By Haydar Zaki
I am starting to see articles and TV interviews with the newly appointed NUS president, Malia Bouattia, discussing the accusations that have been put to her with the headlines that she “is clearing her name.” However, from the pieces and interviews I’ve seen, it seems that nothing has actually been cleared up. In fact if anything, the accusations of anti-Semitism and extremism apologia are even more muddied.
One exchange with an interviewer in particular had summed up the whole situation. The interviewer asked her: “Do you have a problem with the way Israel exists today?” Following a long pause, Malia answered with: “I have a problem with the way Israel behaves today.” The staunch anti-Zionist had dodged the question and in doing so failed to clarify whether it really is the Israeli actions or the premise of the Israeli state that had most bothered her.
When posing my concerns to Malia on Twitter, I was barraged with comments from the generic anti-Quilliam gang unjustly proclaiming me to be a hyper-sexualised bully who hates her because she is a Black Muslim. Without even warranting that with a response, I will again reinstate my concerns in this piece in the hopes of one day having these concerns responded to by Malia.
Malia discussing our "thuggish" police forces now…https://t.co/GZWS6HXsAu.
— Haydar Zaki (@HaydarZaki1) April 24, 2016
Why do Quilliamites call those who question them Islamists? Sounds like they like to parrot their Zionist masters https://t.co/94QkUgTjry
— Jay (@JanksTheMan) April 24, 2016
@HaydarZaki1 Getting a bit obsessive now.
Borderline bullying and misogyny.
— Az (@AzTheBaz) April 24, 2016
@JanksTheMan @AzTheBaz @HaydarZaki1
I think he is confusing his support for PREVENT with being a PERVERT
— MUSLIM PATROL (@Muslim_Patrol) April 24, 2016
My main issue is with what she said about violent resistance against Israel. In a filmed speech of hers she stated that violent resistance against Israel was legitimate, but left it unclear if this had meant violence specifically targeted to civilians, or whether even groups such as Hamas are legitimate opposition groups? For an NUS president who was so careful as to re-draft a motion on the condemnation of ISIS because she feared it could be “Islamophobic”, it’s a shame that she didn’t make a similar distinction highlighting what she believes to be legitimate resistance.
The problem here is that Malia doesn’t really seem to appreciate what anti-Semitism actually is, and how it is rising on campus with no thanks to her input. Criticising Zionism and anti-Semitism are of course two different things, but it becomes apparent that the former is used as a façade to justify the latter when it comes down to our local Student Unions.
More Student Unions are ascribing to the view that Israeli speakers should not have the “privilege” of a platform, in the aim to not “legitimise” Israel. Thus, in the name of ‘liberation,’ Israeli speakers have been the subject of harassment and censorship by the new regressive student movement taking grip at universities.
Unfortunately, senior members of the NUS have done little to curb this increasing trend and under the banner of anti-Zionism and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), little is done to differentiate from boycotting Israeli oranges to no-platforming Israelis from speaking at universities.
Of course this all the more ironic as this new regressive movement refuses to identify the differences between Islam the religion, and Islamism the political ideology, and regard any critique of Islamic ideas as racist. So to clarify, “anti-Zionism” is justifying the anti-Semitic act of impeaching Israeli speakers, but if the same was done to impeach an Islamist speaker it would be deemed (and rightly so) as anti-Muslim bigotry. In fact even if you just try to present challenge to an Islamist speaker you are deemed as a fascist/racist – this is the logic the NUS seemingly abides by.
Malia, as acting NUS President I am respectfully calling on you to first address the points raised about your comments on violent resistance – as it undoubtedly puts many Jewish students who identify with Israel in harm – but to also truly go beyond rhetoric and tackle anti-Semitism on campus.
Jewish students and Zionists deserve safe spaces in universities too, no matter how much you may disagree with their political ideologies, and so first and foremost this should be addressed with direct answers. The second point is to really promote the idea of free flowing critique of ideas. If you really are for student activism and dialogue, then please do not proceed to bellow “racist” and “fascist” at those who want to challenge Islamist ideas. Please understand the same distinction between Islamism and Islam, as you are so happy to do so with Zionism and Judaism.
Haydar Zaki is the Quilliam Foundation’s outreach and Right2Debate program coordinator. Haydar has worked extensively in conducting outreach to further the values of universal human rights. Most recently, Haydar has a dominant role in the free speech campaign Right2Debate to encourage Student Unions to challenge bigotry, and not free speech.