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UK Muslim students launch campaign to disaffiliate from NUS after Shaima Dallali sacking

Muslim groups showed their support of Muslim student calls to disaffiliate from the NUS after claims it failed to protect Dallali from Islamophobic attacks
Dallali was elected as NUS president at the body's last national conference, which saw hundreds of delegates from across the UK vote for her (Screengrab)

Muslim students doubled down on calls to disaffiliate from the UK's National Union of Students after the national body dismissed its elected president Shaima Dallali, following an investigation into allegations of antisemitism.  

Dallali, a Black Muslim woman of Tunisian and Sudanese descent, was elected in March to lead the national student body, although she had not taken up the post after being suspended, pending the investigation. 

She is the first president to be dismissed in the NUS's 100-year history.

The NUS announced its decision on Tuesday night after reports began to emerge that Dallali was dismissed by the national body. 

The NUS said the decision could be subject to an appeal but defended the process, which had led to Dallali's dismissal. The decision was based on a disciplinary panel hearing on 27 October 2022. 

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A statement by her lawyers, Carter-Ruck, on Wednesday announced that Dallali is considering legal action against the decision. 

"Remarkably – and in keeping with her treatment throughout her brief tenure since being elected in March 2022 – the news of Ms Dallali’s dismissal had already been briefed to and published on at least two national news websites before Ms Dallali had even been informed of the decision, let alone been provided with the written reasons for it," the statement read.

"The position was further aggravated by the publication of follow-up articles, citing an unnamed NUS source and falsely denying that this briefing or leak had occurred."

The statement added that Dallali rejects the findings of the disciplinary panel as well as the allegations about her that were investigated in the context of those investigations.

"She considers the process to have constituted – and that it continues to constitute – discriminatory treatment of her as a black Muslim woman and her beliefs concerning the plight of the Palestinian people," the statement said.  

Disaffiliation campaign 

Meanwhile, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS), representing Muslim students across the UK and Ireland, said the NUS had undermined its democratically elected leadership by dismissing Dallali as president. 

Describing the NUS as "no longer fit for purpose", FOSIS said it would launch disaffiliation campaigns against the national body in response to Dallali's dismissal. 

UK: NUS president Shaima Dallali sacked over antisemitism allegations
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"Following numerous attempts to engage NUS and its leadership, no satisfactory outcome has been reached," FOSIS said in a statement.

"The investigation into Shaima has been deeply politicised from the outset, and due process has not been followed, opening Shaima up to the court of public opinion and denying her the opportunity to fairly represent herself. 

"NUS' failings with regards to Shaima reflect its failings towards Muslim students at large - and these reflect its dereliction of duty towards its membership at large."

Following her election, Dallali told the Guardian that she feared for her safety after receiving a torrent of online abuse and threats.

Before she was elected NUS president, Dallali served as president at City University in London.

Dallali was then elected to serve as NUS president at the body's last national conference, which saw hundreds of delegates from across the UK vote for her. 

She was due to start her new role in July and serve in that position for a two-year term. 

After her election, Dallali was placed under investigation following complaints of antisemitism and homophobia relating to several tweets dating back to 2012.

Dallali apologised for the tweets and welcomed the investigation into her actions.

'Torrent of Islamophobic' abuse 

More than a dozen organisations signed a joint letter condemning the NUS on Tuesday night for failing to protect Dallali from death threats and a "torrent of Islamophobic" abuse after being elected president of the national body. 

The open letter's signatories include the Muslim Association of Britain and the Finsbury Park Mosque, which supported FOSIS's calls for students to disaffiliate from the NUS.

The Muslim Council of Britain echoed FOSIS's concerns and found Dallali's dismissal as "deeply troubling and raises questions on proper due process."

The umbrella body, which represents hundreds of Muslim organisations, said it had written to the NUS in July with concerns about Islamophobia, but had not received a response.

It said Dallali had been subjected to a "deluge of Islamophobic abuse".

"Many Muslim students fear the Islamophobia they face on campus. This decision will only heighten those fears and raise questions about their place within NUS. They are owed an explanation."

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