NUS president Malia Bouattia refuses to apologise for Birmingham University 'Zionist outpost' comments

NUS president refuses to apologise for Birmingham University 'Zionist outpost' comments

The NUS president made the comments about the University of Birmingham (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has refused to apologise for comments which have been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

Malia Bouattia was criticised when describing Birmingham University as "something of a Zionist outpost" in an article she co-authored five years ago.

She was challenged over the remarks on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday, but refused to apologise for them.

Bouattia said "I would certainly review my language and would definitely want to explain the political context which I was discussing.

"I absolutely was not saying the things that it has been interpreted as, if you will."

The president also defended "safe space" and "no-platform" policies in universities, after widespread concerns they are curtailing free speech.

Prime Minister Theresa May has warned they could inhibit thought and development among students, and described the policies as "quite extraordinary".

But Bouattia commented that "The thing about safe spaces is they have existed for a very long time in many different forms.

"It's a call from the grassroots, it's an application of democratic processes in order to ensure that spaces of education - students unions and so on - are safe places in which to debate and in which to discuss ideas.

"We are not stopping the tearing apart of problematic views and ideas and so on, and I think it's incredibly naive to think that unless we provide spaces where they are necessarily aired, where racist, xenophobic, homophobic views are aired, that they are not otherwise known about or taken on."

Feminist author Germaine Greer is among the growing number of people who have faced calls to be "no-platformed" at universities, as she was accused of being transphobic by students at Cardiff University who launched a petition to try to block her from speaking.