Bahar Mustafa: to Organise Encounter Group for all Tweeters?
London woman charged after alleged #killallwhitemen tweet
A student diversity officer who came to prominence in a race row after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen has been charged by police with sending a threatening communication.
Bahar Mustafa, of Goldsmiths, University of London, is set to appear at Bromley magistrates court on 5 November.
The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, 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.
Mustafa was initially accused of racism for asking white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for ethnic minority women and non-binary attendees.
She then became embroiled in a separate row, accused of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted.
A Met police spokesman said in a statement: “A woman interviewed under caution regarding a complaint of racially motivated malicious communication made on a social media network has been summonsed to court.”
Mustafa is neither an employee of Goldsmiths nor a student, but an employee of the independent students’ union, elected by union members.
Mustafa remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.
After the furore, Mustafa denied that her initial request for white men to stay away from a union meeting was racist or sexist, and said she had received rape and death threats.
- This article was amended on 7 October 2015. It originally referred to “non-binary” women. That should have been non-binary attendees. This has been corrected.
First of all: it is ridiculous that the law is brought in to deal with people’s brain seepage on Twitter.
I am not a lawyer – outside the Barracks – but from the 6 week sentence for Jake Newson for grossly offensive tweets onwards there are serious concerns about these laws.
At the time of that particular prosecution this comment was made. (Guardian)
Thomas Hughes, executive director of free speech organisation Article 19, said the charity is “extremely concerned by the number of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online in the UK. Nobody should go to prison simply for causing offence. This is not only our view but a violation of international legal standards that protect speech that shocks, offends or disturbs.”
There are many other examples of courts cases, and this summary indicates the far too broad scope of the legislation:
Number seven: menacing tweets
A tweet that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, will offend the Communications Act 2003. The Crown Court considered Paul Chambers’ tweet “… I am blowing the airport sky high” to be menacing, however the High Court overturned its decision. The High Court ruled that the Communications Act would not prevent satirical, iconoclastic, or rude comment, expression of the unpopular, unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, humour, comments that are distasteful or even painful to those subjected to them, silly jokes or jokes in bad taste that a person would be likely to brush aside or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter. A tweet that is indecent, obscene or menacing in character could result in a fine or a prison sentence of up to six months.
The test: If a tweet could create fear or apprehension in the minds of anyone who may reasonably be expected to see it the tweet could be considered a menace and an offence under the Communications Act.
Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK.
There is no need to be a top Barrister to see that these criteria are wide enough to invite both malicious prosecution and to allow an intolerable degree of snooping into people’s expression of opinion.
More on this: Freedom Of Speech (Even For Bahar Mustafa).
Secondly, as a white woman and former postgraduate (MA in Gender Media and Culture) of Turkish origin who is now a full-time student union officer at the very bourgeois Goldsmith’s College Mustafa is not exactly on many people’s lists of oppressed minorities in London.
This is not her opinion. She has stated earlier this year (Independent),
“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.”
This Blog is all in favour of nostalgic revivals of 1970s identity politics, apparently where the Goldsmith’s MA course finished.
But this should be on a kind of Sealed Knot basis, between consenting adults.
It may be hard for those of Turkish origin, probably of an orthodox Sunni background, to claim victimhood in Turkey itself, for reasons that the name Kurd will indicate, not to mention the Alevis. But that is no reason for white middle class and prosperous Londoners of Turkish origin who have paid for expensive courses in Gender Media and Culture not to join in the fray when they can.
Mustafa has been, apparently, a “diversity and welfare officer”.
Our own judgement is that Goldsmith’s should organise a special diversity event for black, ethnic minority, white trash, and white men (one hopes, not those already killed), not to mention every gender there is, and non-binary attendees.
People will be able to call each other every name under the sun.
In the spirit of 1970s revivals I would call it an “Encounter Group”.