Ruqayyah is a formidable campaigner against racism and serves as the Black Students Officer at the National Union of Students (NUS). She is the first hijabi Muslim woman to sit on the NUS National Executive Committee in a full-time post. She has also served as convenor of the Student Assembly Against Racism National, and education officer at the University of Leeds. In February 2008 she put a motion to the NUS condemning the Israeli siege of Gaza, noting, “What the Israeli government is doing to the people of Gaza cannot be described as anything other than the collective punishment of a civilian population something which is illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention.” In March 2008 she was conferred a Muslim News Award for Excellence (Young Person’s Award). Her forthright stand has often pitted her against NUS leadership.
She describes herself as someone “born and bred” in Bradford ? she was educated at the University of Leeds. In 2005 her student union work led to her winning the award of committee member of the year.
The Manningham riots in July 2005 and their aftermath have been important formative experiences: “it was not multiculturalism, but the violent provocations of the National Front that instigated the riots. The fallout was just as devastating for Muslims; white youths who threw petrol bombs where given community service while Asian youths who threw stones were given four years for riot offences in high category prisons. Such blatant discrimination and racism in the judiciary was not dealt with anywhere. The campaign by Muslim families for reduced sentences that matched those of the white community went unheeded when their appeals failed in court.”
Ruqayyah has also spoken out on other pressures placed on the Muslim student community after 7/7: “Students do not have to have to be Muslim to have been ‘radicalised’ in recent years and Islamic groups are not the only student societies to have become ‘increasingly politicised’. The biggest campaigns on campus have been for peace and global justice. Many young Muslims have joined with a diverse range of communities, in for example opposing the war in Iraq. Dispelling the myth of apathy, students – Muslim and non-Muslim – are engaging in the political process, through protesting, lobbying and campaigning. This should be celebrated not treated with suspicion”.
Her achievements have included securing the funding for the rebuilding of the prayer area at Leeds University. She has observed that prayer rooms are important as a welfare network, “they are a chance for Muslim students to get together, as they can be so isolated, especially where there are few non-alcoholic student spaces.” She has also been a former member of the Youth Parliament in Bradford.
Ruqayyah Collector was born in 1983 and has been nominated for the Muslim News Awards for Excellence.