Socialist Worker

Student conference calls for action to beat back the racists

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2594

We need a mass movement against racism

We need a mass movement against racism (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Students from across Britain joined a conference against racism in central London on Saturday.

The 100-strong Students Against Racism conference came ahead of the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) national demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on 17 March.

Fighting rising levels of Islamophobia was one of the major themes running through the conference. Official figures released last week showed that attacks on Muslims grew by 40 percent last year.

Aisha, a student from City University in north London, told Socialist Worker, “It's about the way the media portray us.

“If you wear a headscarf then there is an assumption that you must have extreme views.”

Hafsa, another City University student, added, “The media know that there's a stigma around Muslims and that stories about us will catch the eye.

“If there's a terrorist it's always the image of a brown man.”


This sort of racism pushed from the politicians and the press fuels attacks against Muslims on the streets. Aisha said,“My mother wears the niqab and gets a lots of outbursts.

“After the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 we were on the bus and someone tried to tear it off.

“I was only young and it was traumatic.”

Campuses have become a battleground in the Tories’ assault on Muslims because of the Prevent strategy. This forces public sector workers, such as lecturers, to spy on students for signs of radicalisation.

The conference featured activists from many colleges

The conference featured activists from many colleges (Pic: Guy Smallman)

At a workshop on Challenging Prevent, students discussed their experiences of racism on campus—and how they're fighting back against it.

Rabiah, a student at Lancaster University, told Socialist Worker, “My friend is from Sudan and was wearing a hijab. After she left a lecture, the lecturer said, 'The terrorist is gone'.

“The lecturer is still there.”

At Lancaster University students are pushing back against racism and have set up an equality and diversity council.


Another workshop was on Standing up to Trump and the racist right, with rapper Lowkey and Nadia Sayed from Queen Mary University Stand Up To Racism.

Nadia argued the fighting racism was necessary to defeat Theresa May, the Tories and the right. “This racism is not separate from poverty and the wreckage that austerity is causing,” she said.

Other sessions included decolonising education and building student solidarity with refugees. Student SUTR plans a delegation on 5 May to Calais, where around 1,000 refugees are trapped at Britain's border.

The demonstrations on 17 March are a key opportunity to bring all of these fights together and build a mass movement against racism.

Weyman Bennett from SUTR urged support for the demonstration and action to build them. “Let's make this a conference of action—and we can shape the future.

“And if we shape the future we don't have to relive the past.”


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