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How Islamophobia Influenced the UK Government to Cut Ties With the NUS

How Islamophobia Influenced the UK Government to Cut Ties With the NUS

Categories: Latest News

Monday June 06 2022

The government recently announced that it is cutting off ties with the National Union of Students (NUS), rendering them ineligible for government funding after concerns of antisemitism were raised concerning the group. The Union of Jewish Students (UJS), alongside Jewish news outlets such as the Jewish Chronicle, raised concerns after the NUS elected Muslim law student Shaima Dallali as its President. Dallali, only the second hijabi to be elected, had been accused of antisemitism, while the organisation itself has been accused of not doing enough to make Jewish students feel represented.

Antisemitism, much like Islamophobia, is a grave matter not to be taken lightly, and it should be collectively opposed by every member of the NUS. Whilst Ms Dallali has apologised for past tweets made 10 years ago, she has also committed to meeting with Jewish students to address concerns. However, it appears that the major concerns seemingly stem from pro-Palestinian activities within the NUS that have been heightened after the election of Ms Dallali. Indeed, Ms Dallali has been singled out over her support for Palestine, even being labelled by some as ‘extremist’ for her support of Palestinian right to self-determination against apartheid Israeli policies. Worryingly, the controversy has led to Ms Dallali being subjected to a barrage of Islamophobic abuse that has subsequently left her feeling unsafe. Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Dallali mentioned, “I’ve had private messages of people calling me a raghead, people telling me to go and kill myself, calling me a Jew hater and an antisemite. That has been difficult to read”.

Sadly, Ms Dallali, a pro-Palestine activist, is just one of many who have been targeted due to their pro-Palestinian activism and beliefs. 

Former NUS President Malia Bouattia, the first Muslim to take on the role, was subjected to similar vilification for her support of Palestine. Ms Bouattia was accused of antisemitism after comments made regarding media outlets’ support of Israel’s support and maltreatment of Palestinians. One of her first actions as president was a meeting with the UJS to address concerns of antisemitism, whilst in the Guardian she mentioned “There is no place for antisemitism in the student movement, or in society”.

Muslims have often been vilified for their support of Palestinian rights and criticisms of Zionist policy discriminating against Palestinian Arabs. The treatment of Ms Dallali is in and of itself an example of Islamophobia namely through silencing Palestinian activism.

Moreover, one of the largest public tools used to reinforce this level of Islamophobia is the use of the government’s Prevent programme. Already discredited by academics, experts and politicians, the programme has seen individuals, namely students referred for expressing vocal support for Palestine or forms of Palestinian solidarity. Such cases inevitably conflate social justice and human rights activism with radicalisation. In addition to this, research by SOAS University found self-censorship among Muslim students and staff to be an issue of great concern in light of Prevent for fear of being labelled ‘extreme’. Such scenarios often deters Muslims from speaking out on foreign policy issues, in particular, on the Israeli apartheid and severely impacts freedom of speech on campus.

Question marks have already been raised, as to how support for Palestinian activism is treated with caution compared to other similar causes that seem to have more Western support. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been condemned by every political, sports, or community figure, while International Law violations are being amplified with efforts made to take Russia to the International Criminal Court.

In a liberal democracy that cherishes values of freedom, it is ironic that censorship exists in any shape. While individuals may express their support for Ukraine, support for Palestine is met with hostility, a barrage of negative comments and accusations of supporting for ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’. 

This demonstrates that Islamophobia not only exists in our structures but is deeply rooted. Whilst, antisemitism does not have a place in society, the same should be the case for Islamophobia. There is a genuine premise for debate on Israeli apartheid but it should be done so in a healthy manner where no one involved should feel ostracised or restricted. Ultimately, MEND calls for the protection of the right for Muslims to show support for Palestinian solidarity, and condemns the Islamophobic smear campaign against NUS President-elect Shaima Dallali.

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