Abused online and 'afraid' but UCC lecturer won't leave Ireland

Abused online and 'afraid' but UCC lecturer won't leave Ireland
Amanullah De Sondy, Senior Lecturer In Contemporary Islam, UCC.Pic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A UCC lecturer has said there are days when he is "afraid" and he worries about Irish white terrorism after being targeted by disturbing online abuse.

Dr Amanullah De Sondy, who is a senior lecturer in Contemporary Islam, says that he will not stop challenging the people who seek to spread hate.

"I think the question is, are you willing to speak up and challenge the status quo? Many people are content to sit back and they don't try to challenge this rhetoric, because they know they will receive backlash… but that is not me," he tells The Echo.

Dr De Sondy says he often receives abusive and racist tweets, but that he won't stop engaging.

"I am an educator, I have been engaging all my life. Thankfully, I get a lot of support from the university when I speak in public."

Dr De Sondy says we are at a "crossroads" in Ireland, especially with regards to the campaign to strengthen hate crime legislation.

A recent University of Limerick report, presented to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in December, claimed that Ireland is not meeting its obligations on hate crime.

This report also recommended including a clear reference to online incitement of hatred in Irish law.

Dr De Sondy believes this argument has been twisted by people who claim the new hate crime legislation would take away freedom of speech.

"They are using it as a way of saying the [proposed legislation] is against free speech. You can say what you want, but there's a big difference between being critical and spewing abuse and hate.

"[Inciting hatred] creates fear in people. This fear is a big win. It can turn people to terrorism… I do worry about white Irish terrorism. There are days when I am afraid."

He believes that currently, there is a big push to create a right-wing, "scary" politics in Ireland, especially on Twitter.

"People are becoming more vocal. The thing is, there are many white Irish people in Cork saying the same things as I am, but I seem to be a different target as a brown man. There's also a push against Islam and more Islamophobia than before, which has nearly become a form of racism."

Speaking about the abuse he receives on Twitter, the lecturer says he doesn't know if they are all anonymous trolls. "They seem to know a hell of a lot about me. I don't know if it's a machine that generates all these tweets… but some are specific. It's worrying."

However, Dr De Sondy is still committed to his public engagement. He says many of his friends ask him why he bothers replying to trolls on Twitter.

"They ask me why I engage, is it not draining? It is a huge burden sometimes… but I worry about the direction Ireland and Cork city will go if I don't."

He says many of his fellow academics in the UK ask him why he won't leave Cork. "I am from Glasgow, my friends back there ask me all the time why I don't just leave. But there are many positives to being here. I receive great support from people when I do speak out."

He did consider taking a break from social media, or not engaging with the detractors, but decided against it.

"There's a lot of positive voices out there. We need to band together to combat this hate."

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