Student Rights - Executive Officers' Open Letter

In Student Council this February, QMSU was directed by this policy motion to send an open letter to the organisation known as Student Rights, because of its Islamophobic and racist behaviour. A letter was drafted by the sabbatical officers, and sent to the organisation. Here is that letter in full:

To whom it may concern,

We, the Queen Mary Students’ Union executive officer team, are writing to condemn your lack of transparency, sensationalism, divisive and counter-productive activities and disproportionate preoccupation with Muslim students. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim and BME students who are facing an increased risk of Islamophobic and racist persecution and hate crime, in part because of your actions.

While you describe yourselves as committed to “freedom from extremism”, you have a record of inconsistency when it comes to what you judge extremism to be. Your news posts overwhelmingly stoke fears about Muslim speakers; at the time of writing, two of the three news articles on your front page concerned Muslim speakers (1, 2). The other article referred to Generation Identity, the racist and white nationalist group, without ever calling the group extremist, racist or white nationalist (and instead choosing to use their preferred term, “identitarian”).

This cavalier attitude towards the word “extremist” when describing Muslims but carefully evasive language when describing white nationalists shows that your judgement of what “extremism” is, is skewed and discriminatory.

You also have links with worrying organisations. Both of your named members of staff are also employed by the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative think tank with unclear origins or sources of funding. It regularly shares news articles from the sensationalist race-baiting Breitbart website, and its associate director Douglas Murray has argued that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” and “all immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop”. These views are racist and discriminatory.

You have published “reports” that are easily exposed as dishonest pseudoscience masquerading as in-depth research, and it has been noted with concern by the Institute for Race Relations that your work has been used by violent far-right groups to target many Muslim student events, at least one of which was subsequently cancelled. Thus, though your organisation touts its passion for free speech, your work has led to debate and student participation being shut down on campuses due to a threat of violence. One cannot help but mention again that there is a pattern here: the events you appear to be shutting down are Muslim events, and the ones you continue to defend are alt-right and white nationalist events.

Therefore, for all of the reasons above, we condemn your organisation and call on you to change your approach.

Queen Mary Students’ Union stands in solidarity with our Muslim and BME students who face a rising risk of Islamophobic persecution and hate crime, thanks in part to the facilitation of this by Student Rights. We will not accept or recognise any groups which attempt to use the valuable diversity of our community to create division within it.

With all due respect,

Ahmed Mahbub, President, Queen Mary Students’ Union

Ella Harvey, Vice-President Welfare, Queen Mary Students’ Union

Redwan Shahid, Vice-President Education, Queen Mary Students’ Union

Tom Longbottom, Vice-President Barts and The London, Queen Mary Students’ Union