Worrying lessons from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction


by Guest    
6:37 pm - June 7th 2011

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contribution by Peter Tatchell

Last week Mohammed Hasnath, aged 18, was convicted for posting homophobic stickers in London’s East End. The stickers declared the area a “Gay Free Zone” among other things.

Clearly, such homophobic prejudice needs to be challenged. There are, however, a number of troubling aspects to Hasnath’s conviction.

First, he was fined a mere £100. If the stickers had declared East London a Jewish, black, Catholic or Muslim free zone Hasnath would have been almost certainly convicted of a racially or religiously aggravated hate crime and jailed. Why the leniency? Why the double standards?

Hasnath clearly has fundamentalist sympathies. On his Facebook page he lists Sheikh Khalid Yasin as one of his interests – a man who is on record as abusing “homosexuals” and saying they should be put to death.

Second, Hasnath is an easy, convenient scapegoat. There is no evidence that he organised the Gay Free Zone campaign. The police have failed to apprehend the master-minds who produced the stickers and then distributed them to people like Hasnath.

Third, he was convicted using a discredited, authoritarian law, Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which has been used repeatedly to suppress peaceful, legitimate protests by human rights defenders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners.

When six members of OutRage! protested against 6,000 members the Islamist group, Hizb ut Tahrir in 1994, they were not arrested but we were. They called for the killing of gays, apostates, Jews and unchaste women. We displayed placards that condemned Hizb ut Tahrir’s incitement to murder.

Section 5 is draconian and sweeping; it prohibits behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”. We should not be rejoicing that the court used against Hasnath a harsh law that has so often been used unjustly against us.

Fourth, the court’s ruling in the Hasnath case broadens the criminalising nature of Section 5.

Well meaning District Judge Jeremy Coleman said:

I think you used these stickers deliberately to offend and distress people, you certainly succeeded in doing that….You have upset people and they deserve an apology, you are not entitled to behave in this way.

The judge ruled that not only is causing distress a crime, but so is offending people and making them upset. Causing upset is far too low a threshold for criminalisation.

The case also throws up several other important issues.

Why did the Hasnath stickers provoke such uproar, when far worse homophobia in East London stirred hardly a murmur of protest from the LGBT community?

Nor can I remember any protests when the East London Mosque / London Muslim Centre hosted a series of virulently homophobic speakers, including Uthman Lateef and Abdul Karim Hattim. The latter gave lecturers in which he invited young Muslims to “Spot the Fag”.

The East London Mosque / London Muslim Centre have never apologised for hosting these homophobic hate preachers and never given any assurances that they will not host them again in the future. Apart from OutRage!, no LGBT groups have publicly demanded that they do so.

Equally, there were no protests when Abdul Muhid openly incited the murder of gay people in East London and when the Crown Prosecution Service refused to bring him to trial.

When OutRage! stood alone in challenging Muhid and the East London Mosque / London Muslim Centre we were denounced by some people as racists and Islamophobes.

Such false, malicious allegations are having a chilling effect on some LGBT campaigners. They are terrified of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, even when such accusations are wholly untrue and unjustified.


A longer version of this article is here.
For more information about Peter Tatchell’s human rights campaigns or to make a donation: www.petertatchell.net

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Reader comments


[deleted]

Good article, especially the concern about the use of the Public Order Act and the further reduction of the margin of criminality.

Another example of the idocy of faiths, and faith based education and faith based politicians.

Fuck um all.

4. Chaise Guevara

Very good article, I think you’ve picked up on all the conflicting issues.

As you seem to be, I’m in the odd position of a) feeling unsure that he should have been convicted and b) feeling that £100 was not enough of a fine. Causing distress is certainly not enough of a reason to penalise someone for expressing a political view. Perhaps there should be a law against falsely informing someone that they are not entitled to access a public space? Or then again, perhaps not.

At the end of the day, I think freedom of speech probably should have won out here.

5. the a&e charge nurse

“They are terrified of being accused of racism or Islamophobia, even when such accusations are wholly untrue and unjustified” – indeed, it is not long before such labels have a paralysing effect on rational thought.

The gay men and women of the Eastend (or anywhere else for that matter) should be entitled to get on with their lives without being subject to this kind of intimidation and prejudice, but as we all know this type of attitude remains deeply embedded in certain religious cultures, and has been for aoens.

Is the answer to punish young men like Mohammed Hasnath?
Personally I feel uncomfortable with this sort of idea, not least because poor old Mohammed was probably indoctrinated throughout his childhood?

Religious figures are getting away with promoting views that are simply intolerable in a civilised society – views that are almost certain to provoke further incidents akin to those highlighted in the OP.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 a&e

“Religious figures are getting away with promoting views that are simply intolerable in a civilised society – views that are almost certain to provoke further incidents akin to those highlighted in the OP.”

Agreed. It annoys the HELL out of me that people make accusations of racism or anti-religious bigotry, when what they actually mean is “my beliefs are entitled to special treatment”.

If someone tells you that it’s wrong to be gay, try to reason with them. If that doesn’t work, tell them to STFU. They might be reciting bigotry through revelation rather than expressing their personal prejudices, but that doesn’t make much of a difference to whoever’s on the receiving end.

I shouldn’t be so nosey, perhaps, but I note that he’s “friends” with Ibrahim Hooper. Don’t tell Robert Spencer!

8. Charlieman

@OP, Peter Tatchell: “…Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which has been used repeatedly to suppress peaceful, legitimate protests by human rights defenders, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) campaigners.”

A quick clarification, please. I presume that LGBT protestors were arrested under this act, but not prosecuted? It is a pretty catch all section, as you say, which is why it has likely been used in preference to other breach of the peace offences. But as this case shows, it is a difficult one to prosecute, which undermines its effectiveness as a catch all. It increasingly becomes difficult for the police to make demo arrests using it if the only cases that are prosecuted are ones like that that above. A police officer cannot claim reasonable cause if so many similar previous arrests have not led to a prosecution.

In the circumstances where a handful of counter protestors are arrested at a demo organised by a larger group, what do you think would be an appropriate police response?

My gut instinct, on free speech grounds, is that the police should ignore the small group unless/until they are physically threatened by the larger group. At that point, the police have to respond in order to maintain public order. Maintenance of public order temporarily trumps the right of free speech for the small group, even if the larger group are the ones who are threatening. However, removing protestors in such cases should be a light touch police response, and those who are removed should not be held to blame.

Like you, I am dismayed that LGBT campaigners feel unable to protest against homophobic and racist speakers at Islamic events. And the same sentiment no doubt applies to Moslems who feel that their faith is being abused.

But I think that the police were correct to investigate the posting of Gay Free Zone stickers. The stickers are/were an attempt to impose behavioural control on part of London; I think that behaviour is more threatening than speakers ranting at a demo.

9. Charlieman

@5. the a&e charge nurse: “Is the answer to punish young men like Mohammed Hasnath?”

He needs to have had his card marked, and perhaps he won’t get into trouble again. MH claimed that he was given the stickers on the street and was unable to identify those who provided them.

Like many in the past who were prosecuted for posting racist or anti-semitic graffiti, this is not the end of the world for MH. He can change his life and he is young enough that this petty offence has not screwed everything up.

Oh, well edited Sunny!

Way to miss the most important points being made!

From the original:

“The judge ruled that not only is causing distress a crime, but so is offending people and making them upset. Causing upset is far too low a threshold for criminalisation. Almost anything that anyone says or does has the potential to cause someone distress, upset or offence. Under Judge Coleman’s interpretation and application of the law, most of us are criminals. If we accept that causing upset is a crime, as he stated at the Hasnath hearing, we risk closing down free and open debate and criminalising all manner of dissenting opinions and alternative lifestyles.

The Hasnath case throws up several other important issues.

Freedom of expression is one of the most important of all human rights. It should be only restricted in extreme and very limited circumstances. The open exchange of ideas – including unpalatable ideas – is a hallmark of a free and democratic society. There is no right to be not distressed, upset or offended. Some of the most profound ideas in history – such as those of Galileo Galilei and Charles Darwin – caused great outrage and offence in their time. While bigoted opinions should always be challenged, in most instances only explicit incitements to violence and damaging libels (such as false allegations of tax fraud or child abuse) should be criminalised. ”

One of the reasons why Mr. Tatchell is one of those I admire (and yes, he knows this even if you don’t) is exactly this.

He actually gets what “free speech”means. Yes, I, you, he, they, all are allowed to say things which piss off me, you, he, they.

What we/they are not allowed to do is incitement to violence or libel.

To miss out those paras is to miss the very damn point of what was being said.

Asshole (a statement which is neither an incitement to violence nor, judging from this editing, a libel).

Quote: “Doctors asked to spot ‘patients at risk from Islamic radicalisation’”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/doctors-asked-to-spot-patients-at-risk-from-islamic-radicalisation-2293954.html

Will “radicalisation” include homophobic tendencies?

Will patients need to book appointments with their GPs for their ideological assessments?

12. Daz Pearce

Another tricky ‘competing rights’ issue…

Inciting crime was illegal long before ‘hate crimes’ legislation. However, I fail to see how a few immature stickers (granted I’d have to see every last one before being certain) constitutes a criminal offence.
The right to cause and of course take offence is a precious one in any democracy – persecuting those with offensive opinions is no better than homophobia itself IMO.
http://outspokenrabbit.blogspot.com/

13. Dennis Kavanagh

As ever Peter I agree with just about everything here. Regarding section 5 I wouldn’t mistake the District Judges’ comments that the stickers had caused offence as the culpable element of the offence, he was observing ancillary to the distress they’d caused that too. This sort of offence throws up extremely difficult charging decisions, Section 5 is non imprisonable fine only, section 4 would have been a non runner because of the violence constituent and public nuisance can be an absolute nightmare to prove. I agree with you on aggravation, distinct to racial aggravation section 146 sexual orientation or disability hate statutory aggravation do not cause offences to jump up a bracket or attract higher maximums, it seems to me a most unsatisfactory position.

Interestingly enough I was having precisely the same debate re charging over care homes, presently mistreating a disabled person a la Panorama attracts an offence contrary to the Mental Health Act punishable with a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. Plainly a case for evisiting general cruelty laws there, I think on balance this case shows laws regarding public displays of hatred needs looking at again.

My thanks to you and outrage for your courageous efforts exposing those who incite hatred, you continue to demonstrate a unique braveness in confronting hatred.

I am in favour of free speech, and like Peter Tatchell I recognise that means the freedom to say things that offend others. I’m also not a big fan of the law regarding “harassment, alarm or distress”.

So, how should people like this be dealt with? I don’t think the criminal law should be used against offensive speech, except in the very worst cases such as death threats. Other laws might be appropriate, for example in this case if he put stickers on other people’s property, he may be guilty of vandalism.

I also wonder whether employment law could be changed to make it explicitly legal to discriminate against someone for being a vile homicidal bigot. I know I’d not want to work alongside someone like that, ad I’m sure many others wouldn’t either. Many employers might not want to employ such people, particularly if it left them open to charges of creating a bad working environment for people in groups the bigot hates. If hate speech led to someone being ostracised and others chose not to engage in economic activity with them, I would see that as fair, and it might act as a deterrent.

@5:

Is the answer to punish young men like Mohammed Hasnath?
Personally I feel uncomfortable with this sort of idea, not least because poor old Mohammed was probably indoctrinated throughout his childhood?

If a offence in itself is not that serious, it is worth the state making serious efforts to reform a criminal. In the case of hate crime it may make sense for them to have to attend residential sessions where they can learn why hate crime is wrong. This may help to deprogram bigots from childhood indoctrination.

If after that, someone still wants to walk along the road of crime and ruin their life, then at least they can’t complain they weren’t shown an alternative.

On the subject of indoctrination, of course all societies do it, mostly unconsciously. Shouldn’t schools as part of citizenship lessons explicitly teach why bigotry is wrong? OK some parents would object, but why should we take the objections of bigots seriously?

Will NICE be publishing definitive clinical guidelines to help GPs diagnose Islamic radicalisation correctly?

Daz – I take the point about free speech, but these could certainly be seen as intimidatory. Would you (and maybe you would) see the stickers as simply ‘immature’ if they had been targeted against another group, a racial or religious group? These posters will be seen as part of a wider pattern, as described by PT, whereby homophobic hate, including incitement to murder, is viewed with apparent indifference.

Religion vs Gay Rights.

The politically correct catch 22?

“Religion vs Gay Rights.” ?

Bu when is the next stoning of unchaste damsels and adulterers scheduled for?

20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:

21 then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die; because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.

22 If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 22:20-22
http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/kjv/deu022.htm

20. Shatterface

Good points, except for the first. You can hardly complain he’s been treated too leniently by a law you regard as draconian.

21. Shatterface

‘Is the answer to punish young men like Mohammed Hasnath?
Personally I feel uncomfortable with this sort of idea, not least because poor old Mohammed was probably indoctrinated throughout his childhood?’

Nobody is BORN homophobic, so all homophobes have been ‘indoctrinated’ – but to treat adults as if they bear no responsibility for their beliefs, or the consequences of their beliefs, is to infantilise them.

22. Shatterface

‘Religion vs Gay Rights.

‘The politically correct catch 22?’

Not for genuine secularists. There are no religious exemptions. If you want to believe in fairies, that’s your business: but if the fairies tell you to abuse others you will be treated with the same contempt as abusers who don’t have a supernatural excuse.

Perhaps Mr Mohammed Hasnath feels impelled to do a bit of urgent PR promotion on behalf of his community in the light of reports such as this:

Eight men charged in child sex probe
http://www.gmp.police.uk/mainsite/pages/F78A0EF3480EFF86802578A9002DBC88.htm

I wonder if we’d be feeling sympathy for this young ‘lad’ if he was white and had put up a ‘Nigger-free zone’ sticker outside an African cafe.

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Bob B

“Perhaps Mr Mohammed Hasnath feels impelled to do a bit of urgent PR promotion on behalf of his community in the light of reports such as this”

I see you’re back in “subtle bigot” mode again. You and FlowerPower should get together and write a book called 101 Really Bad Things About Muslims But I Totally Don’t Have A Problem With Muslims.

@25: “I see you’re back in ‘subtle bigot’ mode again.”

From experience online, if I criticise the Israelis then I’m an antisemite and a friend of David Irving.

If I repost news from the government in Scotland reporting the rise in mortality rates from alcohol abuse there and that half adult men drink to excess then I’m bigoted about the Scots. And, of course, I mustn’t mention that a major part of our recent banking crisis was due to banks with head offices in Scotland.

If I post a link to current news from the Manchester police about charges relating to a child prostitute ring – or recall those conversations from the 1970s with a Hindu colleague and friend who predicted then that Islamic countries would have great difficulty in making transitions to pluralist democracies – then I’m accused of being bigoted about muslims.

My response is that human groups is a fundamental aspect of sociology – try WJH Sprott: Human Groups (Penguin Books, 1st ed 1958). Without that perspective, most of social sciences go down the tubes. I’ll stick with the social sciences and risk being called a bigot.

Btw by many reports the late Sebastian Sprott was the last male lover of JM Keynes.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 26 Bob B

“If I post a link to current news from the Manchester police about charges relating to a child prostitute ring – or recall those conversations from the 1970s with a Hindu colleague and friend who predicted then that Islamic countries would have great difficulty in making transitions to pluralist democracies – then I’m accused of being bigoted about muslims.”

Wrong! You’re accused of being (or, rather, identified as being) a bigot against Muslims because you constantly post negative anecdotes about Muslim individuals that are at best tangentially connected to the discussion and at worst totally irrelevent. If the word “Muslim” comes up, you see it as an excuse to try to make everyone share your hatred/fear/whatever of them.

“I’ll stick with the social sciences and risk being called a bigot.”

You can play the victim card all you like, but nobody’s going to see you as the victim when you’re only being criticised due to your nasty little prejudices.

@ 22 Shatterface

I completely agree. I was more trying to make the point though that we are often too accomodating of views/actions away from the country’s accepted norms and rules of behaviour from sections of society because of a fear of offending their race/creed/religion via political correctness.

@27: “You’re accused of being (or, rather, identified as being) a bigot against Muslims because you constantly post negative anecdotes about Muslim individuals that are at best tangentially connected to the discussion and at worst totally irrelevent.”

That’s your POV but not mine. So what? You’ve not responded to the case I made for assessing the behaviour of human groups. But no surprise for me there.

The interesting issue relating to Muslims is whether their community associations explicitly distance themselves from the activities and rhetoric of Muslims who espouse extremist and jihadist views in the name of their faith. The fact is that, historically, Islam has not been a “peaceful religion”. It was spread and promoted by the sword – the Moors invaded Spain in 711 and the first Christian Crusade wasn’t called until 1095.

I’m entirely even handed in that I explicitly disassociate myself from those who conducted, advocated, authorised or condoned extraordinary rendition or who claim waterboarding as a regular interrogation technique – and from political leaders who launched invasions of countries on the basis of lies and without the sanction of the UN Security Council – especially after making keynote speeches such as:

“If we want a world ruled by law and by international co-operation then we have to support the UN as its central pillar.”
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/international/jan-june99/blair_doctrine4-23.html

And I’ve no inclination to whitewash over reports about the Khiam Prison:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/correspondent/1002463.stm

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 29 Bob B

“That’s your POV but not mine. So what?”

It’s not POV, it’s a statement of fact. You make those posts, they’re here on this site. You can claim that it’s your POV that the sky is orange but that doesn’t make it a talking point.

“You’ve not responded to the case I made for assessing the behaviour of human groups. But no surprise for me there.”

It wasn’t relevant to your bigoted attacks on Muslims. If you really need me to acknowledge it, then: yes, we obviously need to assess behaviour in human groups. What of it? It’s not an excuse for spamming links to Muslims doing bad things in an attempt to spread your personal prejudices.

There is nothing scientific about reeling out stories that make Muslims look bad every time you hear the word “Muslim”. It’s just bigotry, and it’s pretty fucking obvious bigotry at that. Try to catch up with us here in the 21st century, Bob.

@30: “It wasn’t relevant to your bigoted attacks on Muslims”

My comments about Muslims are almost invariably documented, as are my frequent comments about the Church of Rome and the extensive paedophile tendencies of its priesthood in many countries. I begin with the general premise that most religions – with a few notable exceptions such as Buddhism – have often inflicted about as much harm as the benefits they have brought but then I would would probably be dubbed as an “aggressive secularist” by the Pope.

When we have major robberies or attempted robberies, such as this staged by professional criminals in Britain, the criminals don’t usually declare in court proceedings that they were doing it all to advance the cause of Christianity – unless they are trying to make an insanity plea, that it:

Police have thwarted what they believe would have been Britain’s biggest robbery.

The target was £40m pounds worth of gold bullion and between £30-40m in cash, stored at the Swissport Cargo Warehouse at Heathrow Airport.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3723839.stm

The fact is that Islam has been spread by the sword. The Moors invaded Spain in 711 – that is well documented. Islamic invaders suppressed Buddhism in China – as shown by what happened to the Mogai Caves:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8766403308994751293#

Readers – if any by this time – may have noticed that you don’t actually respond to the argument made – you just resort to the infantile name-calling of the lamentably ignorant.

32. Chaise Guevara

@ 31 Bob B

“Readers – if any by this time – may have noticed that you don’t actually respond to the argument made – you just resort to the infantile name-calling of the lamentably ignorant.”

I have a limited amount of etiquette for those promoting bigotry. Look, it’s pretty hypocritical of you to accuse me of ignoring the argument when you’re doing that very thing to me.

I KNOW that your stories are documented. I’m not accusing you of making them up. What I’m saying is that you spread anecdotal anti-Muslim stories at any excuse, regardless of how relevant that is to the thread – the only prerequisite is that Islam is mentioned in the story or thread in some fashion.

You’re not saying things like “all Muslims are bastards”. That’s why I called you subtle. What you do is list anecdote after anecdote of Muslims breaking the law.

Imagine if someone ran a paper that only published stories about crime if the criminal was a Muslim. Would you consider that person to have an unpleasant agenda? That’s what reading your posts is like: “Here’s an evil Muslim! Here’s another! And another! What? No, of course I have no problem with Muslims. Look, here’s another evil Muslim! And another!”

I’m aware that your attidute towards Catholics is similar to your attitude towards Muslims, but one doesn’t excuse the other. Any your understandable antipathy towards religion does not give you a license to denigrate people of specific religions by listing everything people who share their religion do wrong.

@32: “I have a limited amount of etiquette for those promoting bigotry. Look, it’s pretty hypocritical of you to accuse me of ignoring the argument when you’re doing that very thing to me.”

And I regard you as an ignorant twit who isn’t up to responding tio the argument put so you simply resort to hurling abuse as though that resolves the issues – which it doesn’t.

Religions depend on “faith” and have demonstrably been responsible for much slaughter of human beings through history. I’ve several times remarked on the 30 years war in Europe (1618-48) which was basically driven along by one Christian sect or another trying to impose its special interpretation of the Bible on some neighbouring state where a different faith had prevailed.

I suppose just pointing that out will be dubbed bigotry – as will mention of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in France in 1572:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bartholomew's_Day_massacre

For various reasons of personal interest, I’ve followed some regular news stories in the north of England for years. One of the recurring themes has been the sexual exploitation of young girls by Muslim men. It is not bigotry to point that out – instances of the concerns can be readily documented and the recent instance is supported by a news release from the Police in Manchester of men being charged – see the link @23 above.

You have accused me of bigotry for just posting up that link.

How silly. Frankly, I don’t give a monkey’s what you think of me. What matters is the substantive argument made – and that you manifestly haven’t been up to responding to.

Mr Tatchell doesn’t mention that in all likelihood the posters were originally put up and handed out by members of the English Defence League (EDL) as a tactic to incite anti-Muslim hatred. No one else here seems to have picked up on this either.

If one disagrees with others about gay rights then one should do so in a rational and civil manner.

Gay rights should not be used as a cover for sectarian and xenophobic bigotry.

35. Chaise Guevara

@ 33 Bob B

“And I regard you as an ignorant twit who isn’t up to responding tio the argument put so you simply resort to hurling abuse as though that resolves the issues – which it doesn’t.

[..]

You have accused me of bigotry for just posting up that link.

How silly. Frankly, I don’t give a monkey’s what you think of me. What matters is the substantive argument made – and that you manifestly haven’t been up to responding to.”

Dear me. You realise you’re responding to a post that contained no abuse, unless you consider criticism to be abuse? And that you’re ignoring the lengthy argument I made while accusing me of “not being up to responding to” your points? I DO respond to your points, Bob, you just ignore me when I do.

Want proof? Well, lets take this line from the above: “You have accused me of bigotry for just posting up that link”. If you’d bothered to read my post before replying to it (or hadn’t ignored anything that didn’t suit your argument), you’d see that I’m not accusing you of bigotry for posting one link. That would be madness. I’m accusing you of bigotry for your habit of selectively focusing on crimes by Muslims, and to a lesser extent Catholics, and broadcasting them at the drop of a hat.

As for your aside about the evils of religion: I agree with you, I’ve made that clear. Stop trying to dodge the issue with non-sequiturs.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 34 Ecce Homo

“Mr Tatchell doesn’t mention that in all likelihood the posters were originally put up and handed out by members of the English Defence League (EDL) as a tactic to incite anti-Muslim hatred. No one else here seems to have picked up on this either.”

I can see why they’d have the motive, but what’s your basis for saying that this is the case?

37. Charlieman

@ 34 Ecce Homo

“Mr Tatchell doesn’t mention that in all likelihood the posters were originally put up and handed out by members of the English Defence League (EDL) as a tactic to incite anti-Muslim hatred. No one else here seems to have picked up on this either.”

Quarter baked conspiracy nonsense. How probable is it that:
1. The IDL are capable of making stickers that contain quotations from the Quran?
2. That a religious young man would accept a pack of stickers from the EDL?

very good article. a number of gay and feminst activists, editirs, writers and artists have composee an open letter on the gay free zone case and its background, which is a useful addition to peter’s article. It can be found here: http://homintern.posterous.com/anti-gay-hate-crime-up-21-in-tower-hamlets-ga-42214

Although it’s perfectly reasonable to have wondered whether this was a false flag operation by the EDL, the evidence seems overwhelmingly to go against that, on this occasion.

Shatterface #22 – I think it’s possible to agree with your point about no religious exemptions and yet still see this as a bit of a catch 22 issue, as Tyler suggests. You can be absolutely firm about no religious exemptions, yet still want/need to make sure that firmness doesn’t turn into demonisation of a whole group (Muslims). For example, a planned march against the posters seemed like a good idea at first, and then it turned out to have substantial EDL involvement, i.e. it was going beyond standing up for gay rights and becoming something motivated (I assume, partly) by a wish to intimidate Muslims. Faced by the story of the posters I found myself unsure whether too much fuss was being made about it (for example because homophobic crime did not seem to be a particular issue in this area of London) or too little (for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities).

“You can be absolutely firm about no religious exemptions, yet still want/need to make sure that firmness doesn’t turn into demonisation of a whole group (Muslims). ”

Have any warning stickers been posted up in northern towns and cities about the dangers of young girls being trapped in prostitution rings? What of helplines for girl teens facing the prospect of forced marriages?

Bob B – I found it difficult to know what to make of the first issue – again, it seemed to hover between being ignored (for sensitivities reasons) and being highlighted (for bigoted reasons). It’s a real problem within one particular community and location, but I don’t think *overall* Muslims are over represented in such crimes, are they?

There should certainly be clearer info for girls (and boys) worried about forced marriage. Again, ‘sensitivities’ seem to have sometimes inhibited this being made available. But actually ignoring the problem could be said to be doubly bad – it is bad for the victims AND it can be used as evidence to stoke bigotry against Muslims.

Chaise Guevara @6:

If someone tells you that it’s wrong to be gay, try to reason with them. If that doesn’t work, tell them to STFU.

The people I know who’ve tried that one (usually in London, Oxford or Southampton, once in Manchester) have often ended up in hospital. And it’s worth noting that none of them were put there by Muslims or people of immigrant extraction. They were beaten up by drunk white poor people.

The thing I find so risible about the current bigotry being fanned by tabloids and politicians alike among poor white people is that, like the Bible Belt fighting the Taleban, the two sides tend to agree. The following are stereotypical of both demographics: don’t like gays, think women should be property, like to hit those weaker than themselves, think the morality of pre-medieval Palestine should be the whole of the law, have a faith-based view of the universe, slavishly believe one given set of writings over all others (be it the Sun or the Bible or the Qu’ran…)

These social trends are not the markers of one religion or one culture or one “race”, or even of the medieval time-period we in the west tend to associate them with. They are the markers of poverty and ill-education. Everywhere, everywhen, the ill-educated poor have tended to be violent, xenophobic, and aggressively conformist. The fact that some people can have an incredibly intense education (be it from a madrassa or from Texas A&M) and still end up thinking this way is a testament to the power of propaganda.

When the newspapers whip up hatred between poor people, on racial or religious grounds, they first have to gloss over the basic fact that both sides agree on most political issues. Their interests tend to align with one another much more closely than they do with the very wealthy old men who run the newspapers (and the churches, and the political parties…)

43. the a&e charge nurse

[24] “I wonder if we’d be feeling sympathy for this young ‘lad’ if he was white and had put up a ‘Nigger-free zone’ sticker outside an African cafe” – not sympathy exactly, but most probably some degree of recognition that such an individual must have brought up in a rather toxic environment?

Obviously Mohammed Hasnath’s fear of homosexuality did not arise in a vacuum? I suspect his parent’s held strong religious convictions which involved condemning if not homosexuals themselves, then certainly homosexual acts?
These messages would have been reinforced by certain schools of religious thought (alluded to in the OP) as well as like minded individuals gravitating toward similar abhorrent views?

If we use a drugs analogy – prosecuting MH is a bit like taking down a rather inept street dealer while Mr Big remains at large.
I think this is one the important concerns raised by Peter Tatchell?

@Sarah: “I found it difficult to know what to make of the first issue – again, it seemed to hover between being ignored (for sensitivities reasons) and being highlighted (for bigoted reasons). ”

Does the thought occasionally – just occasionally – occur to those who fling around the ‘”bigoted” accusation that the reason paedophile abuse by the Catholic priesthood persisted for so long in countries such as Ireland and Belgium, which is well documented btw, is precisely because of the sustained cover-ups and policies of keeping quiet in the mistaken hope that it would all go away – which it didn’t? It went on and on and became more widespread.

By many accounts, the problems of forced marriages and the exploitation of young girls has persisted. And by the reports, these are problems almost entirely associated with Muslim communities – not with Hindu, Sikh, Afro-Caribbean, or Buddhist communities, on the evidence.

Flinging around accusations of “bigotry” just evades and whitewashes the evidence from many reports – which is the intention IMO.

Big league British professional criminals don’t claim to be promoting Christianity.

@34 etc.

It has been comprehensively disproved that the EDL, low-lifes though they are, had nothing to do with this sticker campaign. What is true, however, is that Rainbow Hamlets immediately took up the idea that it was a false flag operation by the EDL with alacrity, and repeated it as gospel. It’s also the case that Rainbow Hamlets were given this information by the local Met.

The Met’s turning a blind eye to homophobic bigotry, for fear it might be intrepreted as Islamophobia, does an injustice to the 99% of Muslims who reject bigotry.

“The Met’s turning a blind eye to homophobic bigotry, for fear it might be intrepreted as Islamophobia, does an injustice to the 99% of Muslims who reject bigotry.”

And did the Muslim Council of Britain come out and condemn the execution of young gays in Iran?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zL_zP2pHp3w&feature=fvwrel

47. Flowerpower

{Section 5}is draconian and sweeping; it prohibits behaviour likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”

Not so. What section 5 prohibits is language/behaviour that is threatening, abusive or insulting which is likely to cause harassment, alarm & distress.

It’s still lawful to upset people by means that aren’t threatening, abusive or insulting.

Also, a specific defence in law against S5 is that “the conduct was reasonable.”

So, not draconian at all really.

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 47 Flowerpower

The problem is that “insulting” and “reasonable” are two concepts that are very much in the eye of the beholder, unless they have legal definitions I don’t know about. For example, a white supremacist could claim that it was “insulting” that he had to share a bus with black people. That’s a melodramatic example, obviously, but I wanted to show how you can claim to be insulted by just about anything.

49. Just Visiting

> If we use a drugs analogy – prosecuting MH is a bit like taking down a rather inept street dealer while Mr Big remains at large.

You’re spot on there a&e !

But if I’ve read Chaise’s position correctly, he would be saying that there is no organised drug crime – MH was just ignorant and acting along.

Chaise – care to share where you do actually stand?

50. Just Visiting

I meant: ignorant and acting __alone__

51. Just Visiting

The Guardian shows that others would agree with a&e’s view – that there is a wider problem with Islam’s Sharia Law (which Tatchell describes as being behind Islamic views towards homosexuals) – in this case it’s treatment of women:

Bill limiting sharia law is motivated by concern for Muslim women… aim is to prevent discrimination against Muslim women and jurisdiction creep in Islamic tribunals

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2011/jun/08/sharia-bill-lords-muslim-women

John Q. Publican – “They were beaten up by drunk white poor people. The thing I find so risible about the current bigotry being fanned by tabloids and politicians alike among poor white people is that, like the Bible Belt fighting the Taleban, the two sides tend to agree. The following are stereotypical of both demographics: don’t like gays, think women should be property, like to hit those weaker than themselves, think the morality of pre-medieval Palestine should be the whole of the law”

That’s spot-on. Drunken, white, working-class Christians are a real menace, beating people up in the streets like that.

53. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 Just Visiting

“But if I’ve read Chaise’s position correctly, he would be saying that there is no organised drug crime – MH was just ignorant and acting [alone].”

Where are you getting that from? Honestly, I have no idea how you’ve gotten that premise from my comments. Of course there are Muslims who push homophobia, and of course some of them are organised. I am genuinely confused by your interpretation of “my position”. Please clarify.

“Chaise – care to share where you do actually stand?”

On this one? I find it tricky. My post @4 sums my feelings up in all their clumsy ambivalance.

Ultimately, I think I have to come down on the side of freedom of speech here. MH, nasty little bigot that he is, did not directly threaten anyone, libel anyone, or demand that other people rise up in arms against anyone. So I end up with the old classic: “I despise your stupid little opinions, but I will mildly inconvenience myself to defend your right to say it.”

“You” in that sentence being MH, not you, obviously.

Laban @52:

And the context provided by the rest of my comment?

I am a poor, white Briton [1]. I earn one tenth of the national median wage. I am not a rampant homophobe.

This is because I was lucky enough to grow up somewhere where I got a bloody good elementary education, and thus escaped the religion I was brought up with (which would have promoted homophobia in me).

I may have made my point to subtly the first time, so I will make it more explicit this time. The problem is not muslims, the working class, homophobia or any of that. The problem is that leaving sections of your population under-educated makes them easier targets for manipulation by the extremely educated who happen to have wing-nut opinions. Murdoch’s propaganda wouldn’t take if a higher percentage of people had a basic grasp of source provenance and comparison techniques.

The problem, as I see it, is the combination of poverty with ill-education. Poverty provokes depression, distress, a sense of victimhood and a powerful desire to set someone on fire. Ill-education means that when the Daily Mail or the imam or the House Committee on Un-American Activities broadcast their dog-whistle, people might actually buy the idea that personal poverty really is the fault of the gays, the Jews or the liberal media elite, respectively. At that point, someone innocent is on fire.

[1] But haven’t been a Christian for quite some time.

55. Chaise Guevara

“The problem is that leaving sections of your population under-educated makes them easier targets for manipulation by the extremely educated who happen to have wing-nut opinions.”

Well said.

“Murdoch’s propaganda wouldn’t take if a higher percentage of people had a basic grasp of source provenance and comparison techniques.”

We really, REALLY need a stronger focus on the scientific method and statistics in schools.

56. the a&e charge nurse

[55] “We really, REALLY need a stronger focus on the scientific method and statistics in schools” – agrees, as long as it doesn’t cost £18k pa.

57. Chaise Guevara

@ 56

“agrees, as long as it doesn’t cost £18k pa.”

Yup.

“We really, REALLY need a stronger focus on the scientific method and statistics in schools.”

Careful there, if people start learning statistics, correlation, causality, all that stuf, that’ll be huge chunks of current lefty campaigns out the window.

And if people start learning about tax incidence….whoops, that’s corporation tax gone!

Tricky thing knowledge….

59. Chaise Guevara

@ Tim

“Careful there, if people start learning statistics, correlation, causality, all that stuf, that’ll be huge chunks of current lefty campaigns out the window.”

Interesting that you felt the need to add “lefty” in there as if crap arguments are a left-specific problem. Are we unscientifically ignoring data sets that don’t match our assumptions, perhance?

In any case: what use do I have for campaigns, left-wing or not, that are based on lies? That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.

“Interesting that you felt the need to add “lefty” in there as if crap arguments are a left-specific problem.”

Ahem, note that’s not what I said. Statistics etc: crap evidence is, at least as far as I can see, a feature of many lefty arguments.

Take Bindel and Harriman’s arguments about trafficking and prostitution. Their statistics were all over the place (at one point the claim was being made that every foreigner selling sex must have been trafficked as a sex slave).

Or the Marmot report on health and inequality. A child could see that two things need to be considered: not just how much inequality contributes to ill health but how much does ill health contribute to inequality? We can note the correlation but we need to work out the causation, don’t we? Marmot simply assumed that inequality causde the health, not that there might be causaility the other way too.

Or that report on wealth inequality that got everyone screaming about 100:1 ratios. The numpties measured it before the impact of all the things we do to reduce wealth inequalities.

This is all bad science and fewer people ignorant of statistics would lessen the impact of it.

Note please that I’m not saying that the desires of lefties(well, many, there are some still beyond the pale. Seymour for example) are wrong, immoral or even undesirable. That would be about arguments. My complaint here is about the evidence used, not the goals desired.

“crap evidence is, at least as far as I can see, a feature of many lefty arguments.”

Yes, Tim.

That’s because crap evidence is a feature of many political arguments. So your observation is true, a fortiori.

62. Chaise Guevara

“Ahem, note that’s not what I said. Statistics etc: crap evidence is, at least as far as I can see, a feature of many lefty arguments.”

Yeah, I agree. But it is somewhat convenient that you decided to single out bad lefty arguments instead of just talking about bad arguments generally.

Off the top of my head, bad right-wing arguments: the Big Society concept, Sarah Palin’s presentation of triage as “death panels” in the context of UHC, the made-up costs of switching to AV as presented by the No campaign, and the “portraying something is the same as condoning it” attitude taken by the charming puritans who want to bowdlerise the entertainment industry.

And yes, it’s possible that you don’t consider all of those to be right-wing. But then your prostitution example seems more right-wing than left-wing to me, as it’s clearly conservative.

Chaise @55:

“Murdoch’s propaganda wouldn’t take if a higher percentage of people had a basic grasp of source provenance and comparison techniques.”

We really, REALLY need a stronger focus on the scientific method and statistics in schools.

Now, I agree with your second statement entirely, but I do find it interesting how far it is from mine.

Historians begin from the understanding that single-source conclusions are intrinsically inadequate, and typically flawed. The core of historiographical technique is the skills to analyse the provenance and context of a source, and using that, to assess sources comparatively for reliability and bias to construct a synthesis. The instinct to check other sources before believing anything, and the skills to discern between them [1].

These are not scientific research skills (which we do need to see taught better) but humanities research skills, which as far as I can tell are being pushed towards the point where they will not be taught at all. Knowing how to hypothesise, design experiments, observe, document and describe will not help people spot Murdoch’s lies, or those of Tony Blair. Textual analysis and and a working technical knowledge of the concepts of provenance and bias might.

TimW @

Careful there, if people start learning statistics, correlation, causality, all that stuf, that’ll be huge chunks of current lefty campaigns out the window.

Any campaign. Anyone who’s selling something, be it Conservatism, Liberalism, laundry soap or spiritual enlightenment, abuses statistics. Reason being statistical analysis is the branch of mathematics which can be used to give quasi-scientific legitimacy to subjective opinions. Frequently, to diametrically opposing ones, both at the same time.

If there is one thing I wish the general public really grasped about statistics, it’s the GIGO principle. The only thing that really matters in determining the outcome of a statistical analysis is how you framed the question. Frame it right and the numbers will lead inexorably to the conclusion you wanted anyway.

One reason I appreciate Unity’s work so much is that my own statistical skills are far too limited for processing at first hand any problem on the scale I tend to examine (national, international, and multi-millennial). For current affairs, at least, I can rely on Unity to point out the bits where people have hidden opinion behind statistics.

[1] Also the ability to interpret and synthesis artifact evidence, but that’s less useful when it comes to figuring out which newspapers are lying on purpose and which are just being deceived.

64. Just Visiting

Back to the original Post – a Telegraph item on the theme:

Police ‘covered up’ violent campaign to turn London area ‘Islamic’

Victims say that officers in the borough of Tower Hamlets have ignored or downplayed outbreaks of hate crime, and suppressed evidence implicating Muslims in them, because they fear being accused of racism.

…One victim, Mohammed Monzur Rahman, said he was left partially blind and with a dislocated shoulder after being attacked by a mob in Cannon Street Road, Shadwell, for smoking during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last year.

…Tower Hamlets’ gay community has become a particular target of extremists. Homophobic crimes in the borough have risen by 80 per cent since 2007/8, and by 21 per cent over the last year, a period when there was a slight drop in London as a whole.

Last year, a mob of 30 young Muslims stormed a local gay pub, the George and Dragon, beating and abusing patrons. Many customers of the pub told The Sunday Telegraph that they have been attacked and harassed by local Muslim youths. In 2008 a 20-year-old student, Oli Hemsley, was left permanently paralysed after an attack by a group of young Muslims outside the pub. Only one of his assailants has been caught and jailed.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8570506/Police-covered-up-violent-campaign-to-turn-London-area-Islamic.html

65. Just Visiting

And TimeOut reported a year ago:

“Gay Londoners see attacks rise”

An insider in Tower Hamlets Council, who wished to remain anonymous, told us: ‘The issue is so sensitive that if I was to even raise the fact that these crimes are being committed by Bengalis with the complicity of the community I would be regarded as a racist.’

http://www.timeout.com/london/around-town/article/1058/gay-londoners-see-attacks-rise

@ Che Guevara

“Perhaps there should be a law against falsely informing someone that they are not entitled to access a public space? Or then again, perhaps not.”

How very droll….

It’s inadequate to describe this as an instance of false information. It’s clearly designed to do one or both of the following:

1. intimidate gay people into leaving the area, citing ‘punishment’.
2. encourage other Muslims to support and help bring this about, citing the Koran.

This goes beyond mere offence or ‘misleading information’. It carries an implied threat, just as surely as saying “I know where you live. It would be a terrible pity if something were to happen to your children” carries an implied threat. It could be counted as harassment or even affray, and the person responsible could go to prison for several years.

@ Sarah AB

“Would you (and maybe you would) see the stickers as simply ‘immature’ if they had been targeted against another group, a racial or religious group?”

Of course they wouldn’t, Sarah. LGBT people are a Class 2 minority for the liberal left nowadays. A bloody nuisance, in fact, in how they can sometimes make some Muslims falsely seem intolerant.

@ Ecce Homo

“Mr Tatchell doesn’t mention that in all likelihood the posters were originally put up and handed out by members of the English Defence League (EDL) as a tactic to incite anti-Muslim hatred. No one else here seems to have picked up on this either.”

Complete lying bollocks which has been proven in court to be complete lying bollocks.

“Gay rights should not be used as a cover for sectarian and xenophobic bigotry.”

Concern about Islamophobia should not be used as an excuse to whitewash or ignore homophobia. There was a crime committed here. Predictably some promptly try to change this into how another group are hard done to, and suggesting concern about gay rights is just a tactic. Well guess what, I’m gay and it’s not a tactic to me. We are real people, not just tactical assets for other people’s arguments, or in your case, tinfoil ‘theories’.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Worrying lessons from the 'Gay Free Zone' conviction http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  2. Steve Hynd

    Important article by @libcon http://bit.ly/iY3rgc #LGBTrights

  3. Elizabeth Eva Leach

    Worrying lessons from the 'Gay Free Zone' conviction http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  4. the daily quinn

    Worrying lessons from the 'Gay Free Zone' conviction http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  5. KateMaltby

    Tatchell forgot lesson 1. Listen to @graemearcher RT @libcon Worrying lessons from the 'Gay Free Zone' conviction http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

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    There are worrying lessons to note from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction says @PeterTatchell – http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  7. Natacha Kennedy

    There are worrying lessons to note from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction says @PeterTatchell – http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  8. A.N.Other Twit

    There are worrying lessons to note from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction says @PeterTatchell – http://bit.ly/ly4QE7

  9. A.N.Other Twit

    RT “@sunny_hundal: There are worrying lessons to note from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction says @PeterTatchell – http://t.co/U2DGL55”

  10. Owen Blacker

    There are worrying lessons to note from the ‘Gay Free Zone’ conviction says @PeterTatchell – http://bit.ly/ly4QE7





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