Bahar Mustafa, of the University of London is facing criminal charges for sending a threatening communication. Mustafa attracted international condemnation for her use of a Twitter hashtag #killallwhitemen and asked for white men not to come to certain university events. Despite her unmitigated racism and sexism, an effort to remove her failed after only 165 people signed a petition for her removal. The retention of Mustafa at the university is a disgrace for both the university and academia as a whole.
Mustafa, 28, faces two charges. One is sending a communication conveying a threatening message between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015. The second is for sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015. However, it is not clear if that is due to the hashtag controversy or other messages. If it is due to her hashtag and her anti-white, anti-white prejudices, I have serious reservations about the charges. England has seen the rise of calls for speech prosecutions, including this month. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).
Mustafa used the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which she deleted only after triggering the controversy. She works for the independent students’ union as welfare and diversity officer. She first attracted attention after posting a message on Facebook asking white people not to attend an event for black and ethnic minority students in April. She asked for only ethnic minority women and non-binary attendees. She called upon “loads of BME Women and non-binary people!”
I admit that I had to look those terms up. The first is defined by Oxford as “Black and minority ethnic (used to refer to members of nonwhite communities in the UK).” Non-binary is defined as “Denoting or relating to a gender or sexual identity that is not defined in terms of traditional binary oppositions such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual.”
I fail to see why such comments or the hashtag are not protected speech, if they are the basis for the charges.
None of that alters the racism and sexism of Mustafa, who insists that as a women of color she cannot by definition be racist. It is a familiar refrain heard on some campuses. Mustafa insists that “because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”
It is a ridiculous claim used by racists to excuse hate-filled or prejudiced comments. The most that Mustafa would say is that her use of “white trash” was “not professional.” Mustafa is pretty far afield from any notion of professionalism, so that is the least of her problems.
I have not been able to confirm that specific comments used as the basis for the criminal charges but, in my view, none of the comments would warrant Mustafa’s prosecution. What they do warrant (indeed what they demand) is that she be fired.
We have previously seen universities, including the recent controversy at the University of California and Boston University, where there have been criticism of a double standard, even in the face of criminal conduct. The question is the response if Mustafa told minorities that they were not welcomed or had an hashtag #killallblackmen. Yet, concerned students and faculty could not even muster the needed three percent to force a vote on her retention. What is lost is any sense of principle for the school body as a whole — much like the lack of any real principle found in Mustafa’s comments and post-rationalization.