Bahar Mustafa: Free Again

Bahar Mustafa, the Goldsmiths student diversity officer who was due to appear in court after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen, has had charges against her dropped.

A Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) letter obtained by the Guardian states that the decision to discontinue charges was taken because of a lack of evidence.

Mustafa was to appear at Bromley Magistrates court on Thursday charged with sending threatening and grossly offensive messages via Facebook and Twitter.

The Facebook post, in which Mustafa disinvited white men from attending a student union meeting, led to accusations of all manner of -isms when it appeared in April. 

Mustafa’s response leaned heavily on dogmatic assertions that ethnic women are incapable of racism and sexism 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 and 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.

In an interview with Vice, Mustafa defended the use of the hashtag by feminists as a way of expressing frustration at white men.

“Like when you say #FML, you aren’t literally telling people to fuck your life. It’s an expression of how somebody is feeling, not what they are telling people to do. It isn’t a command. The #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag is something that a lot of people in the feminist community use to express frustration.”

One of the core arguments for Safer Spaces and No Platform policies is that verbal offence is equally damaging to a person’s wellbeing as physical violence. It’s ironic then to find Mustafa downplaying the impact of her words. 

She went on to defend the censorious practice of No Platforming right-wing speakers.

“I think that with no platforming, what we are saying is that when the fascists or the far-right are marching in the streets and trying to build their movement, we should have the right to go there and protest against their presence and defend our streets. It is an action, not something passive. It is deciding democratically as a collective what we want to spend our finite resources on. We have the right to say we don’t want to listen to your bullshit.”

The conflation of verbal offence with physical violence, so that otherwise harmless words and opinions are treated as criminal acts worthy of prosecution, is a disaster for free speech.

Students who use this line of argument to justify the muzzling of right-wing speakers leverage power to authorities to dictate acceptable forms of expression.

Although Mustafa describes the practice of No Platforming as a democratic process, she is essentially endorsing the very measures that were used to prosecute her.

Her rejection of support from Katie Hopkins and Milo Yiannopoulos draws the issue along purely ideological lines.

“Well they are not my allies – I did not ask for their support and I don’t want it. They stand for everything I’m against. I was so embarrassed when Hopkins tweeted in support – I would never accept the support from an attention seeking, classist idiot who thinks immigrants are less than vermin.”

Freedom of speech is not an ideological issue. If you truly care about individual liberty and the rights of the oppressed, you should be willing to defend speech that offends you, whether the speaker is a Bible-thumping white man or patriarchy-smashing woman of colour. 

Student activists like Mustafa seem to believe they are immune to prosecution. They naively assume that British law is sympathetic to their ideals, understands the plight of the oppressed, and is capable of making a distinction between incitement and mere hyperbole. 

But authorities aren’t sold on the rhetoric of oppression because they care about the safety of students; they’re sold on the suppression of dissent because hate speech laws make for easy convictions, the standard for what constitutes offensive speech being entirely subjective.

It’s shameful that Mustafa was prosecuted for tweeting, an inexcusable violation of freedom of speech made worse by the possibility that she has learned nothing from the experience. 

To the crybaby requesting that the CPS review its decision to drop charges: you suck. 


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