Oxford students questioned over 'racist' emails

Hate email case threatens to embroil one of Britain's oldest institutions

Oxford University is facing charges of institutional racism after an Asian student was sent racist emails telling him that he should leave the college and get a job at McDonalds.

Nadeem Ahmed, who is studying medieval Arabic at Hertford College, Oxford, received threatening emails saying that Asians should not be at university but "working in McDonalds or on a building site". One email asked, "why don't you do a course in bricklaying?"

Thames Valley police have questioned two modern history students for their involvement in the hate emails. The students could face charges for racial harassment and related offences under the Telecommunications Act.

"It is an offence to use public telecommunications for racial abuse," said Robin Bynoe, partner at law firm Charles Russel. "Emails are enough to stand on their own as evidence as they can always be retrieved from a hard drive," he added.

One of the emails warned Ahmed that he was being watched in the library, and that the authors knew where he lived. Other emails contained pornographic images, and made obscene references to his wife and mother. The detail that they contained led him to believe he was being stalked.

Oxford University issued an anti-racist document last year, which was signed by the Vice Chancellor and heads of other institutions in Oxfordshire.

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