Potential NUS President and current NUS Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia has been criticised by Jewish Societies across the UK for remarks she made about Birmingham University’s Jewish population.
The remarks, which Ms Bouattia made in 2011, referred to the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost in British Higher Education”. The NUS President candidate has since addressed the allegations, stating last Thursday that her political views had been “misconstrued” by critics.
Ms Bouattia has also been asked to clarify her links to the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK), a society which has been blacklisted by the NUS since 2004 for anti-Semitism.
Ms Bouattia’s presidency campaign was publicly endorsed by Raza Nadim, a member of MPACUK, to which the candidate replied: “Thank you”.
The controversial remarks made by Ms Bouattia were published in a blog post written by her from 2011, and prompted the penning of an open letter from Jewish society leaders from universities across the UK.
47 Jewish Society presidents signed the letter, part of which read:
“There are roughly 8,500 Jewish students in the UK, which is 0.12 per cent of the seven million students that are represented by the NUS.
“We are shocked that someone who is seeking to represent this organisation could possibly see a large Jewish student population as a challenge and not something to be welcomed.
“Our question for you is clear: why do you see a large Jewish Society as a problem?”.
The letter went on to accuse Ms Bouattia of hindering interfaith relations at UK universities, whilst also alleging that this apparent anti-Semitism was not a solitary incident.
The Jewish Society leaders made references to an instance when the NUS President hopeful described Prevent, a government scheme set up to combat radicalization at universities, as the result of a ‘Zionist lobby’.
The letter claimed that accusations such as these created “an element of suspicion towards Jewish students on campus”.
In response to the allegations, Ms Bouattia said in an open letter:
“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 celebrate the ability of people and students of all backgrounds to get together and express their backgrounds and faith openly and positively, and will continue to do so.
“I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish”.
Ms Bouattia also disassociated herself with MPACUK spokesperson Raza Nadim, stating:
“In all honesty, I was not aware of who Mr Nadim was or his position when he posted to my wall and responded in the same way I would to any post. This certainly does not constitute a relationship or accept an endorsement”.
Finally, the NUS president candidate wrote:
“In my role as the Black Students’ Officer I have a long track record of opposing racism – in all its forms – and actively campaigning against it. I am also an advocate of inter-faith work both inside of our union and beyond”.