Last week’s attack on a Muslim student shows even King’s isn’t safe from Islamophobia

The incident reminded me of the prejudice I experienced growing up in Croydon

According to the Metropolitan Police, the number of Islamophobic attacks in London has increased by 70 per cent in the past year alone. This number may seem hard to believe, but proof of this city-wide problem could be found on King’s doorstep last Friday, when female Muslim students were assaulted outside the Strand. Two men allegedly hurled verbal abuse at them before one of the students had her face-veil (niqab) pulled off.

I’m a first year English student and in my brief time at King’s I haven’t experienced any harassment for being Muslim. As a result, the news of this attack was highly shocking. King’s is an excellent place. One of the main reasons that attracted me to apply was the fact it had a large, respected and well-established Islamic Society. I was looking for a university that made me feel safe and a community within the university space that I would fit into.

This need to find safety and security at university is largely a reaction to my own past experiences.

I used to live in South Croydon, in what you might call a council estate. My family were repeatedly bullied and violently abused for being both Muslim and “not English”. My parents were cautious about letting their children play outside even though we had a huge field just in front of our flat. We used to spend day after day sitting in the balcony, watching enviously as the estate children played football below. Being made to look at our mother’s plants (which sat with us on the balcony) was very boring after a while. But these were the same children that threw stones at us, egged our front door and chased myself and my siblings up four stories of stairs telling us to “go back to where you came from”.

I must add that I use the term children loosely for they were much older than us. But things have changed dramatically, at least for my family. I am now in university and my brother recently passed his football trials and has a place on Arsenal’s development course. It’s been nearly ten years since we moved houses and nothing like that has happened again.

But there are still things to worry about, as the recent attack proved. For one, Muslim students are tired of having to defend their religion. Defending has, in recent years, become synonymous with apologising and we are tired of that too. We are humans and just like you we cannot predict the future. When things happen we are just as scared and shocked as the rest of the world.

A King’s spokesperson has said: “We are extremely concerned that any of our students at King’s would feel victims of Islamophobia and would encourage any student who feels this way to contact the Dean’s Office, the Chaplaincy or Student Services to talk to someone.

“The Dean meets regularly with the Islamic Society committee and a special meeting with the Principal has been arranged for next week with representatives from the Islamic Society to hear their current concerns and seek to address them in whatever way we can.”

It’s important to keep King’s a safe space – as I imagined it was when I first applied. We cannot let outside prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions bleed into our university because once it does it will fracture our student community.