Police and media accused of double standards over anti-Muslim violence

A Scottish man who describes himself as a “proud racist” has admitted threatening to bomb Glasgow Central Mosque and engage in targeted killings of Muslims. Neil MacGregor has been convicted of a breach of the peace but there has been surprise in some quarters that he was not charged with terrorist offences. Critics have also said that the case would have attracted considerably more media interest if the man’s motivation had been Islamic rather than anti-Islamic.

In an email to Strathclyde police, MacGregor demanded the closure of all mosques in Scotland, threatening to kidnap and behead one Muslim each week if this demand were not met. He later called police to say that he had planted a nail bomb in Glasgow Central Mosque but police found nothing suspicious after evacuating 100 worshippers. MacGregor pleaded guilty and has been remanded in custody but sentencing was deferred yesterday by Glasgow Sherriff Court.

Comparisons have been made with the case of the Islamic militant Mohammed Atif Siddique, who was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 2007 for collecting and circulating terrorist material. Siddique’s lawyer Aamer Anwar, suggested this week that the authorities would bring terrorism charges against Muslims but not against white racists.

However, a spokesperson for the Crown Office insisted that “The facts of the case made it clear that this was a hoax bomb threat which was racially aggravated. There was no evidence of terrorist motivation or intention.”

Osama Saeed of the Scottish Islamic Foundation responded by saying “It’s all too easy to dismiss MacGregor as a fantasist and lunatic – many of the Muslims convicted of terror offences could be similarly described.”

Saeed, who is also the Scottish National Party’s prospective Parliamentary candidate for Glasgow Central, criticised the lack of media coverage. “Imagine if a Scottish Muslim pleaded guilty to threatening to blow up Glasgow Cathedral and behead one Christian a week until all British troops were pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “It would be splashed over every newspaper in the land.”

But the story has spread quickly in online discussions, not only amongst Muslims. “I just feel angry that a chance to convince the Muslim community that there is no bias against them has fallen flat on its face” wrote the Christian blogger Graham Martin yesterday. “This whole situation might actually be used to justify further violence.”

Ekklesia, 20 June 2009