Malia Bouattia elected NUS National President at Brighton conference

Appointment receives mixed response on social media amid 'anti-Semitism' allegations

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Thursday 21 April 2016 08:21
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The new national president, pictured, makes her winning speech in Brighton
The new national president, pictured, makes her winning speech in Brighton

The National Union of Students (NUS) National Conference in Brighton has chosen Malia Bouattia as president for the next academic year.

The former NUS black students’ officer beat current president, Megan Dunn, with 372 votes to 328 to land the highest national role in student politics in the UK.

Ms Bouattia is the first black and minority ethnic (BME) woman to be elected into the role.

Taking to the stage at the conference as her name was announced, Ms Bouattia said: “When we talk about liberation, it’s not just about women, black, LGBT+, or disabled students. It’s about us all.”

Watch Malia Bouattia’s full speech:

Ms Bouattia’s appointment, however, has received a mixed reception on social media after allegations of anti-Semitism surfaced last week.

On Tuesday, the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) announced its president, Becky Howe, would not be supporting Ms Bouattia’s presidential bid at the conference.

Signed by five other OUSU vice-presidents, the statement said: “We have noted NUS presidential candidate Malia Bouattia’s response to the letter sent by a large number of Jewish society presidents.

“The sabbatical team do not believe that the response was adequate and believe that there are still questions to be answered.

“As a sabbatical team, we have decided that Becky Howe (as OUSU President, the leader of our delegation to NUS National Conference) will not vote for Malia Bouattia.”

Over 300 protesters and heads of student Jewish societies asked Ms Bouattia in an open letter last week: “Why do you see a large Jewish society as a problem?”

The letter came after the Jewish society leaders were made aware of an article co-authored by Ms Bouattia five years ago in which she referred to the University of Birmingham as being “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.”

Ms Bouattia responded: “I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of anti-Semitism, despite my work and dedication to liberation, equality and inclusion saying otherwise.”

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) had previously said Jewish students were “rightly outraged” to see a candidate for NUS president who sees their Jewish societies as “a threat.”

However, now that she has been elected national president, the UJS has said it is proud of its long history and long standing positive relationship with the NUS, and hopes “that relationship will be able to continue” with Ms Bouattia at the helm.

In an online statement, the UJS said: “There will, however, still be many Jewish students who have not been satisfied with Malia’s response, so far, to the concerns raised by Jewish students over the last few weeks.

“Now, knowing the result of the election, these questions still need to be answered.”

In a post-election statement, Ms Bouattia said she was “committed” to putting liberation at the heart of the student movement.

She continued: “In my role as NUS black students’ officer, I have a long track record of opposing racism and discrimination in all its forms and actively campaigning against it.

“Jews have faced horrendous persecution over thousands of years and Jewish students on campuses and elsewhere continue to face anti-Semitism. Our movement knows this, and will stand alongside them.”

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