Malia Bouattia honoured with Good Citizen prize at Muslim News awards

Rabbi who led judges' panel acknowledges that giving the award to the controversial president of the National Union of Students will upset some people


Malia Bouattia, the controversial leader of the National Union of Students, has been honoured by the Muslim community at its flagship awards ceremony.

Ms Bouattia was recognised with a prize for Good Citizenship at the Muslim News Awards for Excellence. The citation said she had “campaigned tirelessly for equal rights and the underprivileged” as well as opposing the government’s Prevent strategy and working on the Why Is My Curriculum White campaign.

“Malia has taken on these tasks although she has herself been vilified in the media for taking up principled positions,” the citation said.

Ms Bouattia, who was elected president of the NUS last April, had provoked anger in the Jewish community over her reference to “Zionist-led media outlets” and her description of the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost”.

A NUS inquiry found that she had made comments that “could be reasonably capable of being interpreted as antisemitic”.

She told the JC in January that she would not use such language again, adding: “I’m always learning.”  Accepting her award she urged young Muslims to “take part and take action”.

The awards were judged by a five-member panel, chaired by Rabbi Janet Darley, formerly minister of South London Liberal Synagogue. She said that the decision to honour Ms Bouattia had been a majority decision, and she recognised that some people would be upset.

“The judges who voted for her wanted to honour a Muslim woman of colour in a leadership role,” she said. 

One of the shortlisted candidates beaten by Ms Bouattia, Mohammed Zafran, who set up a charity to honour the memory of his murdered brother-in-law, was given the judges’ special award picked from all the nominees in all categories.

The awards ceremony emphasised the contribution made by Muslims to British society, with many of speakers and winners speaking out against terrorism and extremism. A minute’s silence was held to honour the victims of the Westminster attack.

 The guest of honour, Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for  Communities and Local Government, spoke of explaining to his daughters why the terrorists who targeted Paris called themselves Muslims “when they had no right to do so…you cannot be a Muslim and a murderer”.

He added: “We are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. They didn’t give up their identities. They recognised that the values they hold dear aren’t just Muslim values, they are British values.”

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