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First hijabi woman to chair London university student union: ‘Government’s attempts to suppress pro-Palestine activities is concerning’ 

March 18, 2021 at 9:15 am

Protesters gathered in front of the Israeli Embassy in central London on March 30, 2018 [Palestinian Forum in Britain]

Shaima Dallali, the first hijab wearing Arab Muslim to win the presidency of the City University of London Students’ Union, has stated that there is a real and justified concern over the British government’s attempts to suppress student activities in support of the Palestinian cause.

This came in response to reports on the British government’s efforts to exert continuous pressure on student unions in universities to adopt the highly controversial and critiqued IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] working definition of antisemitism, which will affect student activities in support of the Palestinian cause.

Dallali added in an interview with Al Jazeera Mubasher: “Students are already active and engage regarding education and academic issues. Freedom of speech is an important issue for students.”

However, she stressed that despite this, the students have a sense of awareness and can resist government attempts to suppress their voices.

Supporting the Palestinian cause

Dallali, alongside other students, established the Friends of Palestine Society and has previously launched more than one campaign to raise awareness about Palestine.

Dallali also discussed issues of concern to students, has voiced students’ rights and defended their demands, earning her the trust of both staff and students alike.

READ: Palestinian organisations hope for start of ICC investigation into Israel’s crimes 

Both Muslim and non-Muslim students voted for Dallali, who became the first veiled Muslim woman to chair the students’ union in the history of the university, in an election that took place earlier this month, with the participation of 19,000 eligible voters.

Confronting Islamophobia

On her plan to tackle the rising tide of Islamophobia in the west and the UK’s right-wing, Dallali expressed: “From my position at this university, I will focus on being effective, and we need to be more involved in implementing strategies that allow us to work with the student community and the local community to reject racism in all its forms.”

In addition to Dallali, two other veiled Arab Muslim women have also won the positions of vice-president. This team will lead the students’ union for an entire year after taking office in July.

Dallali, 26, was born to a Tunisian father and a Sudanese mother. She came to Britain in 2000, and studied at the City University of London, obtaining a master’s degree in Law.

She hopes that her success will pave the way for other victories for Muslims and all just causes.

Updated on 19 March 2021 at 13:25 to include the name of Palestinian society at university and correct quotes.