The newly appointed president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has called for the government’s anti-radicalisation Prevent strategy to be scrapped and for universities to do more to tackle racism on campus.
Speaking in her first interview since taking up the role, Zamzam Ibrahim said that she had seen the damaging effects of Prevent first-hand, with students being referred for events being cancelled and being members of Palestinian or Islamic societies. Instead, she called for a fully funded and accessible education system that is seen as a social and public good. “That’s not an education system that includes surveillance of a particular minority group,” she argued.
Previously the president of the students’ union at the University of Salford, Ibrahim was elected to her new position at the NUS conference in April and took up the post in July. She said that she had dealt with many cases of Prevent when she was president of the student’s union and when she moved into the NUS. She highlighted the fact that people were being referred because they were members of societies, and she believed that this clear route encouraged discrimination in the education system.
Ibrahim called for the Prevent programme to be scrapped, emphasising that it needs to be done away with rather than merely being reviewed, which the government has agreed to do in response to concerns that the programme is fostering discrimination against Muslims and hindering free expression.
In earlier interviews, Ibrahim spoke about how the media had portrayed her as a “fanatical Muslim and a threat to British society” based on comments she wrote on social media as a 16-year-old. She argues that her views have since moved on, and that such comments were twisted and used to intimidate young people, especially those from Muslim families or backgrounds, from entering public office.
Ibrahim completed her remarks by calling for more young people, especially girls from families similar to hers, to enter public service and be ambitious and unapologetic for who they are.
Her statement pointed out a desire to alter the manner in which we address the topic of education and to communicate to the general public that it is in fact an essential service for the greater good. Having witnessed the chaos that the educational sector has fallen into over the course of her years within it, she aims to steer it away from further disarray. Her belief is that the concept of free education should not revolve around her personal gain since she has already obtained her degree. Instead, she envisions it as an investment in future generations that come after her.