Malia Bouattia, Black Students’ Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS), is currently facing death and rape threats from members of the English Defense League (EDL) due to wildly inaccurate accusations of her support of “Islamic Terrorism.”
More specifically, she is being accused of supporting ISIS, the group perhaps best known in the UK for releasing graphic videos of their terrorist members beheading Western journalists. This is because she spoke against a motion at the NUS National Executive Conference (NEC) which called for condemnation of ISIS, on the basis that it called for students to boycott anyone supplying ISIS with goods, training and soldiers. In itself, this sounds like a fine and worthy aim, but while there is no formal system which monitors the support of ISIS, there is a dangerous history of organisations going under cover to ‘monitor’ Muslims. The Black Students’ Campaign wanted to rewrite the motion to clarify this kind of vigilante ‘anti-terrorism’ would not be tolerated. The campaign rightly recognised that this kind of rhetoric frequently becomes a ‘justification for war and blatant Islamophobia. This rhetoric exacerbates the issue at hand and in essence is a further attack on those we aim to defend.’ It is undeniable that the mainstream coverage of ISIS is rife with prejudice against Islam in general, used as a cheap ploy to further exclude Muslims from society.
This is epitomised in The Sun’s Unite Against ISIS campaign – which calls for ‘people of all faiths’ to stand up against ISIS – despite the overwhelming emphasis on people of the Muslim faith, with the front cover depicting a woman in a Union Jack print hijab. Muslims, more than any other group, are constantly called on to ‘apologise’ and ‘condemn’ extreme violence and terror that supposedly happens in their name. As a white, British-born person, it would never occur to me to apologise for the thuggery and violence of the EDL, who claim to represent the country I live in. And I am confident that no one would ever ask me to.
In any case, anyone who can be bothered to do a two second Google search would find out that Malia and the Black Students Campaign have explicitly condemned ISIS, multiple times. In a statement, they have said they ‘stand in complete solidarity with the Kurdish people against the recent attacks by ISIS and join many others in condemnation of their brutal actions.’ Malia is not condoning ISIS; she is opposing the Islamophobic rhetoric that overwhelmingly accompanies this discussion. Frankly, it is unbelievable that anyone is unable to draw the distinction. The sensationalist response by publications such as The Tab – who claimed the NUS vote means ‘murderous ISIS militants [have] secured a victory on British soil’ – has only provided a further platform for Islamophobes to spread their venomous bigotry.
Warwick University’s Anti Racism Society has called for ‘ all student officers and individuals to write in support of Malia,’ adding that , ‘this is nothing but targeted abuse of a Muslim woman leader who has worked tirelessly over a number of years fighting for principles of peace and justice.’
The unique hate campaign that has been waged against her is deplorable. I stand with Malia.