The incoming President of the National Union of Students (NUS) has again stirred controversy, claiming in an interview published today that, although it is “absolutely not true” that “I don’t like Jewish people,” nevertheless, “as a black Muslim woman, it [the allegation] is something that I expected.”
Shaima Dallali’s comments were reported in The Guardian, which interviewed the union’s already embattled President-elect.
Last week, NUS announced that it was launching an independent investigation into antisemitism, including allegations facing Ms Dallali. Ms Dallali, 27, told the newspaper that “The investigation is the right thing to do,” adding: “I know quite a few Jewish students feel alienated. This is the first step to start bridging the gap and reaching out to Jewish students and ensuring that Jewish students feel like they have a place in NUS, so I do welcome it.”
Ms Dallali, who has a history of inflammatory tweets, including one for which she apologised, reportedly compared herself to a notorious former NUS President, Malia Bouattia. According to the newspaper, Ms Dallali said that “the backlash against her election was part of pattern, seen with previous student leaders including Malia Bouattia, who in 2016 became the first black Muslim woman to become NUS president.”
“Unfortunately, as a black Muslim woman, it is something that I expected because I’ve seen it happen to other black Muslim women when they take up positions in the student union or the NUS, where they are attacked based on their political beliefs or their pro-Palestinian stance,” Ms Dallali said.
She also claimed that she had received a lot of racist and anti-Muslim abuse online: “I’ve had private messages of people calling me a raghead, people telling me to go and kill myself, calling me a Jew hater and an antisemite. That has been difficult to read. And so many threats as well – if I continue to do this then things will happen to me. I just try to delete, to block, I try not to let it get to my head. It’s something I receive every day and I’m continuing to receive. It’s affected me mentally and physically. Sometimes I don’t feel safe.”
Ms Bouattia was also investigated by NUS during her tenure and found to have made antisemitic statements, but no action was taken against her in what was one of many instances of the union appearing to brush racism against Jews under the carpet.
During her election campaign, Ms Dallali, who will assume her position as President in July, was forced to apologise for tweeting the words of an antisemitic chant. In 2012, during an escalation of tensions between Israel and the antisemitic genocidal terrorist group Hamas, Ms Dallali tweeted the words “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud.” Translated into English, this chant means “Jews, remember the battle of Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.” It is a classic Arabic battle cry referencing the massacre and expulsion of the Jews of the town of Khaybar in northwestern Arabia, now Saudi Arabia, in the year 628 CE. She also had a history of other inflammatory tweets, and last week, it also emerged that Ms Dallali had been in a group shouting aggressively at Jewish students attending an Israel Society event at King’s College London in 2018, at which it was reported that the “Khaybar” chant was heard.
Ms Dallali reportedly told The Guardian that, as the newspaper put it, “Muslims were not allowed room for growth.” She said: “It genuinely is really difficult to have to see these horrible things being said about me. They are not true. This idea that I don’t like Jewish people, or I’m hateful towards the Jewish community is absolutely not true. During my time as a sabbatical officer, I’ve worked with the Jewish community to support them, for example to commemorate Holocaust memorial day. My door has always been open to all students regardless of who they are. I want to reiterate my willingness to work with Jewish students to combat antisemitism, to address their concerns. I want to represent all students and their concerns are important. I may at times disagree with people politically. Everyone has the right to have their own political ideas, but I don’t hate anyone. I definitely don’t hate the Jewish community. I do believe I can bridge the gap and build bridges.”
NUS’s announcement of an investigation into antisemitism came after Robert Halfon MP wrote together with Campaign Against Antisemitism to the Charity Commission calling for an investigation into the union’s charitable arm. The full dossier on NUS, produced by Campaign Against Antisemitism, can be read here.
In addition, over twenty former NUS Presidents wrote a letter expressing their “serious concerns about antisemitism”, and another letter, organised by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and signed by over 1,000 Jewish students and allies, called for NUS to launch an independent investigation.
The Universities Minister also called for an investigation into NUS by the Charity Commission, and it has been further suggested that the Government’s grant to NUS should be withdrawn, and that the Government should cease to recognise NUS as the voice of British students, if concerns over antisemitism are not addressed.
It has also been reported that the Department for Education is looking at its relationship with NUS and at its charitable status, after Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi reportedly accused the union of “systemic antisemitism”.
The calls came following revelations about Ms Dallali and the recent Lowkey scandal, where Jewish concerns were reportedly brushed aside as the controversial rapper and activist was invited to headline the union’s centenary conference. He eventually withdrew as NUS came under media pressure.
After the circulation of the letter by former NUS Presidents, another letter has reportedly been published in support of Ms Dallali and calling for a simultaneous NUS investigation into Islamophobia and racist, as well as antisemitism.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].