Students have been getting a bad rep of late. Whether it’s safe space advocates proposing motions to ban free speech societies or equality officers tweeting ‘kill all white men’, the mood on campus has changed dramatically in the past five years. So, will this change with the election of a new National Union of Students president? It’s not looking all that likely following today’s news that Malia Bouattia has been elected as NUS president — to the delight of Cage, the Islamic-focussed advocacy organisation.
— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) April 20, 2016
To introduce readers to Bouattia’s politics, Mr S has compiled a three-point guide:
1 – Bouattia is not a fan of ‘mainstream Zionist-led media outlets’
In 2011, Bouatti called Birmingham University ‘a Zionist outpost in British higher education’ in a co-authored article to time with Israeli Apartheid Week. Since then, she has warned of ‘mainstream Zionist-led media outlets’, as well as claiming that peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians are ‘the strengthening of the colonial project’.
A number of her comments have worried heads of student Jewish societies, who published an open letter last week asking her to explain whether she ‘sees a large Jewish society as a problem’. While Bouattia replied to the letter by saying that she does not see a ‘large Jewish society’ as a problem, their concerns led to the Oxford University Students’ Union choosing not to support Bouattia’s bid for president.
2 – Bouattia once opposed a motion to condemn Isis
In 2014, three students proposed a motion calling on British students ‘to condemn the IS and support Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention’. However, Bouattia — who was then black students’ officer — took issue with this and spoke against the motion. She is reported to have said that ‘condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia’:
‘We recognise that condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia. This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.’
The NUS later passed a motion to condemn Isis once the motion had been rewritten and brought back to the NEC.
3 – Bouattia has been endorsed by a spokesman for Muslim Public Affairs Committee
MPAC is a British Muslim lobby group which was banned from university campuses by the NUS in 2004 over concerns about anti-semitism. The Tab reports that Raza Nadim, a spokesperson for MPAC, used Facebook to support Malia’s campaign — telling readers they would be ‘crazy to vote for anyone except for the great Malia Bouattia!’. Malia returned the favour by thanking him. Since then, Bouattia has claimed she was not aware that Nadim was involved with MPAC.
Given that the NUS mission statement promises to ‘fight discrimination, isolation and injustice’, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting year.