Around 150 University of Birmingham students came out in protest with banners saying ‘We Want Diversity in Our University’ in response to fascist and Islamophobic graffiti on their campus.
The crowd included representatives from both the Islamic and Jewish societies, along with the Black and Ethnic Minorities Association (BEMA). Many admitted that they were disgusted to have heard news of a second round of graffiti, especially at a university in a city as multicultural as Birmingham.
Stirring speeches were made, including by the Jewish societies’ Max Seitler, who urged all groups to come together to tackle prejudice. One of the main organisers of the demonstration, Mohammed Mumit said the message was that ‘we would not stand for fascism’, also calling for the university to ‘end it’s silence’, having failed to issue a statement since graffiti first appeared on 17th January.
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The University did however issue a press release after the protest, saying ‘we are extremely proud of our diversity. We will actively challenge discrimination of any kind.’
The Guild of Students also enforced its original message condemning the graffiti, recognising that many students may have been left feeling unsafe and vulnerable after the incidents.
The initial marks were discovered nearly two weeks ago, when swastikas were sprayed on the Psychology building, along with the words ‘Islam Must Die’.
The University stepped in quickly to remove the offensive material, but many complained that they took no action to renounce what 3rd year student Emily Kay described as a ‘hateful and cowardly act’.
Fiyaz Mughal, Director of Tell Mama UK, which measures anti-Muslim incidents, told us that the fear it created for Islamic students on campus was ‘deeply worrying’, and raised specific concerns about social media websites like Facebook and Twitter becoming ‘engines’ that encouraged hate.
An investigation remains ongoing as police try to find those responsible, but a spokesman for the local force told Burn FM that they were ‘working closely with members of the community’, and that ‘all race-hate crimes were taken extremely seriously’. Graffiti was also discovered on Jalabad Mosque in Selly Oak earlier this month.
Photo Credits: Eva Momtaz