At 6.33pm, Kalsoom Naqvi (third year Philosophy student), and her friend Tayiba Hussain (studying MA Law), were walking through Sidwell Street, when a stranger made “bomb jokes” at their passing: “I hear a trigger going off…kaboom!”.
Allusions to terrorist acts were followed by racist slurs, telling the students to “Go back home” and that “This is not [their] country”.
The male assaulter was accompanied by a friend, who stood by and overlooked the incident.
After walking away, Kalsoom and Tayiba decided to return, with the plan of capturing the racism on their phone camera.
Kalsoom vocalised that the incident as “ironic” considering it took place in front on a Halal takeaway restaurant.
At first, the stranger shied away from the camera, but Kalsoom and Tayiba managed to rekindle his attention, consequently videoing his racist abuse.
He boldly faced the camera and said: “Do you know the biggest problem with this county at the moment…Muslims absolutely raiding this country…you’re like cockroaches”.
He repeatedly demanded the students to tell him where they are from, despite their insistence that England is their home.
The man was discontent when Kalsoom informed him that they shared the same home city, London.
He then proceeded to express offense at Kalsoom wearing a hijab in England. He questioned why she would not remove her hijab, claiming that if his wife was in “[their] country” she would be forced to wear one.
Farda Ali Khan, a second year English literature student from Pakistan, told Exeposé that the man is “so misinformed” as “no foreigner [would] ever forced to cover their hair”, adding that nobody in her own family wears hijabs.
Farda said of the intimidation Muslim females can feel in Exeter: “it’s hard for girls who wear hijabs because they’re such obvious easy targets”.
The video was shared on Kalsoom’s Facebook profile, at 7pm on 29th May. Thus far it has been shared 683 times by the public, and has had 50,840 views at time of writing. It can be viewed on DropBox here.
The Facebook page ‘Spotted: Racism at Exeter University’ has recently gained 1,000 likes. The community posts anonymous student experiences or witnesses of racism at the university.
There is a multitude of comments on Kalsoom’s video, which depict the publics’ awe of the students’ bravery in confronting and filming their attacker.
However, Kalsoom did inform Exeposé that many university students “just stood by and watched” the incident. She hopes that video evidence will increase awareness of the “reality of Islamophobia”, which needs targeting.
She said, “I cannot stress how frightening and lonely it was to be surrounded by bystanders who did nothing but watch. Almost more frightening than the man itself”. But as for the group that did intervene, she is grateful for their support and urges others to act similarly, given that the situation is safe to do so.
Kalsoom has reported the incident to Exeter police, who have been “very sympathetic and supportive”. The police are currently using stills from the video to find the individual.