Clearly not a use of graffiti only for the purpose of political expression, this was one of hatred, discrimination and incitement to harm. The act was targeted towards faith-based minorities including groups made up mainly of students of colour.
The painting of ‘Islam must die’ is blatant Islamophobia.
However inelegant the statement and however incompetent the perpetrator, this is a statement designed to intimidate Muslims and Muslim students and should be taken very seriously.
This comes amidst a climate of Islamophobia flourishing across Europe and the UK, which in Birmingham and the Midlands itself has recently seen bombings outside mosques, attacks on shops in predominantly Muslim and BME areas, Islamophobic murders and mass mobilisations of far-right neo-Nazis – including in nearby Coventry on the day of the incident.
It is also concurrent with, and undoubtedly product of, an atmosphere of persecution and growing distrust of Muslim communities. These communities are facing the brunt of institutional discrimination and repressive counter-terrorism laws, whilst the media’s comparative muteness on Islamophobia has silenced Muslim voices, masked the scale of the issue at hand, and allowed racist groups, political parties and bigoted individuals to express their hatred unchallenged.
Swastikas, the symbol of the Nazi party and contemporary neo-Nazis, were sprayed on the wall as well. Invoking this symbolism is a form of intimidation towards Jewish students, thus creating an environment of fear in the form of anti-Semitism. Furthermore, the Swastika is related to the persecution of other minorities who call Birmingham home.
Such intimidation in what should be an inclusive, progressive and diverse city is unacceptable.
Racism, Islamophobia and discrimination are, and continue to be, major problems at the University of Birmingham. As one of the most respected universities in the country, the University should recognise that, although removing the graffiti is important, it does not address the deeper issue at hand.
If it was under any pretense before, we hope that this very visible example serves to remind the University and its management that these are issues that cannot go on ignored, and which they have a responsibility to counter.
Universities across the country are simply not doing enough for BME, faith-based, and in this case Muslim students alongside other marginalised minoritised groups; as institutions of privilege they are more often than not complicit in the wider oppression of these groups by quietly hushing up the issues.
We need anti-hatred education and active anti-fascism initiatives, but also for our university to stand alongside us in tackling these issues at a structural and institutional level and de-normalise the oppression afflicting our members.
BEMA offer our support to, and welcome contact from, any of our members affected by the propagation of such hate.
We condemn this Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and racialised attack on students on this campus.
We welcome the Guild’s condemnation of the incident and upon them and the University to work with us to help actively organise against racism and the far right within our campus and our community.