Malia Bouattia stands by Birmingham ‘Zionist outpost’ comment

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Malia Bouattia stands by Birmingham ‘Zionist outpost’ comment

The NUS president claimed she had been misinterpreted, despite condemnation of her comments as being anti-Semitic

NUS president Malia Bouattia
NUS president Malia Bouattia

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

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

But challenged over the remarks on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Tuesday, she refused to apologise for them.

She 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…”

Ms Bouattia also defended “safe space” and “no-platform” policies in universities amid widespread concerns they are curtailing free speech.

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

Ms Bouattia said: “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.”

She added: “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.

Professor Greer was accused of being transphobic by students at Cardiff University who launched a petition to try to block her from speaking.

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