The NUS National Executive Committee (NEC) recently rejected a motion calling for the NUS to condemn ISIS. Absurd as this seems, it is not as simple as the press headlines make out.
On reading that the NEC had voted against condemning ISIS, I was initially inclined to agree with Willard Foxton in the Telegraph, who argued that those opposing the motion were “moronic beyond belief”. Such criticism was mirrored by pieces in the Independent, the Tab and the Daily Mail. For example, the Tab ran an article headed ‘NUS refuses to condemn ISIS terrorists…because it’s ‘Islamophobic’”. Similarly an article in the Independent proclaimed: “NUS will condemn Israel and UKIP – but not ISIS”. However, reading beyond the headlines, it is clear that the NUS have not simply refused to condemn ISIS; this is a falsehood encouraged by sensationalist journalism.
A statement released by the NUS stated: “Some committee members felt that the wording of the motion being presented would unfairly demonise all Muslims rather than solely the group it set out to rightfully condemn”. From this it is clear that the NUS are in no way refusing to outright condemn ISIS, but that the motion was not passed due to an issue with the wording.
it is clear that the NUS have not simply refused to condemn ISIS; this is a falsehood encouraged by sensationalist journalism
The statement went on to make clear that a new motion will be presented at the next meeting “which will specifically condemn the politics and methods of ISIS”. Rather than reject the motion, the NEC has essentially deferred it so the problematic sections can be amended.
Admittedly, it is entirely not clear which point of the motion some members took issue with, although its second suggestion seems the most likely. This stated that the committee would resolve “to campaign in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in particular support the hard-pressed student, workers’ and women’s organisation against the competing nationalist and religious-right forces”. From this statement one could potentially infer negative connotations towards religious groups.
NUS Black Students’ Officer Malia Bouattia, who led the revolt against the motion, has said she plans to put forward an amended motion condemning ISIS at the next meeting. She emphasised the motion’s potential pro-war slant, saying that the new motion would “in no way pander to Western imperialist intervention or the demonization of Muslim peoples”.
Bouattia clearly exaggerates any problems with the initial motion, which even stated that the NEC had “no confidence or trust in the US military intervention”. Moreover, regardless of any Islamophobic inference that could be made from the motion, it seems excessive to say that it demonised Muslims. However, regardless of Bouattia’s embellishment in her explanation, the NUS have not simply refused to condemn ISIS.
The new motion would “in no way pander to Western imperialist intervention or the demonization of Muslim peoples”
In any case, it is completely acceptable to criticise the NUS for rejecting this motion. Moreover, the condemnation of any “Western imperialistic intervention” by some members of the NEC seems very naïve. Had the United States not intervened militarily it is likely that Baghdad would have fallen and Iraq could have collapsed entirely, causing misery for thousands more innocent civilians. As Bouattia would no doubt point out, the creation of ISIS can be largely blamed on previous Western intervention; it would therefore be unfair to now reject pleas for help from the legitimate Iraqi government.
However, to imply that the NUS have simply refused to condemn ISIS is lazy journalism in search of an interesting headline.
Image courtesy of the Sun via the Guardian