Meet Razwan Javed, 30, Kabir Ahmed, 27, Ahjaz Ali, 41, Umer Javed, 37, and Mehboob Hassain, 44. These five men are the first to be prosecuted under the Britain’s new law that prohibits the mere incitement of hatred, which prosecutors claim the men violated in July by distributing a leaflet titled The Death Penalty? outside a mosque in Britain’s Derby, southeast of Manchester, and mailing it via post. As you might’ve guessed, the pamphlet calls for gays to be executed. With a court hearing set for Feb. 14, are we about to witness one of the world’s first instances of cracking down not just on hate crimes, but broad hate speech?
In the U.S., only certain types of speech have been declared to be outside the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. Things like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, or distributing “obscene” material (child porn, anyone?). But Britain’s new law, passed last year, says the very communication of supporting violence against a class of people is criminal.
The case will hinge on what the leaflet actually says. Does it target people specifically? Or just all gays? Does it say what should be done to them, such as stoning or hanging? Or just that they should be exterminated?
The crucial determination will be deciding whether somebody saying — or in this case, printing and distributing — words like “I want all gays to die” is against the law. Does that constitute the type of hate speech Britain’s new law hopes to stamp out?
While the intention of a law like this is admirable — for it places the livelihood of a targeted group of people above hatemongering — I take seriously any government’s attempt to determine what I may or may not say. While the law is targeted at homophobes, placing LGBTs in a protected class, does that make it more acceptable to say “I want all women to die?” How about, “Anybody over 65 should be put to death”? I don’t have all the facts here (namely, what was written in the pamphlet), but this doesn’t appear to be on par with Uganda’s Rolling Stone newspaper identifying specific gays to be killed, which amounts to a glorified hit list.
Just how far should the criminal code go to fight a climate of homophobia, even if it means free speech is curbed?
The first amendment of the U.S constitution and the way the courts in America intepret it (mainly as a result of traditional white southern sensibilities in favour of protecting the “speech” of the Ku Klux Klan) does not apply universally.
The European Convention on Human Rights clearly states that there are limits to free speech when it comes to targeting minorities or for other reasons like national security. The UK law that passed last year explicitly bans any incitement to violence against homosexuals as a social group. And this is hardly the first case of each kind in Europe: A lawmaker in France and a priest in Sweden have already been fined by the local courts for homophobic speech.
The U.N convention against Racism and Discrimination has outlawed hate speech based on race and religion in 1966 and that applies to all the countries that have signed it (I don’t know if the US has). A lot of people think that sexual orientation should be added there too. The legal precedent has been the Nuremberg trial which sentenced to death the publisher of a Nazi newspaper for inciting hatred against the jews. Recently the International Court for War Crimes in Rwanda has sentenced two radio journalists to life in prison for their role in disseminating racial propaganda leading to the Tutsi genocide in 1996.
The phrase “I take seriously any government’s attempt to determine what I may or may not say” just seems plainly frivolous and hopelessely superficial in a country which is witnessing an epidemic of gay teen suicides. Clearly there must be limits to the expression of threats and libelous claims against social groups, just like there limits on threats and libels against individual persons. Having experienced the Holocaust and what led to it, the europeans clearly have a different, much more mature and grown-up conversation about this issue.
Interestingly, muslims in Britain have been trying to push through a law in parliament that would criminalize (up to seven years in prison) hate speech against a religion. Though we don’t have the text of the pamphlet, I’m sure that if the words “gay” or “homosexual” were replaced by “muslim” or “islamist” these punks would be howling abuse (or possibly be burning their antagonists’ homes and offices). Fanatics of all brands tend to have a mental disconnect that always leads to a grand, ironic, schismatic garbage pile of hypocrisy. We generally don’t find that with more moderate, reasonable members of any particular group. Personally, I’m all in favor of limiting the speech of fanatics because the amount of pain and suffering they inflict on the world with their actions and speech far outweighs their numbers or their contributions to humanity.
This is just dumb. There should be no discussion about free speech here. It is not curbing free speech to address those that promote murder of anyone. Unfortunately our governments do it so we think it is up for debate. When push comes to shove these people ultimately blame gODD for their message and kick those that commit the murder to the curb. We have to link the murderer to the messenger in order to combat this KILL speech. Not free speech. Not hate speech. KILL SPEECH. Your rights to promote my murder do not overrule my right to live.
There must be plenty of murderers willing to say the religious fundies recommended they kill.
How is this different than burning a cross in the American South? Burning a cross sends a message not just to the person whose yard it happens to be placed in, but to all people of African descent. By outlawing such an expression, the US has basically curbed free speech.
@WewaBoi: Yes, the Muslim extremists must be silenced or deported to their backwards homelands, where they belong. These people have been sucking the juices out of Britain for eons now and it’s time there was a crackdown on them spreading their hatred, and their physical assaults on gays, in the U.K. They are responsible for most of the hate crimes against gays.
As far as I am concerned this is a great result!
Now we need to shut down the mosques that rant about killing gays every weekend and haul the sorry fuckers off to trial.
And after that next the vile evangelical christian churches that scream about ‘battymen’ and homosexuality being an abomination.
@tallskin2: If only that were possible. If only.
I would certainly not call this “mature” or “grown-up”. It’s the exact opposite. It’s yet another presumption that various groups are emotionally fragile delicate flowers in need of special protection from “mean people”.
Until I have the opportunity to view the contents of these pamphlets, I remain terribly saddened that this is what speech in Europe is coming down to and forever thankful that we have much better protections in the US.
“Until I have the opportunity to view the contents of these pamphlets, I
remain terribly saddened that this is what speech in Europe is coming
down to and forever thankful that we have much better protections in
So in your opinion it is normal that, for instance, people like the Phelps
clan can post and disrupt funerals with what they are doing and saying?
Here, in Europe, that kind of scandalous behaviour is forbidden!
It’s the difference between free speech and crying “fire” in a crowded theater. As Bill Maher said, our religious whackos have NOTHING on these Muslims. Carrying a “God Hates F**s” sign at a soldier’s funeral is puppies playing in a basket compared to what these Islamofascists are doing in both the UK and their countries of origin.
robert in NYC
Now I wonder how Americans would react if the same hateful speech was directed at African Americans, Jews, Christians etc to incite violence and death against them? I find NOTHING inciteful about shouting FIRE in a theater, even though it might provoke panic and stampede. Its not exactly inciting people to kill each other or others and hardly hate speech. Its risible at best.
DR, its also a criminal offense to threaten a U.S. politician or any officer of the government, punishable by a fine or jail or both. So we do NOT have free speech in every regard in this country. Further, islamic people migrating to the UK should stay out if their purpose is to foment religious fanaticism and imposing their religious beliefs on the host country. They should be deported and barred from re-entering. Try doing that in their countries and see what would happen to you. Singling out any group with hate speech for the purpose of inciting violence is wrong and should be curtailed. Good for the UK and others, at least it has the courage and the guts to do what our politicians are too damned cowardly to do. Hate speech is what has brought about gay bashing, gay murders and bullying. The only way to stamp it out is to prosecute for violent hate speech and to mandate sensitivity training in our schools and places of business. In the UK and in some other EU countries, it only applies to hate speech with incitement to commit a violent crime, nothing more. I see nothing wrong curtailing that kind of aberrant behavior.
Many of us feel that muslim immigrants here in the UK are taking the piss – (indeed all over europe) they use freedoms we offer them and abuse those freedoms, condemning islamophobia whilst demanding the right to defame and threaten gays, jews or any woman who has the gall to dress not as they demand.
It’s all mixed up with the arrogance and the superiority of islam, in their minds.
these prosecutions have been a long time coming, despite civilised requests for them to abide by british social mores they’ve consistently refused.
These prosecutions are a serious shot across the bow, and, hopefully, an example will be made of the men being charged.
Imagine if you had one of these leaflets pushed through your door!
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said: “We welcome the Attorney General’s decision to allow this prosecution to go ahead. We lobbied for a number of years for a specific law to protect gay people, matching offences against inciting racial and religious hatred.
“Materials like the leaflets posted to homes in Derby create fear and inflame hatred and violence towards gay people. We uncovered a range of similar materials during our campaign to secure much-needed legal protections in this area.”
@DR: This is not “yet another presumption that various groups are emotionally fragile delicate flowers in need of special protection from “mean people”.”
It is a recognition by the British government that the hatred against certain groups is sufficiently great that the danger of inciting people against them is real and merits penalizing.
Whether it’s the right solution is a separate question, but this doesn’t strike me as a mere “feel good” law.
@justiceontherocks: Exactly. There is a genuine threat toward a minority involved here, and it should be dealt with accordingly.
robert in NYC
Tallskin2, No. 14…well said! Those morons inciting violence against us should be deported back to the middle east and those islamic extremists born in the UK should apply for asylum in that part of the world since they hate anything western and should not be allowed to return. I like what the Dutch are doing. They interview prospective immigrants and one of the many questions put to them is how they feel about homosexuals and same-sex marriage. It enables their government to filter out potential extremists and thereby ban them from entering the country. After all, that kind of behavior is not conducive to the well-being of any civilized, secular society. If they can’t abide by the laws of the land, they should not be allowed to live there.
The Supreme Court of the US is going to be ruling on that this year, but based on the decisions of the lower courts, I believe the court will find that the Phelps have every right to do what they do. As long as they stay in the legally designated buffer zones created by the courts to protect the families, they’re entitled to say what they want. And I support that. I am not willing to give up my rights under the First Amendment because I don’t like the message of other people.
@robert in NYC:
As with other posters, you make the assumption that you know exactly what was written on these pamphlets. You don’t. We have no idea what the pamphlets said, nor do we have any idea as to what the British court system will do with these cases. I’m not going to jump on the emotional bandwagon until I have all the facts.
@DR. We do know what the leaflets said. They called for gay peple to be executed in keeping with Islamic law. Imams in UK mosques have been filmed making the same demands.
In the UK the incidence of violence against gay people is increasing in areas with large muslim populations. For example the east end of London, where student Oliver Helmsley was stabbed in the neck and paralysed from the neck down while walking down the street.
In Uganda David Kato is dead because of the ‘free speech’ granted to christian extremists.
This is the context in which to look at these hate leaflets.
Many Americans put abstract ‘free speech’ above the rights of individuals to live free of abuse and violence, or even to live.
I hope these men are imprisoned for a long time for their incitement to murder.
robert in NYC
DR, so I suppose islamic extremists or any others for example issuing death threats to the President or any other government official should have their hate speech protected and not prosecuted even though in that context the perpetrator(s) can be prosecuted? Since you don’t believe in giving up any freedoms under the first amendment, then perhaps you think that too should be struck down, ditto the shouting “fire” nonsense in a theater? We do NOT have total freedom of speech or expression in this country until that’s changed, and as far as freedom of expression in this country is concerned, a person can be prosecuted for burning the flag. So there most certainly are limitations under the constitution to what we can say or do. Its not perfect. Freedom to promote hate via speech resulted in the brutal murder of two or more abortion clinic doctors, among other things. I don’t see how any rational, civilized person could support that kind of freedom of speech knowing it could lead to a violent, fatal crime, then whine about it afterwards as to why the crime happened in the first place. If a politician called for the annihilation of gay people, or any group for that matter, resulting in people being beaten up or killed, you mean to say the politician should not be prosecuted since he’s exercising his right to freedom of speech, no matter how offensive? To me, that’s beyond crossing the line.
And you know this how? Seen them? If you’ve seen them, I’d appreciate it if you could post a copy for us all to see and make our own decisions. Based on what you’re telling me, I’m even more concerned about the prosecution.
@robert in NYC:
Again, until I see these flyers, I’m not going to comment except to note that both Canadian and British hate crimes laws have resulted in several notable prosecutions which have resulted in the dismissal of all charges. This one may go that way as well.
This isn’t just hate talk, it’s incitement to commit murder, which is a crime. Incitement to commit murder isn’t just free speech. It has the added element of aim and planning. It is the first step in the act of a crime. As such, it should be prosecuted.
Folks might find this show from the UK’s Channel 4 to be interesting: http://tinyurl.com/nkelnw
@WewaBoi: Why does this article claim this is new? It’s happened here in Victoria, Australia where the “Catch the Fire Ministries” were charged under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act for inciting violence and misinformation about Islam. A Jewish group similarly had an Islamic bookstore charged for inciting violence against non Muslims.
so @WewaBoi: this kind of legislation works both ways.
@Zzee: I am not understanding what your point to me is?
@ewe: I’m sorry – I was agreeing with what you said that this is not hate speech, but rather kill speech…hence the emphatic “THIS,” as in, “THIS is something I agree with 100%.” My second point was separate. Sorry for the confusion.
sorry to bring the buzzkill but pleeesse before we descend into an anti-muslim foam party frenzy (not that that isn’t fun n’ all) can we keep in mind — right there in the centre — that muslim and muslim whacko are separate. granted there is some overlap.
if you watch the interviews john linked to about the dangers facing gay muslims from their own community (and discrimination from the lgbt one..ha! as if.) you’ll see it is possible to reconcile the muslim with the gay — they’ve done it. job done. listen to them and honour what they saying: their proud to be both. refuse to relinquish either. it can work. yay!
how they can do this is beyond my comprehension. that they even want to try seems to my mind heroic, when they could so easily short circuit the process by abandoning their religion altogether. that they wont seems to underline how integral a part of their identity it really is, and that in the interests of civility or expediency it shouldn’t be bad mouthed.
we need to make common purpose with ALL people of GOOD FAITH. and particularly extend our hand to lgbt muslims. that can be best achieved in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance and respect recognising we’ll never agree on some things: agree to disagree; and work together were we can. above all, it ill serves are gay muslim family and moderate muslim opinion to attack islam per se. ISLAM JUST NEEDS A GAY MAKEOVER.
the irony is, of all societies the muslim one generally, (what with strict segregation of men and women etc), and the arabic one in particular have historically been a very good place to homosexual man (all be it rich powerful one). and it’s roots are very deep and wide in the culture, literature and poetry. every one knows at least anecdotally that it’s rife on the arabian peninsula even today. the homophobia i guess being a case of despising in an other what you recognise in yourself.
i heard recently an army photographer talking about the afghani boys who “service” the tribal Afghani troops that the western forces are training up, and he relates how these boys are accorded the status of mascots; he tells of them applying eye liner and make up on the front line. it seems odd that while the US army brass were prevaricating on whether *are* gays should serve openly, they displayed the utmost insouciance to these practices amongst the afghans under their control, seeing it as “y’know just a part of part of their culture”
rant over. now, who feels like a party? maybe a saudi circuit party!… anyone? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yk1HpUkZA8s
@Zzee: ok. i knew i agreed with what you were saying.
This case is hardly a world first. Canada has had hate speech laws built into the charter of rights and freedoms, and thus the constitution, since ’82. The hate speech sections were first applied judicially in the early ’90s, and by the late ’90s we had a case involving hate speech directed towards gays and lesbians.
@CT: Well said.
Europeans have fifty million Muslims living among them and the youngest ones, the ones who were born in Europe and the ones who should have been assimilated are the ones who are becoming radicalized and the Europeans are terrified (not that they’ll admit it.) Hence one law after another like this throughout Europe, including the one banning the burqa in France. It’s probably too late (gay bashings are out of control in Amsterdam, led by Moraccan youths, honor killings are now occuring as are forced marriages and no-go zones for non-Muslims in the UK) because these laws seem to just be inciting the radicalized. I really think Europe is the new Israel, in the sense that in the next few years, they’re gonna have a low-grade civil war with attacks in cafes, restaurants and more gay bashings and honor murders. I wish them luck because I’d always hoped that we’d go more in the direction that they (especially France) did in being proudly secular.
Just a small point, It’s not UK law. It’s English & Welsh. It isn’t part of Northern Irish or Scots Law.
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