Ham at Bristol mosque was ‘revenge’ for poppy burning

David FosterA man who was high on drugs defiled a mosque and insulted its members by hanging slices of ham on the railings and in the shoes of worshippers while they prayed in an act of “religious revenge”. David Foster told a court that he carried out the highly offensive act to give Muslims a “taste of their own medicine” as retaliation for extremists burning poppies.

Foster, 22, and Jamie Knowlson, 30, were caught on CCTV hanging the ham on the railings of the Al-Basera mosque in Wade Street, St Jude’s in the early hours of January 9. The CCTV showed them returning to Redwood House at about 6.30am, a homeless hostel opposite, and the mosque’s caretaker, Abdi Djmaa followed to complain. As Mr Djmaa returned to the mosque he heard someone shouting “bad meat”, “girls” and “the next visit will be harder”.

Foster was due to face trial, but changed his mind and pleaded guilty at Bristol Magistrates’ Court via video link from Bristol Prison to causing racial or religiously aggravated harassment.

Prosecuting, May Li said: “At 6.30am two men were seen skewering slices of ham on the railings outside the Al-Baseera mosque. The clerk of the mosque went to the Little George Street entrance, where people leave shoes for prayer. There were 12 slices of ham on the floor, and some of it was in people’s shoes, and pork inside a takeaway box was left in the vicinity.”

CCTV footage showed Foster and Knowlson running off to Redwood House. Police first arrested Knowlson at the house, and later Foster. In interview, he said: “I haven’t got a clue what happened, I was out of my mind on drugs. I woke up to find police were there saying I put ham in the mosque.”

But he then told officers he put the ham in the mosque in retaliation for Muslims publicly burning poppies, something which has not been done at this mosque. He said: “It is not acceptable that they can go around burning our poppies. They can have a bit of their own medicine if they want to go around burning poppies.”

Foster will be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court next month. Earlier this month Knowlson was given a six-month suspended prison sentence and 150 hours’ unpaid work.

Mubarak Mohamud, one of the three imams, or teachers, at the mosque, said the mosque was against poppy burning. “We want to respect others and expect others to respect us in return. It is sad that our community is carrying on with its own faith and minding its own business, yet suffers when someone does something like this in retaliation for something we didn’t do,” he said.

Bristol Evening Post, 22 June 2011