Galloway, rape, and the 'No Platform' policy

The NUS has passed a motion which states that they will “not offer a platform to speakers who are rape deniers or apologists" - George Galloway included

George Galloway accused Assange of "bad sexual etiquette"
Rupert Sutton
On 28 September 2012 10:27

Yesterday it was reported that the National Union of Students (NUS) National Executive Council had passed a motion which states that they will “not offer a platform to speakers who are rape deniers or apologists, or support events where such individuals speak”.

Inspired by George Galloway’s egregious comments that “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion” and that this would merely be “bad sexual etiquette" but "not rape”, the motion was passed by 24 votes to 6.

Prior to this, the MP for Bradford West had demonstrated his usual lack of grace, with a member of his staff writing to the NUS arguing that there was no “justification in this legitimate disagreement for imposing a policy of no platform on him and indeed we believe such a move would bring the NUS Executive into disrepute”.

He was also defended in the left-wing magazine Counterfire, and by the NUS’ own Black Students’ Officer Aaron Kiely, who argued that refining the ‘No Platform’ policy would “weaken the fight against fascism”.

Kiely also added an amendment to the motion which resolved that the NUS should “welcome the role Wikileaks has played in exposing US war crimes” and to “call on the British and Swedish governments to give written guarantees that Assange will not be onwardly extradited to the US”.

While the inability of Assange’s supporters to detach their political posturing from the fight for the inalienable rights of women continues to boggle the mind, Wednesday’s vote is a welcome one.

Where students are put at risk by the loose or violent rhetoric of potential campus speakers, it is entirely correct for the NUS to extend its ‘No Platform’ policy to them. This goes for Galloway as it should for anyone else who makes such flippant and dangerous remarks about rape.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, with speakers who have homophobic, misogynistic and racist views often being given a platform on university campuses around the country.

The current ‘No Platform’ Policy is designed to deny fascist speakers the ability to spread their views on campuses and  includes organisations such as the British National Party (BNP) and the extremist Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

However, the NUS cannot force the ‘No Platform’ policy on its members, as was shown earlier this year when a society at the University of Westminster hosted Jamal Harwood, a senior member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The University of Westminster Student Union does not adopt the ‘No Platform’ policy, so Harwood was free to address students despite his group being listed as a fascist organisation by the NUS.

He used the opportunity to state that “Palestine is occupied land and there is a war going on” when asked to condemn a statement from a Hizb-ut-Tahrir website which declared “O Muslim Armies! Teach the Jews a lesson after which they will need no further lessons. March forth to fight them, eradicate their entity and purify the earth of their filth”.

As with the present policy, a contact at the NUS has told me that this new motion currently only applies to NEC members and NUS events and so cannot be used to force universities to deny platforms to any speakers. 

As if to underline this point, on October 16th Galloway will be giving a talk at the University of Bristol, and will be opposed by members of Bristol Feminist Network.

If motions like yesterday’s are to be anything other than empty posturing then consistent application of the ‘No Platform’ policy is essential.

Criticism that adding dinosaurs like Galloway to this policy undermines the fight against fascism requires that the fight against fascism be actually prosecuted. This motion is a step in the right direction but there is still plenty more to be done.

Rupert Sutton is a Researcher for the campus watchdog, Student Rights. Follow him on Twitter @StubbsMaloy

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