The Black Students Officer at the National Union of Students (NUS) has been subjected to an Islamophobic witch-hunt after refusing to back a motion condemning ISIS because of her opposition to Western imperialism.
Malia Bouattia and others refused to back a motion to condemn ISIS because they felt it would be used to drum up support for Britain’s bombing campaign against Iraq.
But after the decision went public – apparently facilitated by a pro-war contingent within the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts – Bouattia received online abuse insinuating that she is pro-ISIS.
Friends now say that she’s worried for her own and her family’s safety.
The furore erupted after students put forward a motion at the NUS’s National Executive Council meeting calling for the condemnation of terrorist atrocities and support for the Iraqi people.
The motion stated: “To work with the International Students’ Campaign to support Iraqi, Syrian and other international students in the UK affected by this situation.
“To campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organisations against all the competing nationalist and religious-right force.
“To support Iraqis trying to bridge the Sunni-Shia divide to fight for equality and democracy, including defence of the rights of the Christian and Yazidi-Kurd minorities.
“To condemn the IS and support the Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.
“Encourage students to boycott anyone found to be funding the IS or supplying them with goods, training, travel or soldiers.
“To make contact with Iraqi and Kurdish organisations, in Iraq and in the UK, in order to build solidarity and to support refugees. and To issue a statement on the above basis.”
But Birmingham student Malia Bouattia led a team who either abstained or voted against the proposal, leading to the motion’s defeat.
She said: “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 Black Students’ Campaign stands in support of Black communities across the globe and uncompromisingly against imperialism and Western interference which history shows all too often leads to the suffering of Black people.
“The NUS Black Students’ Campaign will be working with Kurdish students and the International Students Campaign to raise this issue within the NUS.”
She added that she would put forward a new motion that would condemn ISIS but “in no way pander to Western imperialistic intervention or the demonisation of Muslim peoples”.
But Daniel Cooper, who proposed the motion, said he could not see any signs of Islamophobia.
He is reported as saying in the media: “I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism. There is a stranglehold of “identity politics” on the student movement.
“This is an issue which needs to be discussed in more depth, but essentially the idea is widespread that if a Liberation Officer opposes something, it must be bad.”
A friend of Malia Bouattia told 5Pillarz that the online abuse and mainstream media campaign against her is indicative of the way Muslim women in positions of power face daily abuse and bullying.
Meanwhile, Aron Kielty from the NUS said, “If you are currently confused to be reading an article in the mainstream media that the National Union of Students (NUS) supports the ISIS terrorist group – rest assured that it is absolute nonsense!
“The reason you are reading it is because a pro-war faction within the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, called the Alliance for Workers Liberty (AWL), has outrageously been spending their time going around smearing anti-war student leaders as supporters of the terrorist group ISIS.
“Lazy journalists in The Independent, Huffington Post and elsewhere are reproducing these lies and smears.
“Needless to say, the anti-war student leaders in question (NUS Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia, Aaron Kiely from the NUS NEC and others) have consistently made clear that they:
A) 100% oppose the terrorist organisation ISIS
B) Completely oppose the US/UK bombing of Iraq and Syria – which will cause more death and destruction as well as breed more terrorism
C) Totally stand in solidarity with the Kurds who are being brutally attacked by ISIS
The pro-war AWL are just trying to smear the anti-war movement with their lies because they want to stop the student movement from opposing the bombing of Iraq and Syria.”