A 22-year-old Welshman was today sentenced to a year in jail for inciting religious hatred in Facebook posts he made just after the Manchester Arena bombing.
Keegan Jakovlevs, of Wrexham in North Wales, previously pleaded guilty to publishing material with the intention of stirring up religious hatred.
In the arena blast, 22 people were killed and 250 injured. Most of the victims were teenage girls, and their parents as they left the concert.
The police prosecuter reported that “Jakovlevs’s Facebook message expressed sympathy for the families of those caught up in the bombing but then, using racist and offensive language, he called for every Muslim in the country to be killed.”
Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division in the CPS, said: “After the Manchester attack there were countless messages of support on social media for those affected but Keegan Jakovlevs chose to stir up religious hatred by calling for British Muslims to be indiscriminately killed.” While no harmful action could be found which were related to the Facebook post, Jakovlevs’s “intention was clear”.
In the wake of the Manchester Bombings, with televisions full of bloodied faces and mangled bodies, it’s ludicrous to suggest a Facebook post was inciting hatred. The suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of a network of, yes, muslims, who choose to terrorise infidels by destroying young lives. While it’s very possible that some anti-Muslim attitudes were formed that evening, they were most likely due to the bombing, not the Facebook post.
The UK police however, enthusiastically investigate potential religious hatred online. Numerous others have been charged under these laws, with the commonality being that they are almost all ethnic British:
- Nigel Pelham was charged with eight counts of publishing threatening written material intending to stir up religious hatred against Muslims. He was sentenced on 16 June, 2017 to 20 months jail.
- Eleven people arrested for ‘racist or anti-religious’ comments on Facebook and Twitter closely following the Lee Rigby killing in 2013.
- In 2014, European election candidate Paul Weston was arrested on “suspicion of racial harassment for quoting excerpt about Islam from Winstin Churchill’s book ‘The River War’.
- In several other cases, people have been jailed for leaving bacon outside , or throwing bacon sandwiches at mosques.
Of course, Muslims do sometimes get charged with inciting hatred, but the offences seem to be different.
One case in which Muslim were convicted of similar crimes was that of Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed in 2012. They were found guilty of “stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation”. Those charges came following the trio printing and distributing anti-gay pamphlets in Derby. The leaflets, with titles such as “Turn or Burn”, and “God Abhors You” quoted Islamic texts and said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.
Four muslim men were convicted of soliciting murder and stirring up racial hatred in 2006. They were filmed at a protest shouting comments such as;
“7/7 on its way”
“Europe, you will pay with your blood”
“Annihilate those who insult Islam”
Note however, that Muslims are charged with stiring up racial hatred, or sexual hatred, but not religious hatred. The bill banning incitement to religious hatred was part of the Labour party’s promises during the 2005 election campaign. The plan was pushed by groups including the Muslim Council of Britain, but criticised by free speech advocates, including Rowan Atkinson. “To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticism their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom.”
The final language of the bill made illegal “threatening language” on the basis of religion, rather than the original “threatening, insulting and abusive”. This is an important distinction for the public speakers and writers to be aware of.
- For example, suggesting that “Scientologists are stupid and we should kill them all,” would be incitement to racial hatred.
- Saying “Scientologists are stupid and hopefully they die out,” is likely not incitement to racial hatred.
Some scholars and ex-Muslims have raised concerns over specific prayers and Koranic texts due to the potential for inciting religious hatred. Importantly, hatred over a lack of particular religion, is considered religious hatred.
Whistleblowers from the muslim community have complained about the specific words of one prayer commonly repeated at the start of Friday community prayers.
The imam will pray to allah to grant “”Muslims victory over the ‘Qawm al-Kafiroon”, meaning over all non-Muslims. What exactly would a Muslim victory over unbelievers look like? Is this a call for violence?
Authorities in Singapore certainly thought so, lauching a 2017 investigation into a Chief Imam who had been filmed repeating a prayer saying “God help us against Jews and Christians. Grant Muslims victory over Jews and Christians.” The Imam was swiftly fined $Sing 4000 (€2500), and deported back to his native India. The conviction was for “committing an act prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups”. The charge appears similar to the UK’s religious hatred law.
Perhaps the United Kingdom needs to start paying more attention to activities at mosques. Perhaps they could investigate Imams and other extremists for promoting religious hatred instead of solely ethnic Brits.