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Outrage in Edinburgh after students dress in 'racist' Somalian pirate fancy dress costumes

15th November 2013

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A group of Edinburgh University law students caused controversy last night by dressing as Somalian pirates for an ‘around the world’ themed social.

Edinburgh University Law Society’s ‘Beerienteering’ event saw the as yet unnamed students sporting blacked-up faces – a decision that has been condemned as racist by various members of Edinburgh’s student community.

Law Society President Keir Gilius posted on the society’s Facebook page that, on behalf of the committee and Society, he wanted to extend his “sincerest apologies to anyone offended.”

A follow-up statement released by Gilius this afternoon read: “As a society, we try to arrange our events with innovative and interesting themes leaving scope for attendees to use their imaginations. In no way was this theme intended to incite racism or cultural appropriation, and as a society, we are vehemently opposed to discrimination of any form.

"On behalf of the members of our society, we apologise unreservedly for any upset caused. In response to some of the costumes designed, in the future we will strive to ensure that any fancy dress events will actively discourage the use of any costumes that could be perceived as being offensive; if so, the wearers may be denied participation in said event. As a society, we respect our members’ right to freedom of expression; however, cultural insensitivity is intolerable and this is something that we are completely opposed to.”

The university’s Tibet, Amnesty International and Vegetarian societies have also spoken out against the costumes.

Amie Robertson, of Edinburgh University Tibet Society, told the Student: “The members were dressed as Somalian pirates due to the ‘around the world’ theme of the social.

“A stand off ensued with members of Tibet Society, Amnesty International and Vegetarian Soc. calling out the students and explaining the serioius [sic] racism of their costumes. Their reply? “It’s only for one night”.

“We cannot condone such racism in our student body.”

Eloise Rahman, a member of the Vegetarian Society, added: “We don’t live in a post racial society, and we don’t live on an equal playing field for people regardless of skin colour [...] [c]condemming (sic) actions like this is so important.”

However, not everyone feels that the costumes were offensive. One law student, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “It was harmless fun, by people dressing from countries all around the world. I went as an astronaut – is Buzz Aldrin offended?!”

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