National Union of Students: Muslim students “living in fear”

One in three Muslim students are living in fear of Islamophobic attacks or abuse on campus, a new report by the National Union of Students (NUS) has found.

According to the report, more than half of Muslim students have been subjected to harassment or abuse online. And a third say they’ve been victims of crime or abuse at their further education college or university.

The survey, which has not been publicly released yet but has been shared with The Independent website, reveals that most students (79 per cent) who suffered abuse felt they had been targeted because of being Muslim.

Hate words or symbols, and the incident coinciding with a terrorist incident, were cited by Muslims as indications that the perpetrator’s actions were motivated by religious prejudice.

And women who wear traditional Islamic garments, such as a hijab, niqab or jilbab, were significantly more likely to worry about abuse or attacks, the report found.

The study reveals that 43 per cent of Muslim students do not feel comfortable discussing terrorism in class, and a third do not believe that there is a safe space or forum on campus to discuss the issues that affect them.

And the Government’s Prevent duty, which requires education institutions to report students “vulnerable to radicalisation”, has made Muslim students more reluctant to speak up, the NUS says.

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A third of respondents felt negatively affected by the Prevent duty – and of those Muslim students affected, 43 per cent felt they were unable to express their views or be themselves because of it.

Muslim students reported feeling less comfortable in engaging in political debate, or for running for roles in their students’ union – while some experienced barriers to organising events.

Farah Koutteineh, who runs the Palestine Society at Westminster University, said that anti-Muslim discrimination comes from her university itself.

She told 5Pillars: “There were CCTV cameras placed in the prayer rooms, ID card scanners on the entrance of prayer rooms which would collect the names of students who were Muslim and prayed regularly. This is all heavily criminalising Muslims on campus who wish to pray during the day.

“This constant criminalisation ended up with fewer and fewer Muslim students wanting to pray during university times. Muslim students aren’t even allowed to place posters of fundraisers on the prayer room walls, nor even advertise events in their Islamic Society group chats. The Islamic society feels massively uncomfortable in collaborating with the Palestine Society, even for a fundraiser, due to the fact they know the trouble it could bring from the university.

“This has left Muslim students at Westminster not wanting to participate in anything slightly political, or even active, as they are only concerned now with ensuring their right to practice their faith is upheld. This right should never have to be compromised, however is being continually compromised just because they are Muslim.”

The government denies discriminating against Muslim students. A Department for Education spokesperson said: “There is no place in higher education for hatred or any form of discrimination or prejudice, and we expect providers to act swiftly to address hate crime, reported to them, including anti-Muslim incidents.

“The Prevent duty builds on universities’ safeguarding responsibilities and aims to stop people being drawn into terrorism. Prevent deals with all forms of extremism; it is not about shutting down free speech or spying on students and should not be used to discriminate against any particular group.”

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