Racist and Islamophobic graffiti targeting Muslims and black communities have appeared on a wall in the Erdington area of Birmingham over the weekend.
The racialised graffiti, which incorporated Nazi-appropriated iconography, referred to Muslims and ‘P*kis’ as paedophiles and rapists, and that ‘blacks are cowards with knives + beat women’.
Concerns about the graffiti first appeared on social media on January 6.
The Nazi iconography is likely a reference to the wolfsangel (wolf’s hook) – an ancient runic symbol used to ward off wolves, which, throughout history, has also appeared on the coat of arms of various German towns and cities, including Idar-Oberstein. The imagery has appeared in illustrated editions of the 1910 novel Der Wehrwolf by the German journalist Hermann Löns (1866-1914). For Professor Klaus Neumann, author of Shifting Memories: The Nazi Past in the New Germany, Löns’s poems and stories were popular with the far-right due to its illustration of the Blut und Boden ideology (Blood and Soil). This ideology, popularised in the nineteenth century, grew in popularity following WWI, focused on German identity of genealogy/descent and territory/land, according to Dr Rebecca Futo Kennedy. This ideology underpinned the Nazi agricultural policy.
The Nazis continued to valorise and celebrate the life and works of Hermann Löns, invoking his works in warfare and the popular imagination, leading Der Wehrwolf to become a German bestseller by 1945. Others have questioned this influence.
The Wolfsangel symbol, under the Nazis, became synonymous with the notorious 2nd SS Panzer Division, the “Das Reich”, who, in the days following the Normandy landings, killed 672 people, mainly women and children, in a war crime which involved forcing 450 women and children into a church before burning it to the ground in occupied France. The surviving men were shot dead. The 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division used this symbol in its divisional insignia, committed war crimes in Greece in 1944.
A further clue about the nature of the runes in the graffiti owes to the phrase “Sons of the Reich”, which is misspelt and faded, is also the title of a book history of the 2nd SS Panzer Division, written by Major-General Michael Reynolds.
Tell MAMA has continued to document several examples of how this language around CSE targets and harms Muslims. The rhetoric continues to appear online, as noted in our interim report for the first six months of 2018.
Academics have argued that the racial epithet ‘P*ki’ is used to group Muslim men more broadly as sexual deviants, or, to frame such serious crimes through a narrow racial lens, which the Child Sexual Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has cautioned against in previous reports. And, researchers added, in 2011 that, “It is likely that the sexual exploitation of victims of a minority ethnic background are under-represented in the data.”
A report from The Children’s Society, published last year, explored the impacts of CSE among South Asian girls in the West Midlands, found that “young South Asian women – like many other young people from different backgrounds – are unfortunately targeted for exploitation by those within and outside of their communities. However, their presenting rates are likely to be even lower due to a range of barriers to disclosure and reporting.” One such barrier concerned the additional trauma beyond the abuse itself, as the burden of silence to protect bodily and family honour added further strain to the mental health of victims.
West Midlands Police have been made aware of the graffiti.
In 2017, vandalism was the third most common Islamophobic incident category reported to Tell MAMA, up 56 per cent from the previous reporting year, with 81 reports (10 per cent).