UCL students pass motion condemning ‘Student Rights’

Last night (Tuesday 4 February) students at University College London (UCL) unanimously passed a motion condemning the Henry Jackson Society front group ‘Student Rights’.

The motion – which can be read here – was unopposed at UCL Union council and makes the prestigious London university the fourth to pass policy against the group. [UPDATE 14/2/14: Here is the link to the motion which passed showing it is current UCLU policy.]

The momentum of the Real Student Rights campaign, a grassroots student campaign founded to expose and oppose the divisive and marginalising tactics of the group (which has few, if any, actual links to students) is gathering pace.

The UCL Union motion comes in the wake of previous motions at three other top universities in the University of London: Goldsmiths, Birkbeck and the London School of Economics (LSE), last term.

Real Student Rights motions are expected to be proposed at a number of other universities nationwide this term and prove that – despite its name – the non-transparent ‘Student Rights’ has no legitimacy with actual students.

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Open Letter to ‘Student Rights’ from SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society

Students from the Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society at SOAS, University of London, have written this open letter to ‘Student Rights’ and asked Real Student Rights to publish it. It was first published here.

It condemns Student Rights ‘vilification’ of university Islamic societies and its association of segregated seating with ‘extremism’, suggesting that this is ‘motivated by Islamophobic sentiments’. It also argues that seating arrangements should allow each student to act ‘according to his or her personal religious convictions’.

*Update* Since the society sent the below letter to ‘Student Rights’, the organisation has published a response here.

Open Letter to ‘Student Rights’

As members of SOAS Christian-Muslim Dialogue Society, we oppose your vilification and targeting of university Islamic societies including SOAS Islamic Society on the issue of gender segregation in their events.

We support the right of each student to act according to his or her personal religious convictions. For some, segregated seating serves these convictions and allows participation in mixed events. We support the right of SOAS Islamic Society to accommodate both segregated and mixed seating in any event.

We oppose the notion that segregated seating is somehow indicative of extremism, and believe this to be motivated by Islamophobic sentiments.

As members of a Society including Christians, Muslims, and individuals of other faiths and none, we stand with SOAS Islamic Society in this matter.

The appended list of names represents members of the society who have expressed agreement with the contents of this letter.

1. Laura Hassan
2. Mujahid Dattani
3. Afia Ahmed
4. Johanna Schnell
5. Amina Bayoumi
6. Tariq al-Daour
7. Hind Alasgah
8. Zarqa Parvez
9. Nafeesa Mistry
10. Talene Bilazarian
11. Deborah Harrison
12. Salima Bandji
13. Rawia Tawfiq
14. Husaini Jamil
15. Lauren Pilgrim
16. Rabia Khan
17. Aneesa Eps
18. Makhdoom Mohsin Ali
19. Jasmine Arif
20. Omar Salha
21. Rene Sieger
22. Brittany Smutek
23. Karmel Aktopuk-Carey
24. Hanaa Hasan
25. Fatima Jama
26. Behar Sadriu
27. Anwar Anwar
28. Duncan Tarrant
29. Katya Nell
30. Hutabarat Nerci
31. Ecre Karadag
32. Caroline Osella
33. Jacob Hinds
34. Sila Ulucay
35. Anastasia Ravenall
36. Saqib Ali Rafiq
37. Maryam Siddiq
38. Jane Nurse
39. Tom Linton
40. Safiya Abdi
41. Helena Wondim
42. Nurullah Guley
43. Nadia Chan

Student Rights offered students chance to be exploited as unpaid interns

W4MP Jobs full time unpaid intern SR ad

(Click to enlarge) Student Rights recruitment ad

Student Rights has sought to recruit unpaid interns to carry out its work monitoring students on campus.

Despite the suggestion in its name that it seeks to support students, it’s likely that the candidates it tried to recruit to work for free, for three months, full-time, will have been students seeking experience in a competitive jobs market.

This screenshot above (click on the image to enlarge) is of the advert posted on the jobs and internships site Work4MP in September 2013, showing that the Henry Jackson Society group had what it calls ‘a rolling programme of recruitment’.

Because the position is unpaid, the Work4MP site carries a disclaimer warning potential recruits that though their duties may be called voluntary they could in fact constitute work and qualify for at least the legal minimum wage.

Ironically campaigns against unpaid internships have long been a major concern of students and recent graduates, with students unions at UCL, University of the Arts, Sussex and LSE, for example, all highlighting the issue. Student Rights seems unconcerned about the exploitative nature of such a set up, however, and doesn’t even mention paying travel expenses.

Campaign update & invitation to London RSR planning meeting

Hi everyone,

With the new term beginning we’d like to update everyone on the current status of the Real Student Rights campaign, and invite you to a campaign planning meeting on Monday 20th January, 3pm at Birkbeck University in London.

The campaign against Student Rights received support from a number of Student Unions last term, with motions passing at LSE, Birkbeck and Goldsmiths students unions, endorsing Real Student Rights and condemning the lack of transparency of Student Rights as well as the Islamophobia inherent in their agenda.

For any students looking to pass similar motions at their Unions, you can find a template motion on our website and please keep us informed if you do by contacting realstudentrights@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, Student Rights has begun unravelling under scrutiny. When Times Higher Education covered the Real Student Rights campaign earlier this month [6] Student Rights appeared to finally admit to being a ‘project’ of the right-wing Henry Jackson Society think-tank, after evading transparency for so long. Its links were also made quite clear on national television, when Channel 4 covered the story, interviewed members of Student Rights in the Henry Jackson Society’s office where they are based, and forced them to address students’ claims that they are Islamophobic.

However Student Rights still remains a threat to students’ freedom of expression, welfare and campus cohesion. The BBC’s erroneous reference to Student Rights as a ‘student group’ illustrates that the group’s lack of credibility has not yet been made clear to all, and that further awareness needs to be raised about the real nature of Student Rights.

The recent gender segregation debate was sparked by a Student Rights report into gender segregation at Islamic Society events, which was sensationalist, methodologically flawed and in the vast majority of cases made no attempt to find out – by asking students themselves – if seating arrangements were ‘forced’ or their own choice. Instead the director of Student Rights described gender segregation as a form of ‘extremism’ in the press further demonising Muslim students and pushing a narrative devoid of nuance that conflates two separate issues and glosses over fundamental questions about Muslim women’s agency. Real Student Rights regards Student Rights pretence to be defending women’s rights to be cynical, opportunistic and utterly hollow – and, ironically, to be silencing the voices of many Muslim women.

So in order to ensure that anti-discrimination efforts remain and anti-discriminatory, and in the interests of countering the toxic influence of Student Rights, the students who founded the counter-campaign Real Student Rights to expose and oppose Student Rights have called an open planning meeting, looking to expand the campaign’s activities and expand our student support base.

If you are a student and are interested in more transparent and democratic anti-discrimination work setting the agenda, we hope to see you on Monday 20th January at 3pm –

Venue: Birkbeck University (room to be confirmed)
Malet Street, Bloomsbury, WC1E 7HX London

If you can’t attend but would like to contribute ideas, ask questions or offer feedback, please get in touch: realstudentrights@gmail.com. You can also help by sharing our petition with your friends.

In solidarity,
Real Student Rights

 

Student Rights paid to promote attack blog on Facebook

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(Click to enlarge) The ad that appeared on Facebook

Student Rights appears to have paid to promote its blog attacking the Real Student Rights campaign, which was entitled ‘Setting the Record Straight’, on Facebook.

A student involved in the Real Student Rights campaign – despite, for obvious reasons, not having liked the Student Rights fan page – spotted this advert on Facebook inviting him to read the Huffington Post blog that Raheem Kassam and Rupert Sutton wrote.

Student Rights does not publish accounts or reveal its donors and claims to fundraise independently but it has been known to receive money from the Henry Jackson Society, the right wing think tank of which it is a project.

Students’ unions hit back at group monitoring campus extremism – Times Higher Education

Times Higher Education, a key outlet of university news, covers the Real Students Rights campaign today, noting that LSE, Goldsmiths and Birkbeck students unions have so far passed motions condemning ‘Student Rights’ for “targeting Muslim students”.

THE screenshot

RSR campaign in Times Higher Ed

The exposure comes after Raheem Kassam and Rupert Sutton of Student Rights wrote a blog attacking the Real Student Rights campaign for the Huffington Post. Despite being entitled ‘Setting the record straight’, they failed to explain why Student Rights had not made its links to the Henry Jackson Society transparent or why it had linked to anti-Muslim hate site ‘Atlas Shrugs’. Ironically, they also accused Real Student Rights – unlike themselves an actual student campaign – of not having ‘the interests of the majority of Britain’s students at heart’.

The new article in THE explains how the RSR campaign has coordinated motions based on its draft template criticising ‘Student Rights’ at three students unions so far – all leading institutions and part of the University of London – and in spring term the campaign should spread nationwide.

Read the  full Times Higher Education article online here.

Students branded ‘fools’ by director of “Student Rights”

Raheem Kassam, the director of dodgy front-group “Student Rights”, today branded students – whose rights his organisation claims to protect – “fools” because they believe the activities of his group are Islamophobic.

RK calls students fools edit

(click on image to enlarge – link to original Tweet here)

Kassam – clearly rattled by the success of the ‘Real Student Rights’ student campaign to expose his organisation as a front for the Henry Jackson Society  – today took to Twitter following a Channel 4 report last week which showed that his group operates out of the right-wing think tank’s office.

In the report, Mason interviewed some students from the London School of Economics, where 347 students had voted to condemn Student Rights for fuelling Islamophobia. LSE SU President, Jay Stoll, who told Mason, when asked if he thought the group were Islamophobic ‘we’ve got to call a spade a spade…yes, absolutely’ is presumably among the students Kassam believes are ‘fools’.

The fact is there is an alarming amount of evidence showing that Student Rights agenda is to target Muslim students and that as a result of their approach students’ welfare has actually been endangered – far-right groups went on to one campus on the basis of their reports, for instance.

In addition, Kassam publishes and promotes plenty of anti-Muslim articles via Trending Central, a right wing site he edits, and formerly did so on another outlet called The Commentator.

The fact that he regards being accused of Islamophobia as a ‘win’ raises serious questions about his attitude towards this serious issue. It is also worrying that, rather than taking students’ concerns seriously, Kassam dismisses them with insults.

He has shown similar disdain for students, however, in a blog for Trending Central in which he justified police attempts to spy on student activists, as reported in the Guardian. He also offers this belittling assessment of the Guardian’s informant: ‘What a clever little boy this Cambridge student is!’ (In this case, the object of Kassam’s dislike, was not, in fact a student.)

Overall, the legitimacy with which he and his group can claim to  be representing or protecting students’ rights is in serious doubt.