Right of Reply: Andrew Pakes

The President of the National Union of Students responds to Ken Livingstone's accusation that they are backtracking on racism

READING KEN Livingstone's article in the Indy last Wednesday I was struck by one overwhelming thought: how sad it is that an individual who obviously has such a positive record in anti-racism work can get things (on occasion) so wrong.

I wholeheartedly agree with Ken's assertion that political correctness is a reactionary American import used by the right as a rallying call for all those opposed to the advances made in recent years by women, black and Asian communities, people with disabilities and lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

However, our Ken, does "his" cause no good when he attacks the National Union of Students for its role in combating the threat of Islamic extremists on campus, Has Ken constructed a league table of those who face prejudice and discrimination and prioritised which offenders most deserve our contempt and attention?

NUS has never claimed the small but dangerous groups of Islamic extremists are the main cause of racism, but they are a distinct and real threat to the welfare and safety of many students. As a gay male, I myself, have been subjected to some of their bile and hatred.

Racism is a series of diverse and often complex prejudices between and within different groups in "multi-cultural" Britain. This year's NUS Conference took an overwhelming vote to establish a Black Students Officer, while in July, Neville Lawrence addressed our annual Student Convention.

The student movement remains committed to fighting racism in all its forms, and I am not alone in finding Ken's belief - that challenging Islamic extremism on campus is not really fighting racism - quite bizarre.

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