UK Student Union Elects First Muslim President

BRIGHTON – The National Union of Students (NUS) has elected Malia Bouattia as president for the next academic year, becoming the first Black female Muslim to head the body since its creation in 1922.

“My election was not just about NUS; it has to be about our society, and the role of our movement within it,” Bouattia wrote in a Facebook post after her victory, reported on Wednesday, April 20.

“We must ensure our union is at the center of a national fight for something better, and puts liberation at the heart of all we do.”

Bouattia was elected as president after the anti-racist activist picked up 372 votes over current president Megan Dunn’s 328.

Bouattia has a long history of activism, both on and off campus. One of the founding members of Muslimah Pride, formerly known as “Muslim Women Against Femen,” she has also campaigned with the Midlands Women’s Network on wider issues affecting women.

The NUS Students’ Officer since 2014, Bouattia has also occupied the role of NUS Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Co-convener since 2014 and was named a Black Mental Health top 30 leading individual of the year in 2014 and 2015.

As part of her manifesto for NUS officer, she said the education system in the UK is in “crisis” and that the UK’s student movement needs to “respond.”

“We need a proactive president who encourages campaigns and self-organization on the ground, and leads a united movement in the face of harsh and sustained cuts to student support and our education.”

Mixed Reactions

Bouattia’s appointment has raised mixed reactions on social media.

While some praised the extraordinary achievement, others pointed to ‘anti-Semitism’ allegations which surfaced last week.

Allegations surfaced with the publication of an article co-authored by Bouattia five years ago in which she referred to the University of Birmingham as being “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.”

The accusations were denounced by Bouattia who made a distinct between Zionism and Jewish people.

“I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of anti-Semitism, despite my work and dedication to liberation, equality and inclusion saying otherwise,” she said.

However, nothing seemed to affect well-wishers on social media.

“Today history has been made! @MaliaBouattia has been elected as the first Black Muslim NUS President in its 94 yr history. #nusconference,” one wrote.

“Congratulations to @MaliaBouattia on becoming NUS president! Hopefully we can see some real change for students in the coming year,” another added.

Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly two million.

There are 400,000 Muslim students in British schools, according to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB).

There are nearly 90,000 Muslim students studying in higher education institutions.