Robbie Travers is a 21-year-old law student at the University of Edinburgh and an articulate, insightful contributor to Gatestone as well as other websites. In his essays, he has illuminated the topsy-turvy values that dominate contemporary British political discourse – as exemplified by the refusal of the Speaker of the House of Commons to invite President Trump to address Parliament and the refusal of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to ban Al Qaeda from Britain as a terrorist organization.
Now, Travers has become the victim of the very forces about which he has written. In April, after the US Air Force carried out a successful anti-ISIS action, he posted a comment on Facebook:
"Excellent news that the US administration and Trump ordered an accurate strike on an Isis network of tunnels in Afghanistan. I'm glad we could bring these barbarians a step closer to collecting their 72 virgins."
It was no different from a British subject during World War II celebrating the invasion of Normandy. But Travers's comment offended first-year history student Esme Allman, who filed a complaint with the university. In it, she charged that Travers had violated the student code of conduct and accused him of "blatant Islamaphobia [sic]" and of putting "minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear."
As a result of Allman's complaint, the university is now investigating Travers on "hate crime" charges. A spokesman for the university explained that it is "committed to providing an environment in which all members of the university community treat each other with dignity and respect." Travers, for his part, has described Allman's complaint as retaliation for a social-media posting in which he had drawn attention to a comment by Allman that "all men are trash."
Who is Esme Allman? A member of Edinburgh University's Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group, she was a candidate this year for the position of Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) Officer at the university's Student Association (EUSA). Not only did she not win; for whatever reason, her name doesn't even appear on the final list of candidates.
But the university's website does include the text of her candidacy statement, in which she describes herself as a "feminist and womanist from inner-city London" who has "a strong interest in intersectionality" and who values "inclusivity as well as building and preserving safe spaces for us." It has been important to her, Allman writes, to run "a truly intersectional campaign" for the post of BME Officer; if elected, she promises, her "first job will be to work alongside the other liberation groups to ensure EUSA are fully representative of our views."
Allman goes on to list several "manifesto points," including this: "I will continue to engage in the discussions started with academics on the WhyIsMyCurriculumWhite campaign." What is this campaign? Begun at University College London, it is a self-described effort to "decolonis[e] the academy" and "uprising against the 'Whiteness', Eurocentric domination and lack of diversity in the curricula." Allman also says that she "will continue to work with the StudentsNotSuspects Campaign to protect student groups from the enforcement of the Prevent strategy."
What is the Prevent strategy? It is part of the British government's anti-terrorism program; its objective is to prevent Islamic radicalization, which in that country often takes place at universities.
To most sane people in the West, it seems like a laudable goal to keep college students from becoming jihadist murderers. But to certain radical types in the British academy, the very idea of such a policy reeks of Islamophobia. Hence the StudentsNotSuspects Campaign, the name of which gives a pretty good idea of what it is all about.
We don't know much about Allman. But her candidacy statement makes one thing clear. Although only a first-year student, she has certainly learned the language of identity-group grievance and victimization. "Womanist", if you didn't know, is a word coined by the novelist Alice Walker to describe feminists of color and to indicate a focus not only on sexism but on racism. "Intersectionality," coined by activist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, refers to the idea that persons belonging to more than one oppressed group experience a form of oppression that is greater than the sum of its parts. Allman's use of the term "safe spaces" suggests that she considers much of her university campus, and presumably much of the U.K. generally, to be an "unsafe space"; from her membership in to a "liberation group," we must assume that she considers herself, in some sense, imprisoned or tyrannized. At Edinburgh University, she is "colonized" because of her race and is oppressed by a "white" curriculum.
Given all this, Allman's complaint about Travers is not only unsurprising, but predictable. This is a young woman who, although a student at one of the finest universities on earth (it came in at #27 in Times Higher Education 's latest international rankings), considers herself to be a multiply oppressed victim and who sees the world around her as swarming with oppressors. She has been so well-schooled in the idea that whites are always the oppressors and dark-skinned people always the victims that when she sees a fellow British subject rooting for his own nation's side in a war against jihadists, her first and only thought is to brand him an "Islamophobe" -- this, even though the enemy in that war are patriarchal monsters who would force her into a burka or consider her, as an infidel, deserving of rape and/or death.
Such perverse thinking, of course, is commonplace today among college students in the English-speaking countries. Instead of taking full advantage of the precious opportunity that a university education affords them, they prefer to spend much of their student years finding examples of oppression -- real or imagined -- to denounce. So it is that Robbie Travers, whose only offense is believing in freedom and opposing a totalitarian ideology, has found himself in hot water -- a real victim of a mentality that is all about power and dogma even as its pretends to be devoted to "dignity and respect" for all.
Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist.