A prominent law student at Oxford University and co-founder of the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford movement has now called for a ban on the French flag at universities after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, comparing it to the Nazi swastika.
Originally from the KawZulu-Natal province in South Africa, Ntokozo Qwabe - who studies the Bachelor of Civil Laws (BCL) course - first took to Facebook to accuse France of having “terrorised innocent lives.”
Making reference to the thousands of Facebook users who changed their profile pictures to images of the French flag in the days after the attacks, Qwabe wrote: “You can miss me with the buffoonery of changing Facebook profile pictures to violent imperial flags & hashtaging [sic] ‘prayers for Paris’ I will silently pretend to but not kneel to carry out.”
He continued: “I refuse to be cornered by white supremacist hashtagism into believing that showing my disgust for the loss of lives in France mandates identifying with a state that has for years terrorised - and continues to terrorise - innocent lives in the name of imperialism, colonialism, and other violent barbarities.
“I do NOT stand with France. Not while it continues to terrorise and bomb Afrika [sic] & the Middle East for its imperial interests. We will not end terrorism by choosing the terrorist our subjective sensibilities and popular propaganda normalise.”
He ended his post by using the hastags #FrenchFlagsMustFall and #AllTerrorismMustFall.
Then, speaking with The Sunday Times, the Oxford student - who is behind the demand to remove the “racist” statue of the 19th Century colonialist Cecil Rhodes from the university’s Oriel College building - Qwabe described Rhodes as being a “racist, genocidal maniac” who was “as bad as Hitler.”
He also went on to label the French flag as a “violent symbol.” Declaring his support for a campaign to remove it from universities, Qwabe added: “I would agree with that in the same way that the presence of a Nazi flag would have to be fought against.”
In a recent turn of events, according to legal news site Legal Cheek, a “huge social media row” recently erupted after it emerged Qwabe reportedly accepted a scholarship in the name of Cecil Rhodes to help him study for the prestigious BCL qualification at Oxford, which is said to be held by several top barristers.
According to the Rhodes Scholarship website, the award covers all university and college fees, the university application fee, a personal stipend of £13,658, and one economy class airfare to Oxford at the start of the scholarship, as well as another economy flight back to the student's home country at the conclusion of the scholarship.
However, hitting back at claims of “hypocrisy” on his part, Qwabe took to Facebook to say he was a “beneficiary of the resources & labour of MY people which Rhodes pillaged & enslaved.” He also added: “We can NEVER be ‘hypocrites’ for taking back crumbs of the colonial loot of Rhodes & his colonial cronies.”
In a statement released on its website, Oriel College said it is starting the process of consultation with Oxford City Council in advance of submitting a formal application for consent to “remove the Rhodes plaque on No. 6 King Edward Street, an Oriel-owned property.”
The college also announced it will be launching a six-month consultation period “in view of these complexities.” The statement added: “This is a commitment to seek views in as inclusive a way as possible on how controversial associations and bequests, including that of Rhodes to Oriel, and the record of them in the built environment, can be dealt with appropriately.”