Gay Muslim claims Islamophobia denied him post as student leader
An openly gay and Muslim candidate for president of the National Union of Students (NUS) has claimed that both Islamophobia and homophobia played a part in him losing the election by 28 votes.
Pav Akhtar who is currently the NUS black students’ officer and formerly the president of the Cambridge University students union, was widely expected to be elected president of NUS at the national conference held last week. who is currently the NUS black students’ officer and formerly the president of the Cambridge University students union, was widely expected to be elected president of NUS at the national conference held last week.
Mr Akhtar had initially received the backing of the Federation of Islamic Student Societies (FOSIS) together with the student branch of George Galloway’s Respect Coalition and the socialist Student Broad Left group of students.
Last month, the Guardian published an article “Muslim students find a voice” in which they said that Mr Akhtar “will be hoping for the backing of Muslim delegates, but he doesn’t fit the fundamentalist stereotype. He’s gay.”
Following this “outing” by the Guardian, a posting on the Muslim Public Affairs Committee message board asked students if they would still back Mr Akhtar. One poster, ‘bro shabaz’ said: “he will never get my support if he is homosexual.” Another, ‘Muntasir’, said: “I think im gonna puke.” ‘Binty’ added: “the dirty homo can DO 1!!!”
Other posters were more supportive of Mr Akhtar, ‘Khalid Bin I’ argued that “if FOSIS wishes to become a powerful organisation within the Political Arena it needs to changes it’s politics.”
In the event, the openly gay candidate lost by 28 votes to Gemma Tumulty, a candidate backed by the Union of Jewish Students and a considerable number of student members of the Labour Party.
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk today, Mr Akhtar said: “both Islamophobia and homophobia played a part in the election campaign.” He claims that some Muslim students were told: “don’t vote for Pav, he’s gay.” He went onto claim that some gay students were encouraged to vote for other candidates because he is Muslim.
Mr Akhtar describes himself as “someone from a liberal Islamic background” and someone who “stands up for the rights of members of all religious groups, not just Muslims but Christians, Jews and Hindus too.”
He claimed that his defeat was more to do with “factional politics” than his personal qualities, arguing that FOSIS had not backed him in “a deal to get their preferred candidate elected a secretary.”