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Fourth Islamophobic incident in a month as leaders call for University action

Student associations and a NSW Parliamentarian have written to the Vice-Chancellor over a string of Islamophobic incidents on campus, reports Naaman Zhou.

Islamophobic graffiti on #Letthemstay posters

Content warning: Islamophobia and references to rape.

In the latest in a spate of incidents, posters on campus have been defaced with Islamophobic messages prompting student leaders to call for the University to take action.

More than fifteen posters supporting the Let Them Stay campaign for refugees had been covered with messages saying “No Muslims” and “Muslims rape babies”.

This follows an Honi Soit exclusive revealing the campus Islamic prayer room had been ransacked five times in three months. Islamophobic graffiti  was also found on campus three weeks ago.

President of the Sydney University Muslim Student Association, Nasreen Dean, has asked the University do more.

“We demand the University attend to the current lack of urgency in this matter and aid us in preventative action,” she said.

“We propose that the University makes its stance on Islamophobia clear…at a global level to all students and staff on campus.”

Dean told Honi that SUMSA had met with Deputy Vice-Chancellor Tyrone Carlin on Monday and asked for similar measures. They also requested the replacement of all damaged and stolen items, the provision of a secure storage facility and improved CCTV and night security outside the prayer room.

They stressed that Muslim students still required full access to the room for religious reasons, including on weekends. According to Dean, Carlin said he would take their requests to Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence. The affected students are yet to meet Spence in person.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi, the first Muslim woman elected to any Australian parliament, told Honi she had written to Spence to seek information about the University’s response.

“The University should be working with Muslim students and campus security to ensure that safety measures are adequate and enforced,” she said.

The evening before the posters were defaced, the Students’ Representative Council passed a motion granting SUMSA $1000 to repair the damage to the room. Dean welcomed the offer and said it would be used for the replacement of damaged or stolen items.

A spokesperson said the University would “appropriately investigate any breach of the Bullying, Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Policy” and that the Vice-Chancellor had written to affected students to express his “personal distress”.

Director of Student Support Services, Jordi Austin, was informed of the previous incidents on January 22, while campus security had been notified after the first ransacking, on December 11 last year.

“The university was failing to provide a safe space [for Muslim students],” said President of the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association, Christian Jones. SRC President Chloe Smith is pushing for the University to publish an email to all students condemning the incidents.

“We saw University management come out swiftly against perceived anti-Semitism on campus last year,” she said. “It is disappointing they neglected to send around a campus-wide email [this time]”.

As for the break-in on February 22, Dean told Honi that police were no closer to identifying a perpetrator. No fingerprints were found on the letter, and while film was viewed from CCTV cameras, police could not identify the person in the footage.