Malia Bouattia’s article for The Guardian is one of the most dishonest pieces I have ever read. It would have been better for her not to have written it at all.
This week I became the first black woman to be elected president of the National Union of Students, and the first Muslim who will hold this position too. But instead of celebrating and publicising this incredible landmark, the media coverage has been cluttered with stories calling me a racist, an antisemite, an Islamic State sympathiser and more.
It is tempting to start a tangential discussion about whether a woman whose skin is as light as most Jews, Berbers and Arabs from the region can plausibly be considered “black”. Many will reasonably see Malia as a white woman who replaced another white woman as NUS President. For me at least, Malia’s blackness is comparable to Ali G’s is it coz I iz black shtick.
Celebrate me! Publicise me! I’m an incredible landmark!
Malia clearly expects that her religion, ethnicity and gender entitle her to praise. In a way, it’s sad to see that she undervalues herself by thinking these identity factors define her as a person more than her character does. This is reason to pity her, not to praise her.
Reading her words, you can see she expected to be celebrated by the media, as their moral duty. Yet instead of praising circumstantial factors about her, the media instead decided to criticise the substance of her character, as a responsible decision-maker charged with representing 7 million students.
If you think your actions can be excused or occulted behind your minority status or victimhood, then you show a lack of maturity at best, and a calculating cynicism at worst.
Identities are important. But I think all this hiding behind identities masks the fact that people are often very insecure and unhappy. They cannot defend their actions using Reason, and they know this, so they defend their actions using Reason’s postmodern replacement, Identity.
In Malia’s case, her self-constructed victim status demands praise and demands respect, trumping any need to do anything virtuous herself. She wants instant rewards for simply being Malia.
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. And I’d like to set a few things straight.
There are very logical reasons why people don’t believe Malia’s claim to have always been a strong campaigner against racism and fascism in “all its forms”. She opposed an NUS motion highlighting ISIS’ war on Yazidis and Christians, removing all references to them in the motion she submitted. If it is as important to highlight anti-religious prejudice as she claims, then why did she remove references to the genocidal anti-Yazidi and anti-Christian attitudes of ISIS?
Specifically, on the claims that I refused to condemn Isis: two years ago I delayed a National Executive Council motion condemning Isis – but that was because of its wording, not because of its intent. Its language appeared to condemn all Muslims, not just the terror group. Once it was worded correctly I proposed and wholly supported the motion.
But the wording of the original NUS motion did not mention Muslims at all. It simply highlighted “the barbaric repression of the “Islamic State” organisation”, and pointed out that ISIS’ victims included Christians and Yazidis. Malia’s revised motion simply removed all mention of these groups, and dropped the call for equal rights for Christians and Yazidis.
Yet newspaper reports this week still depict me as a young Muslim who supports Isis. This is simply not true.
No newspaper has claimed Malia “supports Isis”; rather they claim she obstructed an anti-ISIS motion on false grounds of “Islamophobia”, and then watered it down to remove references to ISIS’ victims.
Over the last two years I have received untold vitriol online – rape and death threats in abundance. I had to involve the police for my parents’ protection. But I stood strong, I persevered and, after serving as the NUS black students’ officer, student representatives across the country have shown faith by electing me.
It is terrible that Malia has received rape and death threats. It is sensible that she has reported these to the police. However, these are not relevant to legitimate critique of Malia’s politics. You cannot bracket illegal, immoral threats together with fair comment against your actions as “vitriol”. Malia also speaks about being “elected”, but it is not an election as we would understand it ordinarily. In typical patronising NUS style, only 372 of the 7 million students are deemed worthy of a vote for the union’s president.
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.
Of course some may not agree with her politics and ideologies, because they are deeply immoral. Her claim to focus on education and access for students would hold more water, if she hadn’t spent time wasting NUS money on controversial and nefarious activity of zero benefit to students, such as denouncing the “Zionist-led media” whilst speaking at a conference alongside Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled, in her role as NUS Black Students Officer.
After making a spurious distinction between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, Malia claims:
“If the language I have used in the past has been interpreted any other way then let me make this clear – it was never my intention, although my political ideologies and beliefs remain unchanged. […] 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”
In other words, everyone else has misinterpreted her; including her statement that Birmingham University is a “Zionist outpost“. She is not sorry for anything, and she is not attempting to apologise either – she merely wants to reword her comments, but sticks by her beliefs entirely.
I have a mandate to enact the policies voted for by students at our national conference. The NUS must be about opening minds, educating people, and building human connection through intelligent discussion instead of angry rhetoric. I’ll ensure we do just that.
Malia is convinced she is a democratically-elected leader, and in a sense she is right. But democracy works best when people have something to vote about that they actually think matters. Student politics has repeatedly failed to connect with the student body, meaning that extreme types are able to easily manipulate their apathetic electorate.
Today, I would say around two-thirds of student politics is made up of Far Left radical activists and politicised ISOC or PSC members running on a UAF-style platform of “resistance” and “anti-racism”. This Red-Brown-Green alliance is self-congratulating. They always win their referenda because they take this stuff seriously. They are the types to extend their studies and do Mickey Mouse social justice MAs and PhDs, just so they can have a crack at being a sabbatical officer or an NUS officer.
By contrast, One-third of NUS delegates are sensible Conservative-Labour-JSoc-free thinkers who never get to debate the real issues that divide them, because they spend all their time fighting the aforementioned extreme. This minority of delegates probably speak for the majority of students, but those students won’t vote for the sensible reps because they all think student politics is a joke – and reasonably so.
The people who lose out most are Labour Students, who used to be able to plot a path into mainstream politics via the student movement. This may be harder under Corbyn, as the NUS “crazies” end up forming the cadre of Left politics for the next generation, and will find their way into Labour via Momentum, if the Corbyn project continues to flourish.
The optimistic position in Labour is that the crazies will eventually leave; however we have seen the opposite within Labour , whereby sensible people are driven out by association with the crazies.
In the end, the two-third crazy majority which represents a student minority ends up running the student unions – and they may well end up as Labour MPs in 10 or 15 years – whereas the sensible one-third minority which represents the student majority gets upset by the trajectory of student politics, because they have convinced themselves that student politics matters. The extremists win in this equation because honestly, most people would rather vote for their favourite X-factor performance than for their student reps. Given the state of student politics as led by Malia, this is frankly no wonder.
Many decent people are convinced that their own efforts to fight nuttiness in NUS is noble and moral, and they are correct. But if you want to go from London to Manchester, and you jump on the train to Plymouth by accident, then running backwards down the corridor will be a useless effort to get you to Manchester, because the entire train is taking you in the wrong direction. Sometimes you need to get off the train, and get on a different train. NUS is very much the wrong train, from which sensible people need to alight.
We should consider the discussions led by students to leave NUS as a breath of fresh air. Malia’s NUS is thoroughly toxic and useless for students, and her article proves it.