Azhar Ahmed, the young Muslim from Yorkshire who was convicted of posting offensive Facebook comments about British troops in Afghanistan, was sentenced at Huddersfield Magistrates’ Court today to a £300 fine and 240 hours of community service.
Here is the entirely predictable response of the English Defence League to Ahmed’s sentence, featuring their usual hypocritical whine about a “two-tier system”:
Of course, there is indeed a two-tier system in operation. Only last week an EDL supporter named Kenneth Holden was in court for sentencing after being convicted of posting death threats against Muslims on Facebook. He wasn’t even fined, but received only a 12‑month community order placing him under the supervision of the probation service “so his attitudes towards Muslims could be looked at”.
You can imagine how differently a Muslim would have been treated if they had posted similar threats on Facebook.
In fact, what was unusual in Holden’s case was that he was even prosecuted in the first place, as EDL members post threats against Muslims on Facebook on a regular basis without being charged with any offence. When Azhar Ahmed appeared in court back in March, the EDL’s official Facebook page was filled with sickening threats of violence against him. News of his sentencing today provoked comments like these.
Azhar Ahmed’s Facebook post, though undoubtedly offensive, contained no actual threats of violence at all, yet he was charged under the Communications Act 2003 which makes it an offence to send “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.
The police response to the threats of violence against Azhar Ahmed was very different. Instead of being prosecuted, the individuals concerned were let off with cautions (a fifth individual arrested on suspicion of inciting racial hatred was bailed, but it is unclear if any further action was taken). Here is the real “two-tier system” in operation.
[This post has been amended to take account of the cautions given back in June which I have to admit I had overlooked, though it doesn’t undermine the point about the double standards applied to Azhar Ahmed and the individuals who threatened him. Thanks to Yakoub Islam for the info.]
Postscript: See also “Teen in court for obscene Facebook comments against dead soldier accused”, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 29 June 2012