Written by Student Rights on 15 May 2014 at 5am

NUS vote highlights failure to challenge extremism

Tuesday’s vote by the NUS NEC to condemn Student Rights and support the so-called “Real Student Rights” campaign highlights the extent to which the NUS is failing utterly to challenge extremism and hate-speakers on the UK’s campuses.

Instead it is erroneously condemning an organisation which simply highlights an issue identified as vitally important by the government’s recent task force on extremism, and in doing so is allying itself with a group with a history of extremist connections.  

For all its supporters’ grandiose claims, the motion under question was not even passed by the NUS Conference, but by the rump 25 person National Executive Committee.

Students did not consider the motion important enough to discuss at last month’s Conference, an inconvenient truth which undermines its advocates’ claim that their views represent that of UK students.

The NUS does of course have previous regrettable form in this field. In addition to condemning Student Rights, the NUS has also condemned (and pledged to oppose) the government’s Prevent Strategy, and recently voted to launch a nationwide “cops off campus” campaign.

As such, it is clear that it is the issue of challenging campus extremism which these students oppose as much as Student Rights itself.

The recent motions against Student Rights which informed this move contain many false claims which have been comprehensively rebutted on numerous occasions, including outright lies that we oppose ‘No-Platform’ for the British National Party, that we don’t cover far-right extremism, and that we were formed to challenge pro-Palestinian activism.

Most damning though is the fact that the “Real Student Rights” campaign which has driven this issue to the NUS - and which the NEC has now stated it will support - has a history of outreach to extremists including Hamza Tzortzis.

Tzortzis has publicly declared of apostates "if someone's going to fight against the community they should be killed", while his organisation, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), is barred from operating at UCL in March 2013 after attempting to enforce gender segregation.

Other members of IERA have excused domestic violence and supported the return of execution for sex outside of marriage.

“Real Student Rights” has also sought support from Yvonne Ridley, who claims to have broken UN sanctions by financing the terrorist group Hamas, and told Muslims they should "boycott the police and refuse to co-operate with them", and Moazzam Begg, stripped of his passport in December 2013 after he was assessed to have been involved in terrorist activity in Syria and currently awaiting trial on terrorism charges.

The group also opposed the campaign challenging gender segregation on campuses, and recently sided with students at the University of Nottingham who condemned student journalists for challenging speakers with homophobic views.

The fact that this move from the NUS NEC has come before any condemnation of gender segregation, and just days after an NUS report specifically identified homophobic issues relating to faith societies, certainly highlights the distorted priorities of this small group of students. 

The main activist behind “Real Student Rights”, Hilary Aked, is a PhD student at the University of Bath studying the UK ‘Israel lobby’ under Professor David Miller, censured in the past for his publication of the well-known anti-Semite Kevin MacDonald’s work on his website ‘Neocon Europe’.

Aked is also a member of Miller’s Spinwatch, which publishes at and is funded by Middle East Monitor (MEMO), described by the Daily Telegraph as “a Hamas friendly publisher of anti-Semites”, and which published an article describing Israelis as “pathological liars from Eastern Europe, who lie as much as they breath oxygen”.

MEMO’s director Daud Abdullah was criticised by the British government in 2009 for signing a declaration which praised “the victory that Allah accomplished by means of our brothers the mujahidin, our defiant and steadfast kinsfolk in Gaza”.

Meanwhile, its senior editor Ibrahim Hewitt was recently removed as the host of an Oxfam event after his views on the “so-called Holocaust” and that homosexuals would suffer “severe punishments” in an Islamic state for their “great sin” were revealed.

In 2009 Hewitt’s charity, Interpal, was ordered to disassociate from the Union of Good, designated as a Hamas fundraising organisation by the US Treasury. He has also referred to the actions of Hamas and other militant groups as a “legitimate Palestinian resistance” and has been pictured with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

MEMO advisers include Lord Nazir, suspended by the Labour Party after blaming his imprisonment for dangerous driving on Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels", and Baroness Tonge, sacked by the Liberal Democrats after saying Israel "is not going to be there forever" and that that the country would "reap what it's sown". 

Spinwatch is also funded by the Cordoba Foundation, described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a “political front for the Muslim Brotherhood”.

Currently under investigation by the British Government, the Muslim Brotherhood has been described by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, as "at heart a terrorist organisation".

Given Aked’s and “Real Student Rights” links, their motivation for attacking an organisation dedicated to keeping the kind of extremism and bigotry they look to promote off campus is obvious.

In contrast to the fictitious claims raised about our work, they have real and tangible links to extreme individuals and intolerant ideologies, and the NUS should be taken to task for having failed to perform even perfunctory background checks on the “Real Students Rights” activists making their lurid claims.   

This is a clear attempt by a minority of students, including some backed by extremists, to shut down the debate on campus extremism with false claims, harassment and bullying, despite the government regularly stressing the importance of challenging this issue.

Although a small group of NUS executives may have passed a motion yesterday, despite it failing the democratic test at conference this year, this will not stop our successful work in challenging extremism, regardless of its provenance.