The response to the recent targeting of London South Bank University (LSBU) Islamic Society’s Facebook page with anti-Muslim messages highlights how online hatred can be dealt with.
On 1st January Student Rights found an individual had posted publically on two links shared by the Islamic Society, claiming that “Islam is a cancer” and “All Muslims just glorify some pedophile [sic] of a prophet”.
They also wrote that “LSBU fcking [sic] sucks because of its Islamists” and that “ISLAM should be exterminated out of this world”.
Posting these comments clearly goes beyond the acceptable boundaries of freedom of speech; deliberately targeting Muslim students through their social media in an attempt to distress or threaten them.
In this it should be seen as similar to the defacement of the Muslim Prayer Room sign at King’s College London (KCL) rather than as simply tasteless criticism of religion.
However, there is something that can be done.
These messages have likely breached Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, which makes it an offence to send “grossly offensive” or “indecent, obscene or menacing” messages.
They may also fall foul of Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which forbids the use of “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress”.
As such, it is important that comments like these which may breach hate crime law are reported to highlight to both perpetrators and victims that anti-Muslim prejudice will be taken seriously.
On uncovering these messages, Student Rights contacted LSBU to alert them, and have since received confirmation that the Student Union has reported the comments to the police.
The university also stated that although:
“…the individual making the comments is not part of the LSBU community…were he a student here we have in place rigorous disciplinary policies and procedures to deal with harassment”.
There must be no place for targeted attacks like this, regardless of whether they take place on or off-line, and we would urge anyone who spots abuse such as this to alert their university.