Does Condemning Islamic State Jihadis Constitute “Hate Speech”?

Being a student used to be an uncomfortable experience, during which the fantasies of adolescence were exposed to rational, well-informed, and evidence-based argument. But the cults of political correctness, unbounded gender definitions, Islamophobia-obsession, and anti-Semitism, among other afflictions, have undermined the educational process in the USA and Europe.

If Travers has identified anti-Semitism and signs of radicalization on campus, he has, not just the right, but the duty to expose them to the public eye.

It is not Robbie Travers who deserves to be disciplined by the university authorities; it is Esme Allman, for having sought to ruin Travers’s reputation with charges that she cannot substantiate with evidence. Were I asked to adjudicate, I would recommend her permanent removal from an educational institution for which she is evidently unsuited. Defamation and character-assassination have no place in any university.

Robbie Travers, a third-year law student of 21, has made a mark for himself in Scotland at the prestigious Edinburgh University. Apart from his many other activities, Travers has published articles on the Gatestone Institute site here, as well as for other outlets. He has written on subjects such as anti-Semitism in Europe, the “Fake News” censorship industry, Britain’s Labour Party as a haven for racists, shari’a councils, the assault on free speech, and more. An outspoken young man, he has become one of the best-known figures in the university. Although openly gay and a supporter of a centrist, Tony Blair-ish position in politics, he has frequently come into conflict with fellow students on the radical left, with Muslim students, and with anyone who can be upset by anything that smacks of a challenge to their complacent politically correct sensitivities. He is not afraid to call out radicals and expose them to criticism and factual information that so many modern students (and lecturers) are loath to hear.

On September 6, Robbie’s face appeared across the British media, from the conservative Times to the leftist Independent, to the populist tabloids, the Express, the Mirror, the Daily Mail, and the Sun. Travers had been accused of hate speech and was being investigated by the university, who could well sanction him. What sort of “hate speech” was that? Well, in a nutshell, he had referred to the jihadist fighters of Islamic State (ISIS) — who variously burns or drowns people alive in cages, and sometimes in acid, or kills 250 children in dough-kneaders — as “barbarians.”

ISIS atrocities. Travers should have been praised, not discredited for pointing them out. Photo: YouTube/Screenshot.

You did not read that wrong. It is now “racist” and “Islamophobic” to insult or ridicule the world’s most unspeakable terror gang, who, among other atrocities, behead innocent men, women and children, rape innocent women, and sell harmless women as sex slaves to grunting murderers and pedophiles. One could not make this up.

Here is what seems to have happened. Travers writes often on Facebook and Twitter, and many left-wing students are possibly outraged by his views on matters such as Islam. Here, for example, is a post on his Facebook page on August 31. I very much doubt if anyone here would find anything offensive in it:

“I propose a toast to the Western world. Unfashionable in today’s climate of moral relativism, but the UK, USA, Israel and other nations play a major role in shaping our world for the better. Whether it be standing against autocratic regimes, whether it be celebrating the freedoms of minorities & those who do not share the opinion of the majority.

“Our democracy has never faced a graver threat than the inhuman & theocratic peril posed by malignant, autocratic, and fascistic branches of Islamism. If we are to see our democracy continue from strength to strength, we must fight to defend our precious and treasured freedoms, rights and protection of minorities as much as jihadis struggle to destroy these just and tolerant values they despise.”

On April 13, he posted something shorter:

“Excellent news that the US Administration and Trump ordered an accurate strike on an IS network of tunnels in Afghanistan. I’m glad we could bring these barbarians a step closer to collecting their 72 virgins.”

It is hard to see how there is anything remotely racist or “Islamophobic” about that. ISIS fighters come from a variety of races and they have attacked and killed many Muslims. But that is exactly what one intolerant student activist claimed it was. Esme Allman, a second-year history student from inner-city London and the former black and ethnic minority convenor of Edinburgh’s student association (who also calls herself not just a feminist but also a “womanist”) was not an admirer of the positions Travers had taken on several subjects.

Her own stance can be seen in her campaign statement issued in her first year when she was a candidate for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer. It included some interesting items in her manifesto: “I will continue to engage in the discussions started with academics on the WhyIsMyCurriculumWhite campaign” and “I will continue to work with the StudentsNotSuspects Campaign to protect student groups from the enforcement of the Prevent strategy.” Prevent is a central plank in the British government’s wider counter-terrorism campaign, with particular attention to radicalization in schools and universities. It is greatly resented by far-left and activist students, many of whom invite radical preachers onto campus while banning pro-Israel and similar speakers.

Referring to Robbie’s remarks about ISIS, the ironically named Ms. Allman made a formal complaint to the university, writing that “Not only do I believe this behaviour to be in breach of the student code of conduct, but his decision to target the BME Liberation Group at the University of Edinburgh, and how he has chosen to do so, put minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear while attending the University of Edinburgh.”

“Panic and fear” because a fellow student had expressed sentiments shared by a majority of the British public? Outside possibly a small minority of radical Muslims, it is hard to find anyone in the UK or other Western countries who have a good word to say for Islamic State. Calling them “barbarians,” it would seem, is going easy on them. ISIS’s barbarism has been recorded by its own people in texts, on gruesome videos, in the pictures of children taught to behead prisoners with a knife, in the prices charged for female slaves in their marketplace. Islamic State barbarians would seem more appropriate as sources of fear and panic than Robbie Travers mocking them and celebrating their arguably deserved elimination.

According to the Times, “a university spokesman confirmed that ‘complaints alleging misconduct have been received against Mr. Travers and these are being investigated.'” No doubt the academic authorities are obliged to follow up on a complaint from a student, not least a student activist who appears eager to use her privilege as a member of a minority ethnic community and a woman. No doubt those same authorities are reluctant to tell such a student that she is being ridiculous for fear of the potential backlash that she and her fellow jargon-laden, politically-correct, and angry activists appear ready to unleash at them should a non-Muslim mention Islam or Muslims in the first place.

In recent years, universities have been all but dominated by angry young men and women who cannot bear to be disagreed with, exposed to counter-argument, or who seem desperate for “safe spaces” should a lecturer or professor say or write something challenging to their seemingly over-protected minds. Being a student used to be an uncomfortable experience, during which the fantasies of adolescence were exposed to the rational, well-informed, and evidence-based argument. But the cults of political correctness, unbounded gender definitions, Islamophobia-obsession, and anti-Semitism, among other afflictions, have undermined the educational process in the US and Europe. More and more articles appear in intelligent journals and papers, lamenting this descent into puerile self-harm, conformism, and narcissism.

Unfortunately, defenders of safe spaces do not restrict their antics to hugging soft toys. It may seem to most readers that the complaint about Travers’s comments on Islamic State should never be taken seriously by anyone. That is certainly how the press has reported the accusations against Travers. But Allman’s complaint takes matters into a more alarming territory. It was presented co-signed by another BME student, Lindsey N’Kem. N’Kem’s Facebook page is utterly bland, showing no evidence of political activism. She is apparently not known to Travers and seems to have no involvement with him, suggesting that Allman wrote the complaint herself and asked N’Kem to co-sign. Oddly enough, the wording of the complaint refers to Allman in the third person, making it seem as though it comes from other individuals, not herself. It is a serious matter that could well damage Travers’s career. I quote it in full here:

“I am submitting a complaint about Robbie Travers due to his targeting of minority students and student spaces at the University of Edinburgh. While I have not met him personally, given my matriculation at the University of Edinburgh, my membership of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) liberation group [liberation from what? Question by MacEoin] at the university, and how I identify personally, I take issue with this clear and persistent denigration and disparagement of protected characteristics and blatant Islamophobia.

“While this has gone on for years as evidenced by his Facebook Page, his direct and unfair targeting of this year’s outgoing BME convenor Esme Allman was irresponsible and dangerous. On Sunday, 14/05/17, Travers published a decontextualized quote by Allman from a privileged conversation generated by minority students in a safe space [If the conversation was public, how is it “privileged”? Question by MacEoin] he is neither subscribed to nor a member of without her consent. In this intentional effort to ‘ruin her career’, Travers disclosed Allman’s full name, her position at the university, and (implicitly) the university she attends and the city she lives in to his 17,000+ followers some of whom have evidenced either in the past or within the comments of the status, aggression and discussed sensitive information regarding Allman’s sexuality and identity.

“Since then, Travers has stated that he intends to continue this inappropriate and irresponsible behaviour by advising that this is “phase 1,” and he has many other “stings” planned.

“In this 2016/2017 school year alone, Robbie Travers has consistently mocked, disparaged, and incited hatred against religious groups and protected characteristics on numerous occasions.”

“Not only do I believe this behaviour to be in breach of the student code of conduct, but his decision to target the BME liberation group at the University of Edinburgh, and how he has chosen to do so, puts minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear while attending the University of Edinburgh.

“His continual public disregard for other identities leaves me concerned for my safety and privacy as well as the safety of other students at the University of Edinburgh, given his willingness to remove statements from context and presenting them to a massive online audience, and the uninhibited and in some instances aggressive response of strangers to his statements.

“This person has gone unchecked throughout their time at this university in their constant barrage against minority identities and religious groups and attacks of BME and other minority students on campus. There is ample evidence of his willingness and ability to incite hatred against students who belong to various identities at the University of Edinburgh. In lying about anti-Semitism, racism, and radicalisation among BME students, and subjecting students to his online following, Robbie Travers has put minority students, liberation group representatives, and the safe spaces they create and maintain at the University of Edinburgh at risk of harm, physical or otherwise.”

The picture this paints of Travers and his work does not correspond in the least to anything of his that others and I have read. It is a deeply politicized, unsubstantiated mumbo-jumbo smear, evidently intended to inflict maximum damage on someone with whose views Allman is in disagreement. No doubt she and others of her group are discomposed by the free expression of opinions that challenge them and reveal them as the intolerant bigots that they show themselves to be.

There is no room here for more than a few simple comments on one or two of the charges. The reference to “blatant Islamophobia” implies that Travers employs the same kind of language used by far-right anti-Muslim racists. Perhaps Ms. Allman has never read anything like that. If so, she is fortunate. I have read a lot of it and worked to combat it, and I can assure readers that nothing Travers has ever written comes even close to it. The sort of criticisms he makes of IS and other radical Islamists who hold what he calls “regressive views” are exactly the sort of things said by moderate, devout, well integrated British Muslims such as Sara Khan, Majid Nawaz, Haras Rafiq, and many others, who can by no stretch of the imagination be termed “Islamophobes.”

As for having “incited hatred against religious groups,” his “constant barrage against minority identities and religious groups,” his “attacks of BME and other minority students on campus,” or “his willingness and ability to incite hatred against students who belong to various identities at the University of Edinburgh”, questions need to be asked, as no Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Baha’is or other religious groups have complained about Travers. Could Allman’s “groups” really mean a handful of radical Muslims who react to charges of “Islamophobia” at every turn?

Finally, she accuses Travers of “lying about anti-Semitism, racism, and radicalization among BME students”. But anti-Semitism, according to several polls, is endemic within Muslim communities, even in the UK, and large numbers of young Muslims, according to government and security service sources have indeed been radicalized. “Racism” seems totally irrelevant. If Travers has identified anti-Semitism and signs of radicalization on campus, he has, not just the right, but the duty to expose them to the public eye.

As Travers wrote to a friend, “Note how I don’t incite violence or hatred and only mock ISIS. Are these opinions criminal?”

Above all, it should be noted that Allman does not provide a single shred of evidence for any of those allegations. Yet, without evidence, she has tried to destroy the life of a young man whose values echo those of most of the people in the country where Allman lives. It is not Robbie Travers who deserves to be disciplined by the university authorities; it is Esme Allman, for having sought to ruin Travers’s reputation with charges that she cannot substantiate with evidence. Were I asked to adjudicate, I would recommend her permanent removal from an educational institution for which she is evidently unsuited. Defamation and character-assassination have no place in any university.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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