Islamophobia: the new norm on campus


Asif Mohammed comments on the rise of Islamophobia and how this is affecting a Muslim experience of University


Earlier this week I came across the words “Kill Islam Before It Kills You” in big, red graffiti. How did I feel? A little shocked, I wasn’t expecting it. A little upset, that was expected. A part of me just shrugged.

The initial reaction is to ignore it, or to pretend you’re ignoring it. That you’re desensitized: it doesn’t matter, it happens all the time. It’s normal now. But then you can’t ignore it, because it’s all around you. Every time you come back onto campus, you’re reminded of it. When you’re trying to focus, it’s that nagging thought in the back of your head that keeps coming back. And there’s the constant question that you ask yourself: do I belong here?

I thought the days of the ’70s when our grandparents were harassed and hounded on the streets by screaming skinheads were long gone. On campus, where I’m supposed to feel safe, there are people who actively call for the killing of people like me. I came to University to get an education, not to be the object of vitriol hate.

Like many Muslim students on campus I go through times when I feel isolated from the wider student body, though, thankfully, I don’t have it as worse as others. I have a good group of friends and a family I can go back to when the day’s over. For others, students that have moved miles for the “University experience” at a University billed to be in a “vibrant, multi-cultural” city, it can be awful.

Islamophobia has passed Lady Warsi’s “dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable. A student survey in 2013 showed 40% of UoB students “don’t trust Muslims”. That hasn’t gone away. It isn’t just walking to lectures and being met by look after look of distrust and fear, it’s things like having your flatmates chanting “Paki!” in the kitchen. It’s things like being made the butt of every joke about terrorism. Or being told you need saving from a forced marriage.