mpuses associated with Islamophobia, according to Alaa' al-Samarrai of the Federation of of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).
Samarrai, FOSIS vice president for student affairs, is particularly critical of the Conservative-led coalition government for adopting right-wing policies but believes that Muslims should individually and collectively work together to combat the issues.
“One of the biggest challenges faced by Muslim students on campuses today are the implications of the Prevent (extremism) agenda and the impact that is having on universities and the pressure on them to act and scrutinise their students,” she said.
In particular, a by-product of the pressure on lecturers to spy on Muslims students and Islamic societies is that “by de fault they (students) are assumed to be the cause of the problem,” she told IRNA.
Last week, Samarrai was among the main speakers at conference at London University focusing on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim hatred on UK campuses organised by the Enough Coalition.
In an interview with IRNA, she spoke about the extent of the issues suffered by the estimated 250,000 Muslim students in Britain.
“Muslims in general, face problems to practice their religion openly on campus with the type of speakers they bring into campuses and generally just the overarching news stories about students being spied upon on campus,” FOSIS vice president said.
She also cited some of the numerous examples of Islamophobic attacks, both physical and verbal, including the recent case of three Muslim male students being stabbed on campus when leaving their rooms.
“Others include sisters wearing hijabs, who are attacked either physically or verbally because they are visibly Muslim,” she said but admitted that the scale of the problem could be much larger as many cases of hate crimes were under reported.
There was also the issue where niqab was banned at a college when she said there was “no logical reason to it” and added to concerns about prohibitive legislation being passed in Britain against Islamic symbols as has happened in other European countries.
“It is really shocking and upsetting and does create a fear that it may spread and become more prevalent in our society,” Samarrai said.
“All feed into what is acceptable and not acceptable. The challenges to the notion what is comfortable to be Muslim, like women who wish to wear the niqab,” she said.
The student leader believed that it was first up to Muslims to speak out and exercise their democratic rights by becoming involved with their universities and student union.
“There is definitely an element to be involved, to speak out, be empowered, take action yourself and don't expect others to do it for you,” she said.
There was also incidents of institutional racism which she said is really harder to spot but needed to be addressed by collectively working together to combat.
The extent of the problem, Samarrai said, was that there were different forms of hatred towards Muslims in Britain, including being an ethnic minority, the colour of your skin, looking a bit different.
“They may not know your faith, but there are issues associated with you being Muslim, they think you must be an idiot, you must prescribe to these views,” she said.
There were also “irrational fears” about the Islamification of Europe, those linked with racism and also to do with immigration blamed for causing economic problems.
“The establishment needs to take a long hard look at itself, especially the new Tory government has done a lot already to anger Muslims,” Samarrai told IRNA.
She suggested the coalition needed to revise the Prevent agenda and the way they have approached relations with the Muslim community, including not engaging with many groups and leaders that causes a “very negative impact and sends the wrong messages.”
One of the reasons, Samarrai suggested, was the way the government had surrounded itself with advisers and was “worryingly saying things that right-wing groups are propagating.”
“It was very disappointing to see the government adopting such policies without the need to see who the representatives really are of the Muslim community,” she said.