Over 50 representatives from university Jewish Societies have raised serious questions about Malia Bouattia’s candidacy for National Union of Students (NUS) President.
In an open letter, these students have called on Bouattia to explain past anti-Zionist statements and questioned her links to the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK), currently no-platformed by the NUS.
Bouattia’s remarks describing the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost” and suggesting a ‘Zionist Lobby’ is behind the government’s Prevent Strategy had raised concerns amongst Jewish students about Bouattia’s ability to represent them.
The letter also asked Bouattia to clarify her “relationship with MPACUK and its spokesperson Raza Nadim” after social media interactions between the two of them were exposed in The Tab.
This includes Bouattia thanking Nadim for endorsing her presidential bid, although she has since denied any knowledge of his affiliation to MPACUK or of having any relationship with the group.
The Union of Jewish Students has also echoed calls for Bouattia to clarify her position, saying:
“Jewish students are rightly outraged when they see a candidate for NUS president who sees their Jewish Societies as a threat. Jewish students are rightly scared when they see a candidate associating themselves with organisations with a history of antisemitism and they are once again used as an easy target for conspiracy theories.”
In response, Bouattia has said:
“I do not now, nor did I five years ago when I contributed to the article cited in your letter, see a large Jewish Society on campus as a problem”. “I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish”.
She also said:
“I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of antisemitism.”
Here at Student Rights, we feel these questions are only the tip of the iceberg, and that Bouattia must also address serious questions about her connections to extremists.
Bouattia made headlines when she led the campaign to vote down an NUS motion condemning Islamic State, claiming that to do so would be “Islamophobic”.
Student Rights has documented a number of events where Bouattia shared a platform with CAGE Outreach Director Moazzam Begg.
Bouattia has repeatedly defended working with CAGE at these events and has publicly attacked the current NUS President, Megan Dunn’s, attempts to cut ties with the group.
As well as spreading misinformation about Prevent, which risks scaring students, Bouattia’s recent use of the phrase “so-called terrorism”, her complaint that “Palestinian resistance is derided as terrorism”, and her derision of the threat posed by “invisible ‘terrorists’” – downplays the very real threat faced from Islamist militants and risks legitimising violence.
The reputation of student politics has been severely tarnished over the past few years and Bouattia and her NUS allies bear some responsibility for this, and if Bouattia is elected NUS President the student movement risks being damaged even more.