENT and closed down a planned conference by the Islamic Human Rights Commission to tackle the rise in Islamophobia in Britain. In December 2013, University of Bath doctoral research, Hilary Aked uncovered how the right-wing think tank, the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) had funded the Islamophobic Student Rights group to create divisive and sensational pieces about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on British university campuses. Adding to this, Home Secretary, Theresa May stated that schools and universities would be required to have anti-extremist policies in place to guard against the threat of radicalization. Naturally this policy would not only limit or eradicate the activism that many #FreeEducation and anti-privitization student activists are already engaged in, but there is justifiable fear that it would also target with a vengeance Black, POC, and specifically Muslim student activists.
With this in mind, Jewish and Muslim students alike were hoping for a robust statement from the University of Birmingham strongly condemning the racist incidents of last week. Instead, this is statement that came from the University of Birmingham:
Yes folks, the University of Birmingham chose to completely ignore the racist events that transpired on their campus by doing some old fashion pro-university marketing encouraging students and alumni to “Cheer us up by sending us your great photos of life at UoB!”
It is not surprising that student activists are incensed and angry about the University of Birmingham’s whitewashing of the racist graffiti incident. NCAFC member and University of Birmingham student, Helena Hinkle commented on the University of Birmingham Facebook page, “i can’t believe you wouldn’t mention the fascist, racism, islamophobic and anti-semetic graffiti, not just random graffiti, was on our campus. SHAME ON YOU. how dare you use this as a neo-liberal marketing ploy. SCUM.”
April Reilly, another University of Birmingham student, active within the Justice4Sanaz campaign, BEMA and Students for Justice in Palestine commented:
“im not proud to be a “member” of this university. i think its shit. heaven forbid a bunch of students graffiti campus with OCCUPY STRIKE RESIST, but ISLAM MUST DIE and a nazi swastika is a golden opportunity boast how “inclusive”, “diverse”, “tolerant” and “multicultural” it is, while ignoring fascist activities and racism on campus. not to mention that anti-muslim state surveillance in the form of “prevent” goes very nicely with far-right politics. uni of bham is not a bastion of enlightenment and progress, whatever the fuck they say in their prospectus. whether i graduate with a mere “pass” or a 1st i decided i dont think i care anymore. i used to be that gal that worried about grades all the time, but truly, its just a pile of bollocks. and i wish i knew that when i was 16.
However, Muslim, leftists and students of color are organizing on the University of Birmingham campus to make it known that racism has no place in higher education. There will be a demo on the Tuesday 27th January outside the University of Birmingham library to protest both the racist graffiti incident that took place on campus and also the university’s non response to the hateful events of last weekend and the continued institutional racism that marginalizes Muslims and people of color on campus daily.
Justice4Sanaz stands in solidarity with this demonstration and with activists on the University of Birmingham campus who fight against racism, xenophobia, queerphobia and ableism. #NoToFascism and no to universities who disavow and ignore hate crimes and racism on campus!