FOSIS warns it may tell Muslim students to withdraw from NUS over Islamophobia concerns

Shaima Dallali. Pic: NUS

FOSIS, the organisation which represents Islamic Societies and Muslim students in Higher and Further Education, has said it will encourage its affiliates to withdraw from the National Union of Students unless it supports its president Shaima Dallali and addresses institutional Islamophobia and racism within the organisation.

The statement came as NUS president Shaima Dallali was suspended for alleged antsemitism – the first time in the union’s 100-year history that a president has been suspended.

The suspension comes following the conclusion of the first part of an inquiry which looked into allegations against her.

NUS board members have reportedly been told that her suspension should not be seen as a punitive or disciplinary measure.

In a statement published yesterday FOSIS said it stands in solidarity with Dallali, who has “faced multiple Islamophobic and racist attacks since being overwhelmingly elected at the National Conference.”

FOSIS said: “The NUS, as a representative body of students across the educational sphere, needs to uphold the democratic mandate given to Shaima Dallali and not undermine her position. It also needs to address institutional Islamophobia and racism within the organisation to send a message to Muslim students that it cares about their protection and rights. If NUS falls short of this, we have no choice but to protect Muslim students by advising our members in lobbying their Students’ Unions to disaffiliate from NUS.

“We are deeply concerned with NUS’s negligence in communicating with FOSIS regarding the explicit Islamophobic abuse Shaima experienced, as part of the NUS-sanctioned Independent Investigation… To date, we have not been contacted nor consulted regarding this matter which leads us to believe that the outcome of this investigation will be far removed from giving Shaima justice for what she has had to endure.

“For many years FOSIS has dealt with troubling cases of Islamophobia experienced by Islamic Societies, Muslim Sabbatical Officers and the wider Muslim student community in both Higher and Further Education. This active targeting of Muslim students through a systematic pattern of over-scrutiny, bad faith allegations and being subject to a disproportionate level of disciplinaries using Islamophobic tropes reflects prejudice and endemic bigotry that spans the entire educational journey of Muslim students. What Shaima is experiencing is a clear extension of institutional Islamophobia within the education sector and it is apparent that NUS’s attitude towards Shaima is a manifestation of this oppression.”

FOSIS has urged the NUS to take the following actions:

  • To work with FOSIS to conduct an investigation into institutional Islamophobia within NUS.
  • To work with FOSIS to bring an external body to conduct an investigation into NUS’s handling of its duty of care toward Shaima Dallali.

“If significant steps aren’t taken towards these actions, we will have no choice as a body that represents over 130,000 Muslim students across the sector, to advise our members in Higher and Further Education to lead disaffiliation campaigns from the National Union of Students,” FOSIS added.

5Pillars has contacted the NUS for a comment on the FOSIS statement and is awaiting a reply.

In May the government cut ties with the NUS over concerns of antisemitism after Jewish students took offence to a 2012 tweet in which Ms Dallali wrote: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza.”

The 27-year-old has since apologised for the tweet, saying she is now “a different person.”

The then-education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said he was “seriously concerned” at the number of reports of alleged antisemitism linked to the NUS at the time.

He added: “Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them, and we need to be sure the student bodies that we engage with are speaking fairly for all students.”

An NUS spokesman said: “We cannot comment at this time as we are in the middle of an independent QC-led investigation into allegations of antisemitism. But as we have said before, we are prepared to take any and all actions recommended by Rebecca Tuck QC’s investigation.”

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