The recently published EHRC report (November 2020) has shown evidence of institutional and structural racism experienced by ethnic minority academics. Empirical research focusing on Muslims provides evidence of widespread experiences of Islamophobia (anti-Muslim discrimination) (Allen, 2014; Awan and Zempi, 2019). Islamophobia has been reported in Higher Education (Scott-Bauman, 2019; Stevenson, 2018); NHS (Malik et al, 2019); and when seeking employment (Wykes, 2018).
In Higher Education, research confirms that Muslim staff and students, as well as those perceived to be Muslim, experience varying forms of Islamophobia which go beyond social exclusion (Hopkins, 2011; NUS, 2012). These include microaggression, increased surveillance and anti-Muslim prejudice. Muslims continue to report discriminatory incidences which are defined as Islamophobic (Saeed, 2018; Thomas, 2016). Since the ‘war on terror’, increased securitization relating to legislation and policies together with religious profiling of staff and students have become acceptable and regular at UK universities. Islamophobia is tolerated in HE, with increased incidences and non-existent institutional response procedures (Tyrer and Ahmad, 2006; Ullah, 2016).
Ramadan (2017) shows Muslim academics are casually associated with the discourse of terrorism by others on their campuses. Respondents recount being questioned by colleagues on local and global events which are framed in the public domain through the lens of ‘Muslim extremism’. Furthermore, Islamophobia is gendered, and visibly Muslim women academics experience a range of Islamophobic microaggressions in their interactions with staff and students (Ramadan, 2017; 2020).
A common finding across these studies is that Islamophobic incidences on campus continue to go largely unreported, unacknowledged and unchallenged. Thus, universities have become places of hostility for many staff and students who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim.
The anti-Islamophobia BBSI working group urges the Higher Education sector to urgently tackle Islamophobia on campus by:
- Redressing the lack of recognition that Islamophobia is distinct from other forms of racism and needs to be challenged at all levels of the university.
- Providing a consultation with Muslim students and staff to raise their concerns and involving them in framing campus-based policies and strategies.
- When signing the ‘Race Equality Charter’ (REC) institutions should incorporate detailed assessment of what constitutes Islamophobia and anti-Muslim prejudice.
- Implementing REC assessment which investigates and addresses the impact of Islamophobia on academic appointments and promotions procedures.
- Setting up robust reporting, complaints, grievance, and wider reporting procedures which specifically include recognition of Islamophobic behaviour, its consequences, and appropriate institutional responses.
- Including well-developed anti-Islamophobia training for EDI postholders across all HE institutions.
Notes to Editors
- The BBSI is an apolitical national assembly of imams, traditional scholars and Islamically literate Muslim academics.
- The BBSI supports Muslim academic staff and students and supports #IAM2020 Islamophobia Awareness Month
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