Should NUS be standing up against ISIS?

The NUS Motion that fell.
The motion that fell.

A motion fell at a recent Nation Union of Students (NUS) National Exec Council (NEC) meeting refusing to condemn the terrorist organisation ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

At first glance, this decision seems like a terrible one to make, but in my opinion the reasoning behind the decision is justified.

Agreeing to the motion that was put forward would also promote students to boycott groups who are aiding the Islamic State with man power, goods or funding terrorist training.

Black Students Officer Malia Bouattia said that students willing to challenge the Islamic State in any shape or form could result in “a justification for war and is blatant Islamophobia waiting to happen”. The motion then fell when it came to a vote.

According to the debate, it was said that there was no “confidence or trust in the US military intervention” of the situation in Syria and Iraq. Malia replied to this by stating that she supported black communities around the world and was against any military, imperial or western interference because historically, it leads to suffering of black people.

The vote that took place at the NEC meeting was blogged by Daniel Cooper, who said: “I have looked again and again at the contents of the motion, yet I cannot track any Islamophobia or racism”.

On October 15 an NUS spokesperson said: “The wording of the motion would demonise all Muslims rather than condemn the group of people it has set out to criticise.

“The NUS does not support ISIS and a new motion will be taken to the next NUS National Executive Committee meeting, which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS and offer solidarity for the Iraqi Kurdish people”.

Within the same NEC meeting, the NUS agreed to boycott UKIP and to send emails around the UK on polling day to every student pleading them to reject UKIP and its racist manifesto and oversimplification rhetoric.

Pictured: ISIS fighters
Pictured: ISIS fighters

Yousuf Bhikha, President of the Islamic Society (ISoc) at UCLan said that the Islamic State group shouldn’t be classed as within the same realm as Muslims at all. “It [ISIS] does not stand for the same values as ISoc or my fellow Muslims.” He said.

Now, before the British people climb on their high horse and start to criticise Maria Bouttia’s speech, and the decision to not condemn ISIS, dragging in reasons that could lead to ‘tarnishing all Muslims with the same brush’, Britain needs to take a step back and look at its own historical routes.

In 1905, Britain declared the Alien’s Act which controversially saw British law restrict the immigration of Jews that were facing violent riots of persecution and legal discrimination solely aimed at ethnic and religious groups. Anti-Semitism against Jewish people was widespread in 19th and 20th Europe even in countries and areas where a Jew had never even been. This widespread hatred towards the Jews can be identified in the practices of the Christian Church who were adamant to spread stereotypical ideas of the Jew to be a demonic and repulsive entity.

Although the Alien’s Act was introduced over a century ago in Britain and the Act is now abolished, we still try to create these stereotypes of ‘the terrorist’ who are deemed as the bad guys. It is us Brits though who allow our State to use smart weaponry to kill a specific target such as a terrorist, but create a denial of responsibility when these smart bombs kill innocent victims in the process. We tell ourselves that it’s the ‘state’s fault’ and these victims become described as ‘collateral damage.’

What Maria Bouttia is then trying to halt is for any mechanisms of labelling towards the Islamic community in the UK as an entity which can easily be associated with ISIS. She is also not trying to offend the British public by disgracing the memory of British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines who were savagely murdered by ISIS rebels.

What Maria is trying to establish is a sense of reason for the British people to not follow what is seen to be the conventional narrative, to critique our state and not just assume that their actions are for the people’s benefit, because war in historical terms has only benefited the ruling class and left the majority lower class worse off.

About Sam McKeown 24 Articles
Student at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) studying Criminology and Criminal Justice.

3 Comments on Should NUS be standing up against ISIS?

  1. I am ashamed that NUS at an NEC meeting voted against this motion. I have read the motion over 20 times now and still cannot find any wording that could be construed to cause Islamophobia. I also wonder why an amendment wasn’t proposed to the motion and then that passed if it is just a case of ‘tweaking’ it. The reflection on the history of the U.K. within this article is quite accurate however it does not highlight how we have learnt from our predecessors mistakes, and surely us sharing and utilising that knowledge and advancement to help other nations, who are suffering at the hands of terrorism, is the correct and humane thing to do. I feel that by NUS voting against this motion and causing these subsequent articles and discussions leaves the door wide open for Islamophobia. This is surely an area that NUS should hold a strong line on and I fear they have shown themselves again to be weak in the face of serious issues. As a person who is proud to be on the left of politics and a supporter of Unions it has pained me to make these comments, however it is the truth and NUS need to really sort out there house in order to be a progressive force and voice for students again.

    • What I tried to do was agree with Maria Bouattia, that I too have no confidence for the usage of our military and that by using these ‘smart bombs’ we as a society do not see the physical harm it causes to innocent civilians. By not seeing the harm we can not relate to it and it is then distant to us and by distancing the problem we forget about it. I wanted to remind anyone that read this article to realise that even Western society’s which are ‘modern’ are capable of horrific violence. After all it was Britain that introduced the concentration camp to the world…

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