The news that Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was briefly a student at Salford University between 2014 and 2016, has attracted a large amount of media attention. Questions have been raised about the extent of the university’s provision of staff training in extremism as well as their awareness of Abedi’s increasingly radical views, his frequent absences and his use of student loans and benefits to facilitate his terrorist attack.
Student Rights recently reported that Salford Students’ Union – as well as a former vice-chancellor of the university – have publicly opposed government counter-extremism measures. In February 2016, Salford Students’ Union passed a motion to specifically boycott the UK’s Prevent strategy. MEND, a controversial organisation that opposes Prevent and has links to known extremists, was hosted by Salford Students’ Union as late as 19 November 2015 for ‘Islamophobia Awareness Week’.
Zamzam Ibrahim, President of the Salford Student’s Union and a member of the NUS’s National Executive Council (NEC), has been at the forefront of efforts to delegitimise Prevent and pressure her fellow student officials to stop engaging with it. Ibrahim has not only hosted MEND but called the government’s Prevent strategy “disastrous” and “racist”. One concerned student has informed Student Rights “it is worrying that she is inviting such a controversial group to the university claiming it is to fight Islamophobia”.
It has also been revealed that Ibrahim has controversial views on religious supremacism, racial differences and male-female relations. In a series of posts dating as far back as 2012, Ibrahim wrote on AskFM that there would be an “Islamic takeover” if more people read the Qur’an. In addition, she posted online that she would like to “oppress white people just to give them a taste of what they put us through” and argued that friendship between men and women is “islamically… incorrect” as there are “always boundaries”.
The Spectator has reported that Ibrahim has deleted a number of comments from her social media accounts. It is also worth noting that Ibrahim has stated that she posted these tweets when she was a teenager at a sixth form college – she has clarified that her “comments clearly do not reflect my views today”.
We at Student Rights are concerned that student union officials at a local and national level continue to undermine initiatives which challenge extremism. We believe that divisive comments are inappropriate for those occupying positions of responsibility in student organisations.
The University of Salford has stated that the university “in no way condones, supports or agrees with the views reportedly expressed by Zamzam Ibrahim”. They added that they “are fully supportive of PREVENT and the University has fully implemented and continues to comply with its PREVENT duties”.
The NUS has a code of conduct for its elected officials and states that it takes complaints “very seriously”. We hope that the NUS and Salford Students’ Union can also resolve this matter as soon as possible.