Socialist Worker

Ruqayyah Collector: ‘Racism is the cause of segregation in society’

The black students’ officer for the National Union of Students (NUS), Ruqayyah Collector, spoke to Socialist Worker

Issue No. 2025

Ruqayyah Collector

Ruqayyah Collector

‘A climate has been created where Muslim students are worried about their safety.

I personally know people who are now afraid to travel around, who are only going to their lectures.

You hear comments on buses like, “You have to speak English here now,” or “You’re not allowed to wear those headscarves now.”

This is part of a wider shift that has taken place in society. It’s one thing after another.

Jack Straw’s comments on Muslim women wearing headscarves, and the fact that so many Labour MPs supported him, are an element of that.

Education minister Bill Rammell recently came out in support of Imperial College’s attempt to ban women wearing veils.

Then there was the department of education document calling on lecturers to spy on “Asian looking” students.

A whole community is being criminalised in an attempt to make it impossible for Muslims to talk about political issues.


Asking lecturers to police Muslims is also highly subjective. Some lecturers might feel that raising the issue of the oppression of the Palestinians is linked to terrorism.

Nobody has defined what is meant by “extremism” or “terrorism” and that is extremely dangerous - you don’t know what you might be accused of.

When it comes to Muslims wearing headscarves I’d say it is very simple. It’s my choice. I have the right to decide what to wear.

I would never tell someone they could not dye their hair purple or tattoo their face, just because I wouldn’t like looking at them.

And they have no right to tell me how to dress. It is the climate of Islamophobia that leads some to think they can tell Muslims what to wear or not wear.

I find it really funny when politicians such as Straw say that these people are excluding themselves from society.

Jack Straw was talking about women coming to visit him in his MP’s surgery - that’s an act of engagement in society! If they were segregating themselves, why would they go to see their MP?

You have to look at the real reasons that lie behind exclusion and segregation in society - racism and discrimination.


The lack of representation of Muslims and black people in general is evidence of that.

This lack of representation extends far beyond the tiny minority of women who wear the full veil.

During the five years since 9/11 there has been a rise in racism and Islamophobia. Muslims are under attack because they are speaking out over what’s happening across the world.

The government has dealt with it by making Muslims feel that they are not British citizens.

They are treated as a special group - not as normal British people criticising British foreign policy. But the attacks have led to the Muslim community feeling that it needs to organise itself and make sure its voice is heard.

In the NUS we have run campaigns to help Muslims feel represented.

More Muslims are standing for student union positions within their university and in the NUS at a national level.

Over 100 Muslim delegates have attended the NUS annual conference in the past few years - putting their issues on the national agenda.

Of course there are debates among Muslims. People in any community will have different methods of achieving their aims. It is healthy that these debates over the way forward are taking place.

When people talk about students being radicalised, I see this as a very positive thing.

Muslim students who have grievances are going through the democratic process - through student unions and the NUS - and also making links with the wider black community over the issue of racism.

I feel that I’m a product of this growing radicalisation.’

Birmingham university apologises for barring Muslim students from office

Birmingham university management have apologised to a group of Muslim students who were elected to student union posts in 2004 but barred from taking office.

The 14 Muslim students were prevented from taking up their elected position after accusations that they had benefited from electoral fraud - accusations that the university authorities now admit were untrue.

People’s Assembly
Islamophobia and the War on Terror

  • How are the attacks on Muslims linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
  • How can the anti-war movement counter those attacks in its continuing campaign to end the Bush-Blair wars?

Open to delegates and observers £6/£4
Saturday 18 November 10am to 5.30pm
Camden Centre, Judd Street, London WC1H
Phone 020 7278 6694 | E-mail [email protected]

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