Written by Student Rights on 30 September 2014 at 9am

NUS campaign shows support for extremists

In the past week the NUS Black Students Campaign (BSC) has shown worrying support for extremists.

On Sunday, President Malia Bouattia appeared alongside former terrorists at a conference entitled ‘Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution’, while the group’s Black History Month guide includes Hamas sympathiser Azad Ali as one of several “inspiring examples of Black leadership”.

That Bouattia felt it sensible to appear at a “pro-resistance solidarity event” dedicated to supporting the acts of violent groups is deeply concerning, and when the identities of speakers she shared a platform with are revealed this lapse of judgement becomes even more apparent.

Top of the bill was senior Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) member Leila Khaled, famous for her involvement in aircraft hijackings in the 1970s, and now banned from the UK.

Khaled continues to support violent terrorism against Israel, while the PFLP’s armed wing claimed several hundred rocket attacks on civilian targets throughout July and August.

She was joined by Gerry MacLochlainn, a former IRA member convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions in 1981, and the pro-Mugabe academic George Shires, who has attacked the British press for demonising the dictator.

Perhaps more concerning, however, is the inclusion of Azad Ali as an example for student activists in the Black History Month guide.

Ali has written: "Hamas is a true resistance movement that is standing up for the rights of the Palestinians" and that "...the aim is to defeat the resistance. So our priority is to ensure that this does not happen".

He also lost a libel case in 2010 after challenging reports that he had included a quote on his blog justifying the murder of British and American soldiers in Iraq.

In the same year he was filmed by Channel 4 telling an audience that “democracy, if it means that, you know, at the expense of not implementing the Sharia, of course no one agrees with that”.

Alongside Ali, the BSC’s literature includes a link to the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) website, and lists two of its activists as “inspiring examples”.

This is despite the IHRC being an extremist organisation which has called for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman, sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for planning terrorist attacks in the US, and attacked Abu Hamza al-Masri's 2006 conviction for inciting murder.

Last year NUS President Toni Pearce responded angrily to accusations the student group had not done enough to challenge extremism, writing that it took “a robust position” on the issue.

This claim has now been entirely undermined by the BSC's actions, and the NUS must act to ensure the campaign's activities support its overall aims and principles - particularly if its claims to challenge extremism are to be taken seriously.