Attacks on Saudis at UK university increase

By Rukshana Choudhury
Friday 21 December 2007

The Saudi Government is encouraging Saudi students not to join the University of East Anglia after a spate of racist attacks.

The University of East Anglia’s Saudi society is trying to respond to the alleged attacks in a positive manner. They intend to write to the Saudi education minister because they feel unsafe and have lost faith in Norfolk police.

The claim was made by President of the UEA’s Islamic Society, Kaleem Ullah, who allegedly witnessed a racially motivated assault at the Norwich campus involving 12 young students.

Ullah witnessed an assault on two of his Muslim friends at approximately 10.20pm on November 30, as they walked from the Sports park to Bluebell Road.

“They were ambushed... and the sole reason for the ambush was to beat them violently, and the attack was definitely racially-motivated. One student managed to escape and call for help (he banged on my door - I live 40m from the university) and as I ran out I was racially abused, called ‘Paki’, ‘nigger’, ‘terrorist’ and was told that ‘all my lot’ would get killed. “The incident took place only 3m from the university premises and was one of a series of attacks happening at that very location on each of the weekends for the last month. Some of the other attacks were on UK citizens and were not racially motivated. However, this attack was definitely racially-motivated and was reported as such.”

This has not been the first. Ullah said that he has been aware of up to 20 racial incidents over the past 10 months. He stated that, “The police are incompetent and don’t seem to be interested in protecting the public.”

However, he told The Muslim News, “We don’t want people being afraid of Norwich - that is not the aim. Norwich is a nice city and is still the safest place to live in. The aim is to get the local police more effective and feel responsible for the victims of the attacks.”

Police and university officials said that they had only been aware of few racial incidents. Sgt Ian Fox, head of Norfolk police’s central area domestic violence and hate-crime unit, stated: “We’re concerned there are reports of an increase in racist attacks at the UEA which are not reflected in reports made to police. Since the beginning of November we have had one racially aggravated assault at the UEA reported to us - the assault on Friday [November 30] - which is under investigation by CID officers.”

It seems evident that there has been a great lack of communication with the police and Norwich, as Ullah allegedly claims the figures do not add up: “Our concern as a society is not just for this single incident - we strongly condemn all forms of unnecessary violence on anyone. However, the response from the Norfolk Police was extremely passive and disappointing. We had reported numerous incidents to the Police that were racially-motivated, including children being beaten up, women having dogs set on them in the parks, cars having stones thrown at them, patios being destroyed - these incidents were reported to the Police as racist incidents and the Police claim they have had only one racist incident reported to them in the year. I myself have reported two incidents to them so I know for a fact that they are quoting incorrect figures.”

Ullah believes that the wider community should not blame the university for the attacks. “The university is not guilty of serious shortcomings in providing security for its students - though they can do a great deal more - it is the local police that have failed, and as a consequence, students and their families have suffered.”

UEA’s head of Communications, Anne Ogden, has expressed their urgent need to resolve the situation. “The vast majority of our students enjoy a warm welcome in Norwich and it is shocking when an attack such as this takes place. We have every sympathy for the students involved and are working closely with the police who hope to identify and arrest the culprits. “Following talks with the students, our Dean of Students is calling a meeting of all involved - students, local police and our security staff, to find a way of working together to ensure the future safety of our students,” she said.

Ogden told The Muslim News that UEA are proposing individual students take sensible precautions to ensure safety. “This particular incident occurred on a lane next to the campus. We are looking to incorporate security patrols in that area in addition to patrols on the campus. Although this is not our land, we are also in discussions about the possibility of installing additional CCTV to cover this area. We would also advise all students to exercise sensible precautions, sticking to main routes rather than taking short cuts after dark,” she said.

Post September 11, there has been a significant rise of Islamophobic assaults on Muslims. The Muslim Council of Britain’s Deputy Secretary-General, Inayat Bunglawala, said, “Any type of faith or racially based attack is unacceptable. People are urged to immediately report attacks to the police. If they do not then no one can blame the police. However, if the police fail to investigate reports, we have recourse to complain to the IPCC. Crimes need to be to reported without delay to the police, otherwise it is doing other victims no good whatsoever.”


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