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This week Sri Lankan students may face exams near a bombsite and a woman battles Islamophobia with a smile

29 Apr 2019

Photography via Flickr / Denish C

Violent bigotry against Muslims reared its far-too-familiar ugly head this week when a man in California ploughed his car into pedestrians, leaving a 13-year-old girl with brain damage, because he thought some of them were Muslim. Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, face coverings have been banned for security reasons while around 500 Muslims in the country are in hiding due to increased tensions following the Easter Sunday attacks. In the UK, the Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis described his party’s approach to Islamophobia as transparent in the same sentence that he refused to release the “specific numbers” of Islamophobic complaints against party members.

Islamophobia has become so prevalent, one Muslim woman just had to respond with a smile. Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, greeted anti-Islam protesters in Washington DC with a smile and peace sign, saying she wanted to “combat their hatred with love and a smile”. Scotland’s political parties have responded by adopting a formal definition: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.” A former head of anti-terrorism at Scotland Yard thinks the new definition would “damage the work of counterterrorism police”, because the country’s security services, police, and prisons would be labeled “institutionally Islamophobic” under the new definition.

Here’s what else went down in the last week.

Sri Lanka’s A-Level students are being forced to sit vital exams ‘next to bomb sites’

Last week, the University of London (UoL) announced it would be postponing looming exams for students in its associated teaching centres in Sri Lanka following an online campaign. However, according to a Sri Lankan university student who wishes to stay anonymous, other pupils in the country are still being expected to sit their vital A-Level exams under the Edexcel and Cambridge International exam boards. Almost 7,000 have signed multiple petitions “begging” the boards postpone or lower the grade boundaries for the exams.

Starting on 6 May, the student alleged that 17 and 18-year-olds will be sitting some of the most consequential exams of their lives at an exam hall that is “very close to where two bombs went off”. Since the Easter Sunday attacks, where nearly 300 people were killed, Sri Lanka’s military have found a high number of explosives – including 150 sticks of Gelignite and 100,000 ball bearings. On April 28, another 15 people, including six children, were killedduring a raid by Sri Lankan security forces. This is clearly no environment for children to be sitting exams.

The student was set to sit exams next week until UoL issued the cancellation. However, they said they had many friends who are studying for their A-Levels.

“I spoke to one of my friends and I was begging him not to go to class because it’s not safe. His response was: ‘How can I not go, I’ll fail my exams otherwise’. Basically our A-Level students need to risk their lives at the moment to be able to get their final preparations done,” they explained.

“Knowing six main suspects are still on the loose doesn’t reassure us in any sort of way. We find ourselves just looking at our books trying to memorise the last minute details and looking at it blankly. It is not humanly possible to focus and concentrate amidst the turmoil.”

gal-dem has contacted Edexcel and Cambridge International for comment.

Stealthing is finally being treated as rape

This week saw a landmark court ruling where a British man has been sentenced to 12 years and convicted of rape after non-consensually removing a condom during sex, which is rapidly becoming known as “stealthing”.

A man based in Bournemouth is one of the first in the UK to be sentenced in such a case as the prosecuting lawyer, Jodie Mitchell, explained that her client, a sex worker, had agreed on the conditions of intercourse beforehand. Instructions were advertised on her website which clearly outline that protection must be worn during sex.

The stealthing trend has led to a rising concern that people may be left vulnerable to sexual transmitted diseases and that women might be at risk of pregnancy without knowing. When you consider that in the US, black women are 5.1 times more likely to report having chlamydia, and other STDs like HIV have more prevalence among communities of colour in the UK, leaving stealthing unpunished puts a lot of vulnerable people in an even worse position.

Solicitor Sandra Paul, who specialises in sexual crime, previously told the BBC that if your partner is caught removing a condom during sex there should be serious consequences. “If that person then doesn’t stick to those rules then the law says you don’t have consent,” she explained. This leaves the offender liable for rape charges.

At a time when the UK is making strides to add issues surrounding consent to the UK syllabus, this ruling feels like a step in the right direction.


• During a freestyle tribute to Nipsey Hussle at his B Sides 2 concert in New York, Jay-Z rapped, “Gentrify your own hood before these people do it/ Claim eminent domain and have your people move in/ That’s a small glimpse into what Nipsey was doing”, prompting a huge online debate about gentrification and black capitalism.

• Famed red-sole shoemaker Christian Louboutin has come under fire for cultural appropriation with its new line of sandals, the Imran, inspired by Pakistan’s traditional chappal.

• 25-year-old Brigid Kosgei, from Kenya, became the youngest female London winner of the London Marathon.

• California has unanimously voted to ban racial discrimination of natural hair in the workplace and schools.

• As India finds itself deep in its fervent elections, young women in West Bengal are getting political with their henna by tattooing political symbols, like the communist hammer and sickle, on their palms accompanied by the words “Vote for Left”.

• Legendary musician Lizzo has been added to the star-studded cast of film Hustlers, including Constance Wu, J-Lo, Cardi B, and Trace Lysette to name a few, to tell the story of a crew of former strip club employees who band together against their Wall Street clientele.

• Actress Lucy Liu is to be the second Asian American woman to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

• Dominique Apollon, a black man, went viral on Twitter after expressing his emotional response to wearing a plaster in his own skin tone. Apollon wrote that he felt “belonging” and it served as a reminder of the countless spaces where “my skin is not welcomed”.

RuPaul’s Drag Race star Silk Nutmeg Ganache has been accused of racism after telling Vietnamese American co-star Plastique Tiara to go home, before shouting “hayaku, hayaku” – the Japanese word for “hurry”.

• In South Africa (SA), April 27 marked 25 years since the end of the apartheid, Freedom Day. Though progress has been made since Nelson Mandela’s rise to power in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) is being accused of ignoring corruption and chronic poverty affecting many people in the country.

• The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) have caused outrage after hiring men to covertly film nude and semi-nude strippers in legal strip clubs as part of their misguided campaign to abolish strip clubs and ‘save’ dancers.

Moment of the week

Genius Seattle musician, Nat Puff, uploaded an incredibly on-point parody video titled “How to make a Tyler, the Creator song”, prompting a response from the rapper himself. It’s the video you didn’t know you needed.