The National Union of Students (NUS) conference in Brighton has elected Malia Bouattia as its new president for the next acedemic year. Bouattia’s appointment will see her becoming the first Muslim NUS president.
Taking to the stage after the announcement of her victory, Bouattia said:
“When we talk about liberation, it’s not just about women, black, LGBT+, or disabled students. It’s about us all.”“When we talk about liberation, it’s not just about women, black, LGBT+, or disabled students. It’s about us all.”
Malia defeated the current president, Megan Dunn, with 372 votes to 328. The University of Exeter’s delegates had pledged their support to Megan Dunn, with VP Education Bethan Jones describing Megan as “the president our students needed”.
— VP Education (@ExeVPEducation) April 20, 2016
In her former role as the NUS black students’ officer, Malia focused on issues of “black representation, anti-racism and anti-fascism”, according to the NUS website.
However, controversy over the new appointment has already arisen after anti-Semitism allegations surrounded Bouattia last week.
Jewish News stated their concern over the NUS election of “a woman as president who has previously spoken about “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets” and promoted armed struggle against Israel.”
anti-Semitism allegations surrounded Bouattia last week
The statement comes amidst allegations of an article co-authored by Bouattia five years ago, in which she allegedly refers to the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.”
Bouattia has also been accused of refusing to denounce ISIS, with some on social media consequentially branding her a “terrorist sympathiser.”
In her response to the backlash, Ms Bouattia said: “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.”
Speaking to Exeposé, Socialist Students President Hayden Cooper defended the President-elect, stating that Malia “has been utterly fantastic. Her history with the BDS movement and her defence of BME students has been vital. I’ve got complete faith she’ll be a fantastic NUS president, I’ve got complete faith in her. Despite the scaremongering and slander from the right she’s consistently held her ground, and has admitted when she’s been wrong in the past.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Hawkins of the anti-NUS group NUSceptics told Exeposé that “the NUS had just elected with ease a candidate who did not condemn the Islamic State and believed that a motion to commemorate the Holocaust was a bad idea. An utterly unrepresentative leader for the student voice.”
The election comes in the run-up to the university’s second referendum on NUS membership in eighteen months, which is scheduled to be held in a few weeks time. The referendum will decide whether The Students’ Guild should disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS).