Photo credit: @antiracismday, Twitter

Meet Malia Bouattia, the (Controversial) First Black Muslim Woman President of the U.K.’s National Union of Students

The United Kingdom’s National Union of Students (NUS) has elected its first Black Muslim woman as the president, Malia Bouattia.  Naturally, in the last few days, her election has stirred up quite the controversy.
Bouattia first came to the media’s attention after speaking against an NUS motion “to condemn the IS and support Kurdish forces fighting against it, while expressing no confidence or trust in the US military intervention.”
National media picked up the story quickly, with The Sun leading the pack with a “Looniversity” headline.
Bouattia has taken to The Guardian to tell the public who she really is, and what she believes in, in a story that was published today.
She denies claims that she refused to condemn ISIS by delaying a national executive council motion condemning the group, pointing out that she supported a reworded version.  She felt that the original version of the motion condemned not only ISIS, but all Muslims, while the reworded version that she supported was not a condemnation of 1.6 billion people, but IS themselves.  “Yet newspaper reports this week still depict me as a young Muslim who supports Isis,” she writes. “This is simply not true.”

“Instead of celebrating and publicising this incredible landmark [my election], the media coverage has been cluttered with stories calling me a racist, an antisemite, an Islamic State sympathiser and more,” she writes.

Other claims accuse her of being anti-Semitic, due to past comments describing the University of Birmingham, which has a large Jewish community, as being “something of a Zionist outpost,” and other comments about “Zionist-led media outlets.”
She clarifies the comments, writing, “There is no place for antisemitism in the student movement, or in society.  If any of my previous discourse has been interpreted otherwise, such as comments I once made about Zionism within the media, I will revise it to ensure there is no room for confusion.”  She then goes on to add that her media criticism was targeted at outlets she finds to be biased in their coverage of the conflict between Palestine and Israel, writing  “I was not talking about the media as a whole, or repeating despicable antisemitic prejudice.”
“The truth is, as those who know me well understand, I’ve always been a strong campaigner against racism and fascism in all its forms.”

“Some may not agree with my politics and ideologies, but I do believe the student movement has a shared goal: to liberate education, creating and supporting access and opportunity for all. This is what I intend to focus on.”

She continues, “As always there will be times when we disagree. From tuition fees to Israel/Palestine, it’s to be expected, and to be celebrated, that students won’t always see eye to eye. That’s the beauty of democracy. There is, however, something we must all agree on: there is no space for prejudice in our movement, and I will continue to fight it in all its forms, whomever it targets. That is my promise.”
It’s not surprising that Bouattia is being subjected to harsh criticisms; sadly, some of them include rape and death threats.  (Wonder where those extremists were radicalized?!)  She’s not just a woman, or Black, or Muslim–she’s a Black Muslim woman, and of course that’s going to make some people uncomfortable times three.

Continue the conversation

What do you think about the controversy surrounding Malia Bouattia’s presidency?  Do you think she’s being unfairly targeted in the media because she’s a woman, Black, and Muslim?  Or do you think the criticism is founded?  Join us on Facebook, or tweet us at @muslimgirl and tell us what you think.