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Two men in court charged with religious hatred offences in the UK and US

A MAN in Leicester and a former US marine appeared in separate courts this week charged with crimes against Islam.

Peter James Crawford, 52, stands accused in Leicester Crown Court of publicly ripping pages from a Koran, and 52-year-old Randy Linn pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Ohio to setting fire to  prayer mat in a mosque.

This is not the Koran Crawford tore up, but one that was 'desecrated' earlier

This is not the Koran Crawford tore up, but one that was prepared earlier

According to this report, Crawford, said to be an atheist, shocked Muslim volunteers at a stall promoting Islam when he ripped out pages from the Koran. He then threw the “holy book” onto the ground and told them:

Your religion is a load of bollocks.

Crawford denies causing religiously aggravated intentional harassment, alarm or distress, by demonstrating hostility towards Islam.

The incident happened at the Islamic Information Centre’s stall, near the Clock Tower in Leicester city centre, on a busy Saturday afternoon on May 12.

Kamran Qayyum told the court:

We give out literature to create an awareness of Islam and engage with the public.

He was with four volunteers when Crawford began pacing around nearby. Qayyum said:

He started tearing up pages from a book and they were going on the floor. He wasn’t saying anything. The pages covered a lot of ground, they were everywhere.I then noticed Arabic inscriptions and realised it was the Koran. I knelt down and was picking up the papers when he threw the Koran down, just missing me.

Qayyum added:

The Koran is sacred to us and we honour it. We also have a Bible on our stand and we show the Bible the same respect.One of the laws of the Koran is it shouldn’t be on the floor, it should be high up and our hands should be clean when it’s touched. I was shocked.

Quyyum said that after the defendant was arrested:

He made a signal to us, shaping his hand in the form of a gun, saying ‘See you next Saturday.’

Defence advocate Steven Newcombe said:

There are many who oppose Islam. Did you take it he was expressing anti-Islamic views and disrespecting the religion?

“Yes,” said Quyyum.

Quyyum agreed that apart from a hand gesture – which Mr Newcombe suggested was the pointing of a finger rather than a gun gesture – the defendant did not threaten or provoke any violence.

Another stall volunteer, Zahid Hussein, said:

I saw him ripping up the book. I was in shock, disgusted. It’s our life, our way of life and we live by that book – it’s very sacred.

Crawford claimed he was expressing his disagreement with religion of any kind.

He told the police it was his own copy of the Koran he tore up, and he would have done the same with a Bible as he did not understand either holy book and “hated” all religion.

I’m not against the people, just their religion.

James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting, said:

The real issue is whether Crawford was insulting and whether it was a crime that we say he committed.

It’s tradition in this country of freedom of speech and people are entitled to say what they want, as long as it’s not illegal in relation to the law, which prevents people going out to cause harassment, alarm or distress by insulting behaviour, basically upsetting people.

It’s for you to decide whether what he did was insulting or whether it was a legitimate piece of freedom of speech being exercised or if what he did was deliberately calculated to upset the people from the Islamic Information Centre.

Randy Linn: 'Most Muslims are terrorists'

Randy Linn: ‘Most Muslims are terrorists’

Randy Linn’s excuse for breaking into a mosque in Ohio and setting fire to a prayer rug was that he wanted revenge for the killings of American troops overseas, saying he’d become enraged after seeing images of wounded soldiers in the news.

Every day you turn on the TV, you see Muslims trying to kill Americans.

When asked by a federal judge whether he thought all Muslims are terrorists, he answered:

I’d say most of them are.

A deal between prosecutors and Linn calls for him to be sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment next April. He pleaded guilty to intentionally damaging and destroying religious property and two gun-related charges.

US District Judge Jack Zouhary told Linn that his acts were an attack on all places of religion and that the mosque was a symbol of peace.

You are no better than the terrorists or extremists you sought to punish.

US Attorney Steven Dettelbach said it was fortunate no one in the mosque at the time.

This is a man who had intolerance in his heart and acted with hate. We can count ourselves lucky.

Dr Mahjabeen Islam, President of the Islamic Centre, said its members been overwhelmed by support from the community and churches. But she was saddened by Linn’s statements in court.

It was heart-wrenching to hear him speak because the ignorance and intolerance is still palpable. This is an individual who knows nothing about Islam.

Linn said he started to have second thoughts when he drove home.

Coming back, I thought, ‘What in the heck did I do?’ I feel bad I did it. It’s a little too late now.

Hat tip: Great Satan & BarrieJohn (Crawford report) and Trevor Blake

Breaking news: A Missouri man who identifies as a male witch is behind bars after he placed several threatening phone calls to achurch, stating that he was going to burn down the building and kill the pastor.

Derek Ficik, 26, of Maryland Heights is accused of calling Matthias Lot Church in St Charles on Sunday night and leaving violent messages that included sexually explicit language.

According to reports, Ficik stated that he would “make the pastor pray to God as he shot him in the head,” and that he was going to:

Burn Christianity and all its followers and fill the seas with Christian blood.

 

23 Responses to “Two men in court charged with religious hatred offences in the UK and US”

  1. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    If it was his own copy of the koran that he ripped up and threw on the ground, so what. His property, he can treat it as he likes. Just because someone else thinks it’s wrong to do that to a book does not give them the right to stop him. This is why the law should be changed to get rid of the “crime” of insult. So my speech/actions are insulting to you, so deal with it.

    The US case is different in that, 1/he was saying that most muslims are terrorists. What a daft statement to make. 2/he broke into the mosque and destroyed something that wasn’t his. 20 years in prison does seem a bit harsh though.

  2. Nelmonster says:

    Here we go again with this ridiculous section 5 of the public order act.
    James Bide Thomas states, “It’s tradition in this country of freedom of speech and people are entitled to say what they want, as long as it’s not illegal in relation to the law, which prevents people going out to cause harassment, alarm or distress by insulting behavior, basically upsetting people.”
    Oh no, the poor chap has been insulted or upset, quickly, prosecute him!
    However crass and poorly judged this mans actions, he has every right to air his opinion and yes, rip up a book if he so feels the urge.
    I recently sent a letter to my daughters school, using quite strong language, in response to a blatant bit of DOG indoctrination she was forced to participate in. I am sure that if the headteacher was so inclined, she could also take me to court for offense!
    In the case of section 5, and to quote the lyrics from The Prodigy, ‘f**k them and their law’

  3. barriejohn says:

    And we look down on countries that prosecute people for blasphemy!

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2012/12/take-action–urge-your-mp-to-support-free-speech

    The government needs a rocket up its backside.

  4. Nick says:

    Long-time atheist first time poster…
    I personally think both arrests were warranted. For the rug-burner there isn’t much argument to be made so I’ll jump right to the contentious bit…
    It’s not clear to me from the article if Crawford got “his” Koran from the booth of volunteers or if he brought his own from home but in either case he took an overt and deliberate act to cause a scene. I certainly don’t think any criminal charge specifically relating to religion would be justified – but a charge of harassment or disturbing the peace seems warranted.
    To switch it up, imagine you have a booth and you are giving out free frozen yogurt. A man approaches, accepts a yogurt and then proceeds to smash it to the ground and grumble to himself about free speech and his hate of dairy while he stomps on it for 20 minutes. I’d certainly like police to be present to ensure my safety.

    Believe what you want but there are sometimes consequences to acting crazy in a civilized society.

  5. AgentCormac says:

    I’m in two minds about the Crawford story. I will often stop and let ranting xtain street preachers know that I disagree with the grotesque nonsense they are shouting out at passers-by. A pointed retort (which I always imagine goes straight to their black hearts like a devastating arrow – but in reality probably doesn’t really register at all), but then I leave it at that and let them get on with promoting their nonsense to a world that quite clearly isn’t listening. I would happily do the same if I came across a bunch of muslims ranting in the street – but I can’t recall ever having seen them proselytising so overtly in public. So while I support Crawford in his desire to let any vocal religious group know that their views are not universally shared, I think he went too far by tearing up their fairy story book, regardless of whether it was his own copy or theirs. To my mind there’s making a point and there’s just plain confrontation.

    Religion is responsible for some of the most appalling crimes and inhumane deeds our species has had to endure. I would hope that as atheists living in a democracy we would be able to resist stooping to their level.

  6. barriejohn says:

    But was it a CRIME, AgentCormac?

  7. AgentCormac says:

    Personally, I would say not, barriejohn. Just unhelpful.

  8. Matt Westwood says:

    My view is wow, wish I’d thought of that. Tearing up the Koran in front of a Muslim is what we should all be doing. It is paper. It is marks on paper. It is rubbish marks on paper. There is no excuse for its existence. How else will they ever learn that we hold their shit beliefs in the utmost contempt?

    If, having done that, you are still at liberty, say the Lawd’s Prayer backarsewards in the face of a xtian. See the abject terror on their faces …

  9. Barry Duke says:

    I have to confess to once snatching a heavy, leatherbound Bible out of a street preacher’s hand, and throwing it under a passing Routemaster. But this was only after he tried to hit me alongside the head with it. He was abusing a group of nurses protesting outside a hospital in Paddington over pay and working conditions, calling them “harlots” and “sluts”. He attacked me after I told him to shut the fuck up.Loud cheers, whistles and clapping followed after the bus shredded his precious “holy book”.

  10. Daz says:

    Nick

    I don’t see any accusation from the Muslims involved that the Qur’an in question wasn’t Crawford’s property.

    As regards the charges against him, merely ripping up a book which appears to be his own property should not be an offence under law. If his overall behaviour was “leery” enough, I could see a case being made for unruly conduct, breech of the peace, or some such—or, indeed, plain old harassment. But those offences already existed long before this silly and unneeded “religious harassment” clause.

  11. Nick says:

    Another thought excercise:
    How do you feel about the Westboro Baptist Church? I believe this to be a very similar situation. I am a firm believer that the WBC’s beliefs and speech ought be protected but their actions are reprehensible and often cross the line into the realm of illegal harassment.

  12. Matt Westwood says:

    Westboro? Didn’t they organise a burning of the Koran? Politically ill-advised by going around burning the holy text of another religion, when they themselves likewise follow a different holy text. No doubt they’d be the first to dance up and down in rage if someone burnt a holey babble.

    Burning books is a bit of a waste of raw materials, unless you’ve using them as the base of a Nov. 5th bonfire, in which case to build the base out of Korans and Bibbles would be an excellent idea. And if someone wants to stoke up the flames with copies of e.g. Bhagavad Gita, the Elder Eddas, the Mabinogion, Lord of the Rings, the Wasp Factory, Mein Kampf or any other book that is held in holy esteem by some group of nutters, then let it rip.

    One caveat: you have to own the books you burn. If you touch a single one of my own collection you will have effectively committed suicide.

  13. Robster says:

    Hey barriejohn, re after the bus shredded his precious “holy book”. If god/baby jesus/allah were so keen on keeping the pages pure and clean, perhaps the deities would actually do something, like protecting said sacred book. Did you notice how busy god/jesus/allah was protecting the churches in Fiji during their recent cyclone? Not one hall of delusion was spared from the storm. See, god/jesus/allah failed again! That’s all the deity’s do, fail, dismally.

  14. Alan C says:

    The only “crime” committed by Crawford was littering.

    #Muslim volunteers at a stall promoting Islam#

    What I’d like to see as a criminal offense is bloody proselytizing, I wonder if they were causing an obstruction with their stall? That’s an offense.

  15. Matt Westwood says:

    “What I’d like to see as a criminal offense is bloody proselytizing, I wonder if they were causing an obstruction with their stall? That’s an offense.”

    If of course they’ve paid money in order to be allowed to put their stall there, or if there are bylaws which allow anyone to place a stall in that location, then I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about it. If, on the other hand, they’ve just plonked their stall down without even asking permission of the administration, then hey could indeed be on dodgy legal ground.

    I would not like to see proselytising made an offence, because that would be yet another infringement upon freedom of speech. The more you sanction against particular practices of freedom of speech that you disagree with, the more ammunition others will have against your own freedom of speech. Huh! You made it illegal to voice support of Nazi principles, that’s not fair, I am therefore going to make it illegal to voice support of libertarian viewpoints. And so it turns into a playground squabble of the sort that ends “I’ll tell teacher on you!”

  16. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    I’m with Matt on this point, much as I dislike these religious types spouting nonsense on the high street, I would never support moves to make it illegal. Free speech means just that and it’s very easy to support when it’s your side that’s speaking. It becomes a lot harder when it’s the opposition speaking but that’s when it’s important, if you believe in free speech you have to support the right of others to say things that you disagree with.

  17. Dess says:

    I don’t really understand. Surely all you have to do is to counter with stating all the hate speech that is preached with the text. You have wife beating, slavery, the induction to slay and cast terror unto Jews and non believers. You have the doctrine that for not believing you should be viciously tortured for eternity. Hell, if any authority tried to prosecute I’d contend on what grounds and launch a counter complaint.

  18. Matt Westwood says:

    Not to go within half a mile of that clock tower? Unacceptable, I’m afraid. That is a fascistic imposition upon a person whose only crime is exercising his freedom of speech.

  19. Georgina says:

    Forget religion. One man is guilty of littering – fine him 5 quid and send him home.
    Setting fire to a prayer mat is wanten destruction of some else’s property, fine him the value of the mat and court costs.

    I have heard that they are giving the prayer mat destroyer 20 years, while rapists are given community service.
    We need laws which do not permit judges to act on their own feelings. Just laws would fit the punishment to the crime.

  20. jay says:

    “I have heard that they are giving the prayer mat destroyer 20 years, while rapists are given community service.”

    While de-emphasized, the article mentions two gun related charges, which probably has more to do with the length of sentence. And despite perceptions in the rest of the world, many gun related charges in the US are positively draconian.

  21. john.c says:

    If the stall was handing out Korans,then it became his property to do as he wanted with, though i agree with a littering charge.If he stole it and destroyed it then clearly thats an offence against property.
    If he does not understand its contents which were in arabic, then he should not be guilty causing religious offence, as it could equaly well be an arabic catalogue of sex aids, (though lacking in pictures).If he did understand it he would be entitled to destroy it citing the obscene publications act.