Bahar Mustafa, a student “welfare and diversity officer” at Goldsmiths, university of London, has been charged with sending threatening and grossly offensive messages online.
The initial disinvitation led to accusations of all manner of -isms when it appeared in April. Her response leaned heavily on dogmatic assertions that ethnic women are incapable of racism and sexism towards white men:
“There have been charges laid against me that I am racist and sexist towards white men.
“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men, because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender.
“Therefore, women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”
The subsequent tweet, deploying a popular hashtag in the name of snark, did not inspire sympathy for the cause.
Neither did the decision in February to No Platform comedian Kate Smurthwaite, who was labelled “whorephobic” for her views on prostitution.*
“Ultimately, the safer spaces policy, which has been passed through our democratic structures, which [Brendan O’Neill] smirked at, is basically asking that people when they’re on campus do not participate in, kind of, oppressive behaviours.”
“Asking” is putting a polite spin on things. Goldsmiths’ Students’ Union does not deign to ask that students respect each other’s “safe spaces,” but actively regulates certain kinds of behaviour and speech on campus.
Its No Platform policy forbids purportedly racist speakers and places a de facto ban on pro-life groups. Evidently, as in the case of Kate Smurthwaite, the standard for what constitutes offensive speech is quite low.
So much for diversity of opinion.
The predicament in which Mustafa now finds herself is an inevitable extension of the very anti-discrimination policies in place at Goldsmiths that are often used to silence unpopular speech. By regulating what students are and are not allowed to say on campus, lest someone says something that might hurt someone else’s feelings, these policies prioritise safety at the expense of freedom of speech.
Activists like Bahar Mustafa defend their censorious attitudes with dogmatic gibberish and snarky retorts. They wrap themselves in the clothes of the oppressed, encased within the bubble that is modern education, safe in the knowledge that the watery rhetoric on which they float their theories will never, ever touch them.
*Smurthwaite is a proponent of the “Nordic” model, a legal approach that criminalises the act of solicitation while decriminalising the act of prostitution itself.