Comment writer Zoe Olukoga considers where the voice of opposition comes from today, and how necessary it isWritten by Redbrick on 18th February 2017
Open Letter: Your Graffiti Will Not Intimidate Us
Hannah Sharron speaks directly to the graffiti vandals who defaced the Psychology building with Nazi and Anti-Islamic symbols earlier this week, vowing that our Jewish and Muslim student communities will not be intimidated.
To the perpetrator(s),
As Redbrick reported, you graffitied swastikas and Islamophobic statements on campus on Saturday.
For me, your actions were eerily reminiscent of the situation in Germany in the 1930s, when Jewish students were prevented from studying medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law – some of the courses on offer at the University of Birmingham.
Graffiti swastikas on the walls around the psychology building of the Edgbaston Campus
Today, Jewish students are free to walk on campus, to study in lectures and seminars and sit exams, but it is apparent that you do not want us here. You seem to think it is acceptable to target another religious group too, Muslims, alongside Jews and the other minorities targeted by the Nazis – which includes (but is not limited to) socialists, homosexuals, black people and disabled people.
“'It is not acceptable at all, and we will not allow racists or extremists like you to intimidate us.'
I do not feel like I need to detail why swastikas and Islamophobic statements are offensive to a huge proportion of the Birmingham student community; I believe the vast majority of us are educated enough to work that one out without too much effort.
What I would like to explain is that whatever agenda you have, you will not succeed.
You will not force Jewish students off campus. You will not intimidate Muslim students. You will not disrespect the memories of every minority persecuted under the Nazi regime, for whom any adjective – vile, disgusting, horrible – seems too mild.
In fact, what you have inadvertently done is brought us closer together. As a Jew, I understand how my Muslim cousins feel when people like you vilify their entire religion without justification. I believe that equally, Muslims understand how I feel when you graffiti the symbol of the genocide against my people, inciting racial hatred for no reason. Racism doesn’t belong on campus, and your senseless graffiti has affirmed my commitment to fighting racism against anyone you might want to attack – Jews, Muslims and anyone else.
“'I hope you realize that your pathetic attempt to intimidate us has not worked. I hope you will think again next time your prejudices rise up.'
People may wonder why I have such high hopes for an obviously prejudiced person. To respond, I will quote Anne Frank, victim of that genocide whose memory you tried to belittle:
“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
I hope and believe that the Birmingham student community will join me in bringing a speedy end to the persecution of all minorities. I do not underestimate the magnitude of such a task – but it is not an impossible one. We are stronger than you, the perpetrator of senseless hatred, and we will prevail.