Two football fans who ripped up pages of the Koran, the Islamic holy book, “like confetti” at a game have been found guilty of a religiously-aggravated public order offence.
Middlesbrough supporters Julie Phillips, 50, and Gemma Parkin, 18, denied knowing the book was a copy of the Koran. Parkin told Birmingham Magistrates’ Court she was given the book at a Birmingham market and did not know what it was. Philips claimed she was simply trying to make “confetti” to throw during the game.
Passing sentence, court chairman Gordon Sayers said: “This was a very unpleasant offence and there was a degree of pre-planning involved.”
An online petition demanding Katy Perry’s Dark Horse video be taken off YouTube has attracted about 65,000 signatures. According to the petitioners at Change.org, the video is guilty of “portraying blasphemy”, because of the video’s use of a pendant reportedly inscribed with the word Allah.
Katy Perry’s Dark Horse clip, which premiered on 20 February, has already attracted more than 30 million views. A phantasmagorical riff on Egyptian mythology, it features Perry as a magical queen who transforms suitors into sand. One of these suitors, a man wearing an “Allah” pendant is struck by lightning and disintegrates into sand.
“At 01:15 into the video … a man is shown being burned whilst wearing a pendant (also burned) forming the word ‘Allah’, which is the Arabic word for God,” wrote the man who launched the petition, Shazad Iqbal, from Bradford. “Blasphemy is clearly conveyed in the video, since Katy Perry (who appears to be representing an [opponent] of [Allah]) engulfs the believer and the word God in flames. People from different walks of life, different religions and from different parts of the world [will agree], using the name of God in an irrelevant and distasteful manner would be considered inappropriate by any religion.”
“The fact that Islam didn’t even exist in ancient Egypt is what really confuses me, Why [did] they [feel] the need to have anything to do with Islam in this video?” added a signatory from High Wycombe.
While the music video has not been pulled in its entirety, the pendant has been cut so that only a plain gold chain can now be seen. It remains unclear whether YouTube edited the video or was told to by the singer’s record company as both parties have yet to comment.
Dark Horse is currently at number six on the UK singles chart and more than 37 million people have viewed the video on YouTube since it was uploaded on 20 February.
A football fan that ripped up pages of the Qur’an during a match has been fined. Mark Stephenson, a Middlesbrough season-ticket holder, was ordered to pay £235 by magistrates who opted not to impose a football banning order.
The 25-year-old from Shrewsbury committed the religiously aggravated public order offence last December during Middlesbrough’s Championship fixture at Birmingham City. The purchasing manager was among a group of about 20 visiting supporters who were handed pages of the Qur’an by a woman during the match.
Jonathan Purser, prosecuting, told Birmingham magistrates court that Stephenson, who had no previous convictions or cautions, was seen with a lighter, apparently pretending to set fire to some of the pages. Stephenson told a steward who asked what the book was: “It’s the Muslim bible: we hate Muslims.” Other fans were shouting and chanting at the time of the offence, and the words Qur’an, Muslims and burning were overheard by a steward.
Defence solicitor Ash Mistry told magistrates that his client had been drinking alcohol before the match and at half-time, and had very little recollection of his actions.
The family of a second British man facing blasphemy charges in Pakistan said yesterday that he is entirely innocent and called for more to be done to allow him to return to the UK. Masud Ahmad, 72, is currently on bail in Lahore after he was allegedly tricked into publicly reading from the Koran – an act which is forbidden for members of the minority Ahmadi sect to which he belongs. He now faces three years in jail. Mr Ahmad had been released from prison on bail and was now in secure accommodation pending trial although it was not known when the case would be heard and he faced a long and uncertain wait.
Following his arrest in November more than 600 people protested outside the police station. Under Pakistan law it is an offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim. Each year dozens of members of the sect are charged with breaching religious laws whilst they and other minorities are also at risk of outbreaks of sectarian violence in the country if they are deemed to have committed blasphemy.
The quietly-spoken widower was arrested after he was recorded on a mobile phone reading from the Koran by two men posing as patients. Amnesty International said he was maliciously targeted because of his religion.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We will continue to provide consular assistance to both Mr Ahmad and his family.”
The family home of a man convicted of attempting to recruit two undercover police officers to fight British soldiers in Afghanistan is set to become the first to be seized in the UK under terrorism laws. Forfeiture will now begin after the Court of Appeal rejected a challenge against his conviction by bookstall owner Munir Farooqi who received four life sentences in September 2011 for inciting jihad.
The decision means the Farooqis’ house in Longsight, Manchester, will be the first to be subject to seizure proceedings under the Terrorism Act of 2000 which entitles the courts to take property owned or under the control of terrorists at the time of an offence.
The family and their supporters have fought a vigorous campaign to highlight their case claiming three generations will be left homeless and penniless if the property, which is not registered in Munir Farooqi’s name, is forfeited.
They have argued that they are being collectively punished for a crime they did not commit. Farooqi’s son Harris, 29, who lives in the £200,000 house with six other family members, was acquitted of terrorism offences at the trial. His father ran an Islamic book stall on Longsight market.
Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police Steve Heywood said the majority of the offences had taken place at the Farooqi home – one of three properties owned outright by the family. Stating: “This is unequivocally not about punishing family members, but demonstrating that if a convicted terrorist who was planning to recruit people to kill our soldiers abroad used a property to carry out this sort of criminality that it should be seized and any monies raised use to fund the on-going fight against terrorism,”
To some, it can seem intimidating. To others, it is outdated and oppressive. Yet to those whose faces are shrouded beneath it, it can be a liberator, symbolising religious modesty in an increasingly secular West. To others still, it is nothing more than a piece of cloth. The future of the veil, Liberal Democrat minister Jeremy Browne told this newspaper, must be urgently reconsidered. “There is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil. We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”
The matter is garnering political momentum. Philip Hollobone, Tory MP for Kettering, has proposed a private member’s Bill that would make it an offence for a person to wear “a garment or other object” intended to obscure their face. Backing his proposal is Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes. Writing in this newspaper yesterday, she described veils as “deeply offensive”.
Striking the right balance – between an outright ban and leaving the issue to the discretion of schools – is difficult. Official guidance on facial coverings in schools – from the niqab, a veil in which the eyes are visible, to the burka, a full body veil in which the eyes are covered by mesh – was updated last year. Though the Department for Education has conspicuously avoided legislation, it backs head teachers who ban veils “on the grounds of health, safety and the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”.
Now public opinion in Britain is swinging. A recent YouGov poll of 2,205 adults found that 67 per cent supported a complete sanction on wearing the burka. Proponents of a ban say schools in multicultural areas are calling out for clear restrictions on facial coverings, which, they argue, can impede learning, socialising and jeopardise an institution’s security policy.
Ofcom has launched an investigation into whether appearances by the radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby were editorially justified. Mr Choudary was interviewed on the BBC’s Newsnight and Channel 4 News the day after Fusilier Rigby was killed on the streets of Woolwich on 22 May. He also featured on Daybreak on 24 May, refusing to condemn the attack. His comments during the appearances drew criticism from the Faith and Communities minister, Baroness Warsi, and Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary. Ofcom must decide whether Mr Choudary’s comments were justified by the context of the story. This falls under rule 2.3 in the Broadcasting Code, which states: “Broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.”
The two extremist groups – UK-based Minbar Ansar Deen and Nigeria-based Boko Haram – are to be proscribed in the UK under terrorism laws, making membership and support for them a criminal offence. Home Secretary Theresa May is to lay an order which, if approved by Parliament, will ban both of the radical Islamist organisations from operating in the UK from midnight on Friday morning. Minbar Ansar Deen – also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK – promotes terrorism by distributing content through its online forum, which encourages individuals to travel overseas to engage in extremist activity, specifically fighting, the Home Office said. The Government said banning Boko Haram, which aspires to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, will prevent the group from operating in the UK and give the police powers to tackle any UK-based support for the group. Decisions to proscribe the organisations are understood to be unrelated to the murder of soldier Drummer Lee Rigby near Woolwich barracks in south-east London in May. The penalties for proscription offences can be a maximum of 10 years in prison or a £5,000 fine. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can proscribe an organisation if it is believed to be concerned in terrorism. If approved by Parliament, it will be a criminal offence to belong to or back Minbar Ansar Deen or Boko Haram, as well arrange meetings or wear clothing in support of them. Other proscribed groups include al-Qa’ida, Al Shabaab and Islam4UK, which before it was banned was led by Anjem Choudary.
A 24-year-old woman who posted racist comments on Facebook after the death of Drummer Lee Rigby has avoided a jail sentence. Michaela Turner, of Southsea, Hampshire, was sentenced at Portsmouth magistrate’s court to an eight-week jail term, suspended for six months. She was ordered to pay £85 in costs and a victim surcharge of £60. The court heard that Turner had been drinking when she made comments about the Woolwich attack on the social networking site. They included: “Feeling like burning down some mosques in Portsmouth, anyone want to join me?” Rebecca Strong, defending, said: “She is extremely remorseful and ashamed of what happened. She was with a friend, they were drinking, they had watched some clips regarding what happened in Woolwich and she was extremely upset, as is most of the country at what happened.” Strong said Turner had stopped using Facebook and deleted the comments. “She fully accepts what she did and is very ashamed of what she said. Turner pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to section 127 of the Communication Act 2003.
Just about everyone, from every political party and from none, is lining up to have a go at our dim, tattooed thugs, so they must have done something. And, of course, they have. Their aggressive and moronic behaviour has caused offence and fear and may even have directly contributed to acts of violence against UK citizens and residents. And yet the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby overshadowed – or should have overshadowed – everything. The attack by adherents of a hateful and violent iteration of Islam was an awful reminder that Islamism remains, even 12 years after 9/11, the greatest threat to our way of life.
Uncomfortable though it is for some, a need exists to examine the dark underbelly of what goes on in some of our mosques. True, the vast majority of British Muslims would never associate themselves with Islamism. Yet preachers of hate as well as their followers and fellow travellers, worship in the same buildings, speak to, work with, and are related to that sensible majority. And those law-abiding citizens have a duty to challenge them, expel them and, if necessary, report them to the authorities.
Tom Harris is the Labour MP for Glasgow South and Shadow Minister for the Environment in the House of Commons. He is quoted as saying “Britain, including British Muslims, must now examine the dark underbelly of what goes on in some of our mosques and do more to confront extremists”. “Some Muslims in Britain hold essentially intolerant and violent beliefs”, he said.