BRITAIN’S leading universities threatened yesterday to break ties with the National Union of Students (NUS), saying the election of its new Muslim president would send “a horrifying message” to Jewish students.
Students at Cambridge and Oxford announced on Thursday evening they would be holding referenda on whether their union branches should be affiliated to the NUS.
The attack came in response to Malia Bouattia’s presidential victory at this year’s NUS conference, where she became the 94-year-old body’s first black Muslim leader.
Cambridge disaffiliation campaign leader Jack May said “attention has been repeatedly drawn to anti-Semitic comments [by Ms Bouattia].
“Unfortunately, Malia’s election is just the latest event in a tide of anti-semitism sweeping UK universities.”
Ms Bouattia is a long-time anti-zionist campaigner, but has vigorously denied anti-semitic sentiment in the past.
In 2014, Ms Bouattia was criticised for voting down a motion condemning Islamic State (Isis) on the grounds the policy’s wording amounted to “blatant Islamophobia.”
The motion did not pass.
But National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts member Deborah Hermanns, who supported Ms Bouattia’s presidential bid, believed her victory was a “really exciting moment for the student movement.”
She said: “Combined with the radical policy passed, from living grants to national demonstrations, to sabotaging the National Student Survey, this will hopefully mean an upsurge in the NUS reaching out to the grassroots of the student movement and mobilising a much wider section of its membership against the Tories’ massive attack on education.
“Malia has also made clear that she will prioritise fighting racism in all its forms — whether that means backing Holocaust Memorial Day or campaigning against Prevent.”
Disaffiliation campaigners said they also had support in Durham, York, Birmingham, Westminster, Edinburgh, the London School of Economics and King’s College London.