Anti-Racist messages of solidarity spray painted in Graffiti Tunnel
Words by Bridget Harilaou
A group of activists have taken to the University of Sydney’s famed Graffiti Tunnel to proclaim their support of Muslim students on campus through a series of public artworks.
“Muslims Welcome, Racists Off Campus” were the spray-painted words of support chosen by the graffiti artists, who have asked to remain anonymous, accompanied by figures with raised fists, both with hijabs and without, painted along the bottom.
The artworks, which were painted on Saturday April 9th, followed multiple Islamophobic incidents earlier this year, including the vandalism of refugee posters, 5 break-ins to the Islamic prayer room and the racial vilification of students. The activists said they felt the need to stand in solidarity with the Muslim community, stating that racism is not welcome at the University of Sydney.
Muslims students, particularly Muslim women whose faith is physically identifiable through their hijabs, bear the brunt of Islamophobia, which often extends to verbal and physical abuse. Break-ins to the Islamic prayer room have endangered numerous students, particularly as extremist groups such as the United Patriot Front, the Party for Freedom and other far right-wing organisations have been known to stalk their targets. For Muslims, publically speaking up against this violence makes them open targets. The nature of anonymous graffiti art allows activists to support Muslim students without expecting them to put themselves at risk.
One of the activists who spray painted the anti-racist artwork told Pulp, “we, as allies to Muslim students, wanted to show our support without endangering them further. By denouncing Islamophobia and White Supremacy we hope to create a campus environment that supports all students.”
Posters by a racist Reclaim Australia organisation were also found in the Graffiti Tunnel on Saturday April 9th, with “Reclaim Australia from Muslims” written on them. The posters encouraged students to join the Party for Freedom and had clear Islamophobic connotations.
The University of Sydney is not a safe space for Muslims students and university management has failed to take sufficient action in response to this. So far, it has been up to the Student Representative Council and USU to donate $1000 each to run a campaign for Muslim groups on campus, as well as make a statement denouncing Islamophobia. University management is rumoured to be refurbishing the Islamic prayer room and installing CCTV, however no public or written statements of this can be found. Last year, when pro-Palestinian students protested a lecture by British Army Officer, Colonel Richard Kemp, management launched a full investigation, sending out a university-wide email denouncing anti-Semitism, which they directly attributed to the pro-Palestinian activists (despite pro-Palestinianism and anti-Semitism being distinctly different ideologies). The disproportionate response to Islamophobia on campus shows the clear double-standard experienced by Muslim students.
One of the activists stated that as long as groups, “like the United Patriots Front are on campus and uni administration does nothing, we will keep fighting against them. These groups are dangerous and need to get the message that racism will not be tolerated at USYD.”
The artists were also responsible for other political artworks in the tunnel, including ones that read, “Queer: Yes, it’s Political” with a pink triangle, “No More Drug Dogs #SniffOff,” and various anti-fascist and anarchist symbols.
Photos: Andrea Zephyr and Bridget Harilaou