Religious hate incidents surge in UK universities

29th Jun 2018

Harun Nasrullah

Reported racist incidents in UK universities has surged by more than a whopping 60 per cent between 2015 and 2017, while the number of religiously motivated hate crime incidents doubled in the same period, according to an investigation by The Independent on June 11.

The number of religiously motivated hate crime incidents has increased from 6 to 12 and the racist incidents from 80 to 129. And in just one year, the number of complaints about racism from students and staff rose by 23 per cent, the figures show, with 105 incidents reported in 2016.

The figures come just one month after a survey by the National Union of Students (NUS) found that one in three Muslim students are living in fear of Islamophobic attacks or abuse on campus.

Of the 94 universities who provided comparable data, nearly 37 per cent of institutions have seen the number of incidents of racism increase over the past two years.

But the scale of the problem is even greater, according to the NUS who argue that the rise in reports can be attributed to the efforts of student officers running intolerance campaigns on campuses.

Over three years, anti-Semitic and/or Islamophobic incidents were reported to 26 UK universities – including several Russell Group institutions such as Durham, Newcastle and Exeter.

In May a number of law students from the University of Exeter who allegedly made racist comments were expelled after private WhatsApp conversations were shared on Facebook.

However, the new data reveals in many cases, students were given warnings, fines or asked to apologise.

In one case at Queen’s University Belfast, a student accused of Islamophobia was asked to write a 3,000-word reflective essay as punishment.

Ilyas Nagdee, NUS black students’ officer, said that stories of perpetrators getting away with a “slap on the wrist” had meant many students were being put off from complaining about racism. “They don’t believe that they will actually see the justice they want to see,” he said.

Of the universities contacted, around a third did not share the details of alleged racist incidents, with many citing the sensitive nature of the information. Meanwhile, some universities did not provide any information because they said they did not record incidents under the category of ‘racist’.

Overall, there was not one consistent approach to recording the data – with some universities citing they only had access to formal complaints, rather than allegations raised through other outlets.

A recent social media campaign from the NUS saw more than 100 students shared stories of racism across 30 universities in just one week.

Social media is being used more frequently to report racist incidents, rather than through the formal university channels, in order to ensure action is taken as quickly as possible.

This year, Sheffield Hallam University began an investigation after a student tweeted that library staff had called him a monkey. It follows another incident when a University of Sheffield student threw a banana at a black Sheffield Hallam graduate during an ice hockey game.

The University of Sheffield was forced to apologise for the delay in the handling of the incident and it said it would review its procedures.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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