Ordinarily – when a man has a history of convictions for public order offences (6 between 2002 and 2010) and is finally sentenced for a miserly 70 days after stealing a library book and setting fire to it in the street before bragging about the incident on Facebook – the Daily Mail would be outraged at such leniency. However, this man happens to be Andrew Ryan and the book he set fire to happened to be the Koran, so the Daily Mail has changed it’s tune. Instead of calling for the return of capital punishment (step forward Mr P Hitchens) they are outraged that he didn’t get treated in the same way as the Muslims responsible for burning poppies a while back. The headline chosen makes the Mail’s stance pretty clear: ‘‘What about burning poppies?’: Court outburst of man jailed for setting Koran alight‘ [istyosty link]. The opening paragraph is not subtle:
A man has been jailed for 70 days today after he burnt a copy of the Koran just over a month after a Muslim got away with a paltry £50 fine for a similar offence.
Well, the two punishments reflect the different natures of the offences committed, the only similarity is that something was set fire to. The Muslim the Mail is referring to is Emdadur Choudhury who was part of the Muslims Against Crusades group who set fire to three oversized poppies on 11 November in Kensington. He was fined £50 for offences under the Public Order Act, his actions were not considered a hate crime because they targeted a profession, not a religion. As the BBC reported, it wasn’t as if the judge was pleased with Choudhury’s behaviour or at all condoning of it:
District Judge Howard Riddle said: “The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.”…
Their actions went “far beyond the boundaries of legitimate protest and freedom of expression,” prosecutor Simon Ray said.
Choudhury, of Hunton Street, was found guilty under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of burning the poppies in a way that was likely to cause “harassment, harm or distress” to those who witnessed it.
Andrew Ryan on the other hand responded to the incident with a hate crime because based on the actions of a group barely able to fill a minibus he stole a Koran from a library and set fire to it in the street whilst ‘shout[ing] abuse about the Muslim faith’. He is also an individual with a history of public order offences ‘including racial chanting at a football match and assault with intent to resist arrest’. His actions were very different to those of Choudhury – which, no matter how offensive they might have been, were aimed at soldiers, a group not denominated by race or religion. If Choudary had been chanting ‘Die Christians die, all Christians will burn in hell’ then he could have been prosecuted for a hate crime. But he didn’t. If he had a history of public order offences the judge might have taken stiffer action. But he didn’t. The only person demonising an entire religious group was Ryan and this – along with his track record – was reflected in the sentencing.
As for the Daily Mail trying to feed the narrative that we have double standards in this country – one rule for ‘them’ (increasingly Muslims) and another for ‘us’ (increasingly just means white people) – it is laughable when the two cases are actually compared. Just because both incidents featured the incendiary burning of an item does not make them equal. I won’t bother screen-grabbing the best-rated comments, but suffice to say they are full of people moaning about how the Muslims get away with everything whilst our poor downtrodden homegrown thugs get locked-up for 70 days.
It’s depressing, dishonest and divisive – just a typical Daily Mail article. Here is a chance to examine why it is that certain sections of British society cannot distinguish between the actions of individuals and the sentiments of religious groups. But instead the Mail just adds more fuel to the fire with this pathetically absurd accusation that Muslims are not treated equally in the eyes of the law. Andrew Ryan will not be the last person convicted of a hate crime against all Muslims precisely because of this kind of coverage.