This appeared yesterday on the Facebook page of far-right group Britain First. As you can see, the post has now been shared nearly twenty thousand times.
The picture may look familiar. That is because it is a well-known far-right fraud that has been circulating around the internet in various forms for several years now. Its claims are almost entirely inaccurate.
Tohseef Shah, who sprayed the words “Islam will dominate the world – Osama is on his way” and “Kill Gordon Brown” across the plinth of a war memorial in Burton upon Trent in May 2010, was not in fact fined £50. Having been convicted of criminal damage, he was ordered to pay £500 in compensation as well as £85 costs.
There were complaints that he hadn’t been charged with a racially or religiously aggravated offence, which would have carried a heavier penalty, but the CPS had decided against that on the grounds that the offence was politically motivated and “no racial or religious group can be shown to have been targeted”.
The one accurate claim by Britain First concerns Emdadur Choudhury. In November 2010 he burned two plastic poppies during a Muslim Against Crusades protest in London and was charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act with acting in a manner likely to cause “harassment, harm or distress”. Choudhury was indeed fined £50.
There were complaints about that, too – notably in The Economist, where it was argued that Choudhury’s prosecution represented a suppression of the right to free speech.
As for the poppy graffiti, it was spray-painted on Portsmouth’s Jami Mosque, also in November 2010, on the eve of an English Defence League protest there. Nobody has ever been charged in connection with the graffiti, still less sentenced to 6 months in prison for the crime.
The only arrest that took place was during the EDL demonstration itself. Blaise Silvester broke through police lines and launched a violent attack on peaceful counter-protestors. Having been convicted of affray and assault, he was given a 12-month community order and told to do 100 hours of unpaid work in the community. Due to an administrative error by the probation service he escaped prison.
But what does Britain First care about accuracy? Its sole interest is in whipping up anger and resentment against Muslims. If there is a contradiction in the law here, it lies in the fact that there is no effective legislation that allows Britain First to be prosecuted for incitement to hatred against the Muslim community, as it certainly would be if it targeted the Jewish or Sikh communities in this way.