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So it is illegal to burn a Koran, now?

From the Telegraph: ‘Koran burning’: men expect to be charged with inciting racial hatred

From the BBC: Men arrested in Gateshead over suspected Koran burning.

From the Guardian… nothing that I can see right now (9.45 am). This absence is being remarked upon in the comments sections of unrelated Guardian stories.

Correction – upon searching I see the Guardian did have a story yesterday. The remarks I mentioned are on the absence of comment or commentable pieces dealing with this story in today’s paper. Quite right too. This is a big story for two reasons. Firstly, who would have thought it? After all that buildup, Pastor Terry Jones, the ticks-every-stereotype gun-toting American pastor, did not burn any Korans. Instead the deed was done in the car park of a Gateshead pub. The second big aspect of this story is explained in this line from the Guardian story I did not see earlier:

Northumbria police said the men were not arrested for watching or distributing the video, but on suspicion of burning the Qur’an.

All usual caveats apply. I consider burning a religion’s holy book to be a nasty deliberate insult. People should still be free to do it. They should also be free to video themselves doing it and distribute the video, whether or not it spreads religious or racial hatred. I am not in favour of the hatred. I am in favour of the freedom. Anyway, I sort-of knew that the video distribution was probably illegal upon grounds of spreading religious hatred. I did not know the burning itself was.

Further update: Confusingly, there is now another Guardian story illustrated by exactly the same picture as the first one but directly contradicting it in what it says about the actual grounds for arrest: Quote:

The six men were arrested on suspicion of stirring racial hatred, police said, which is outlawed under the 1986 public order act. They were not arrested for the actual attack on, and burning of, the Qur’an, but in connection with the posting of the video. Section 21 of the 1986 act reads: “A person who distributes, or shows or plays, a recording of visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting is guilty of an offence if he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or … racial hatred is likely to be stirred up.”

Last update, I promise: Yet another confusing aspect of this story is that according to the second Guardian story, the men have been charged with stirring up racial hatred under the 1986 Public Order Act, not religious hatred at all.

Will the prosecution be able to make that – the racial angle – stick? Do they even want to? So far as I know, scarcely anyone has actually been prosecuted under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. One might have thought this would be an ideal opportunity for the authorities to try out the Act in the courts, if they were serious. Could it be that the racial hatred charge is intended to fail and is merely a piece of theatre to placate Muslims and protect our troops in Afghanistan?

34 comments to So it is illegal to burn a Koran, now?

  • Ian B

    Yes, it is. The police have been fully transformed into our mutaween.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I wonder if the police will also enforce any laws if, say, the complete works of Voltaire are burned, or if the Bible is burned, or if other books on religion, philosophy/insert subject of choice are burned, defaced, etc.

    Yeah, right.

    And people wonder why some of us, however respectful of property rights, take umbrage when a mosque is proposed to be built within spitting distance of Ground Zero.

  • JadedLibertarian

    What race is Islam?

    I really cannot believe that the UK justice system is prosecuting people for burning a Koran. The mind boggles.

    Back door sharia indeed.

  • Ian B

    If I were in a good position to withstand the potential legal fallout; which I’m not; I’d be inclined to burn a Bible on youtube just to see what reaction it would get from the authorities.

    On a general philosophical note, the problem we now have is that the law now no longer fits the Common Law principle of punishing acts (whether rightly or wrongly). Instead, under the influence of a century of marxism/post-marxism, post-modernism, the therapy and psychology movements etc, it now seeks out particular types of persons to punish and merely uses acts as a guide to sniff them out.

    So burning a Koran is proof that you are a type of person- a racist– and looking at pictures of a certain type is proof that you are a type of person- a podiphile– and saying nasty things about gays is proof that you are a type of person- a homophobe– and so on. The act itself is not being punished. It is your moral character itself which is under scrutiny. It’s a fundamentally different paradigm to the one we are used to, in which certain acts are unacceptable and punished by the State. Instead, the paradigm is that of removing certain types of persons from society and the acts they perform are largely irrelevant other than as indicators of that inner nature.

  • g1lgam3sh

    If it wasn’t in Arabic then it wasn’t a real Koran…no case to answer.

  • pete

    People should be able to burn any books they like as long as they own them or have the permission of the owner.

    Instead of harrassing people when they choose to burn some of their own property why not punish those who act anti-socially because of it?

  • Dale Amon

    A long time ago here I made the comment that any nation whose flag you cannot burn is not worth fighting for. I will say the same about religions and their books.

    So if a group of Atheists gets copies of the Great Books of all of the major religions and has a Northern Ireland style July 12th bonfire, then what would they be guilty of? Anti-anti-reformation hatred?

  • Laird

    Well said, Dale.

  • Novus

    It’s disquieting, to say the least, that the conflation of religion and race goes unremarked in this post. The initial link quoted mentions “racial hatred”, which later in the post becomes “religious or racial hatred” and finally “religious hatred”.

    Surely the main point of objection to these arrests is that the “crime” of burning a religious text somehow falls under the banner of racial hatred. To my knowledge, Muslims are united not by the colour of their skin or their race (such as one may wish to define that word) but by their shared creed, their shared belief, as a consequence of which it seems an unavoidable conclusion that Islam has nothing to do with race whatsoever, and any attempt to define in racial terms any offence against Islam must be seen and exposed for the mendacity that it is, which is something I would routinely have expected from this blog.

  • Richard Garner

    Ian B,

    There are plenty of Bible burning images on YouTube, but I’m not sure which, if any, are from the UK. Nergal, singer for the Polish black metal band Behemoth was recently prosecuted in Poland for destroying a Bible. But, then Poland is a much more institutionally religious country than the UK.

  • So if a group of Atheists gets copies of the Great Books of all of the major religions and has a Northern Ireland style July 12th bonfire, then what would they be guilty of? Anti-anti-reformation hatred?

    I’m sure there’s some sort of fire safety code they would be violating. You can’t even burn dried leaves in your backyard any more.

  • It’s disquieting, to say the least, that the conflation of religion and race goes unremarked in this post.

    Yeah, it is bad to conflate those things, no doubt about it, but the actual issue here is freedom of expression.

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    What would make this REALLY interesting would be if the youtube clip has been edited to omit the fact that the book actually being burnt was a Bible….Of course, the DICSUC will just change the tune, to charge the ‘meta-offence’ of ‘intending to insult by pretending to burn a Koran’…Sorta like being charged with selling a narcotic when it is actually icing sugar. That is still a ‘narcotics offence’ in most places, notwithstanding that in any rational universe the most it would be is fraud. (I haven’t seen the clip).

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    [!ENTITY DICSUC “Dickhead In Charge, Situation Under Control”]

  • Stonyground

    Being as I am, an atheist, it needs to be pointed out that the Koran contains very specific instructions for believers to hunt down and kill me. If I had burned the book, I would think that someone accusing me of fostering hatred by burning a book that promotes both hatred and murder would have a tough time convincing a jury.

    The Bible also contains instructions to kill me but these are fortunately ambiguous enough for believers to pretend that it doesn’t.

  • APL

    “Racial hatred” would presumably be the wrong charge since the musselmen are at pains to claim they, rather like the borg, will assimilate anyone.

  • Verity

    I, too, have wondered about the genetic make’up of islam that causes it to be a “race” rather than a religion.

    On “homophobic” beloved of Peter Tatchell and his show-offy ilk … I’ve pointed out before that a phobia is an irrational fear of. It is not a hatred of. Yet this gross illiteracy has been given currency by the MSM because they want to believe in “homophobia” because it is one more thread of society that they can pull out of the tapestry of our culture.

    Tatchell, you’re wrong about the word you made up – “homophobia”, and you’re wrong in your ignorant assumption that France had something called “citizen’s arrest”. It doesn’t. That’s the US. In ome states. It is not included in the Code Napoleon … and before you get too excited, the Code Napoleon isn’t a poncy code by which French gays recognise each other.

  • Johnathan: I do wonder. Muslims didn’t create the inquisitorial nanny-state here, nor does it exist for their benefit. Its growth, like its eradication, is a purely local responsibility wherever it is found, and the wholesale conversion of the entire ummah to Pastafarianism overnight would change nothing whatsoever about it except some short-term shuffling of targets. This is our failing, not Park 51’s or anybody else’s.

    Ian B: almost wholly agree with your analysis of our degeneration from the secular and egalitarian framework of punishing harmful acts, to the spiritual and hierarchical project of reforming sinful sheep. That, I grant you, has a lot to do with the genesis of ‘progress’. But it doesn’t really have much to do with its excessive political support. Most people have small interest in reforming others, and are militantly uninterested in being reformed – particularly, as with modern politicians and their hangers-on, by classes of persons they despise.

    The lure for the public, and the driving force behind modern inquisitorialism, is the great maggot of Total Security. The sinner against this is whoever seems in any way unsafe to have around. This is the real pup we have been sold, and lies behind everything from paedo-panic universal vetting boards on one end of the scale, to prosecutions under any possible pretext for speech that gives offence (and may therefore provoke some fight somewhere) on the other.

    Justice punishes people only for actual crimes; security, for actuarial ones.

    These can’t be reconciled, and we’re presently headed down the wrong fork.

    If we can’t convince enough people that it leads to a really dangerous place, then we will end up eaten by LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS!

  • Chuck6134

    Every time I think the US is becoming a caricature of a freedom loving country, I read England has gone one better….

    Given how selective our race based hate laws are applied, I predict the same for you guys. Political correctness will rule who is charged, just like what is happening here.

  • Chuck6134, I have some good news and bad news…

    The good news is that the notion that there is a fixed quantity of wealth is a demonstrable fallacy.

    The bad news is that the notion that there is a fixed quantity of tyranny is also a demonstrable fallacy…

    All things getting worse in Britain does is give equally wicked people bad ideas in the USA too.

  • Laird

    “Justice punishes people only for actual crimes; security, for actuarial ones.”

    Thanks for that line, Gray. I may “borrow” it someday!

  • Chuck Prime, who used to run an Objectivist BBS here in Minnesota has a message for those who insist on appeasing the practitioners of Jihad:


  • (Link)If I have anything to say about it, then there IS a movement afoot to burn Korans for freedom…

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AND REPOST. Burn the Koran for freedom. Burn it and upload the video for the world to see. Defy Muslim Supremacists and their appeasers. Let it enrage them! Let their rage endanger the military! Remind the military that defeating danger from our enemies is their job. Force our generals and politicians to defend our rights against the enemy, and to stop defending the enemy against our rights. We can control this war from our own backyards. Let’s roll. http://www.BurnTheKoranForFreedom.com

  • Schrodinger's Dog


    I’m really glad you brought this up. When I first read about it, I was absolutely furious anyone should be prosecuted for such a thing. But what are we going to do about it?

    Is there a legal defence fund for these guys? If so, I’d like to make a donation.

    We need to keep this one in the limelight. Is anyone in the media willing to take-up their case? (Note it’s already largely disappeared from the papers.) If not, could someone start a Facebook campaign? Has anyone already done so? Unfortunately, supporting these people is going to be difficult.

    When prosecuting people in hate cases, the authorities tend to choose their victims carefully. When the Canadian authorities attempted to prosecute the well-known journalist Mark Steyn for hate speech, they got a thoroughly deserved metaphorical bloody nose. Rather, they usually go after unsympathetic characters: skinheads and people who are just different from the mainstream. And I suspect this case is no exception. The guys accused of doing this are probably a load of thugs and morons – but even thugs and morons are entitled to their beliefs and opinions.

    “Incitement to … hatred” is an outrageous curtailment of free speech, simply because it’s such a nebulous term. Exactly What does it mean? Oftentimes the answer seems to be, whatever the those in power want it to mean.

    So, like I said, what are we going to do about it?

  • Steve.wess

    It is true that burning someone else’s beloved religious tome is rude. And wasteful of paper, too.
    There is a solution.
    here is a new product idea, sure to succeed – if success is measured by the sum of billions sold + billions pi$$ed off:

    Special, gift-boxed lumps of genuine, anthracite coal, With the complete, precision, micro-engraved koran etched onto its surface area.

    Perfect for a warm, enjoyable fire. Imagine! Heat your home or cook your baby-back ribs with the words of the “prophet”.

    …If we could just come up with a catchy name for the website…

  • Novus,
    As you will have seen I did notice the race/religion confusion eventually, once I had stopped focussing on the oddity of first reading that the Koran-burning itself, rather than distributing the video on YouTube, was the offence and then that it wasn’t. You will also have seen my theory that the choice of a charge racial rather than religious hatred may well be an indication that the authorities are either indifferent to the success of the prosecution or desire to lose. All I can say is, let us keep watching.

    Schrodinger’s dog,

    I have no knowledge of the character of these men other than that they burned a couple of Korans, an act of which I disapprove. I am also deeply suspicious of the EDL. Nonetheless, I too would be willing to make a contribution on the principle of protecting free expression.

    I googled for any mention of a defence fund. I didn’t find one, not even on the EDL’s website. So far as I know the line they are taking is that of repentance, so they might not even be seeking contributions. As I just mentioned to Novus, much about this case seems iffy and convoluted and suggestive of deals being done behind the scenes.

  • Ivan Ivanovich

    It’s too bad that 1986 law was not in place in 1941. Then you Limies would have been requred to give the Nazi Salute and scream Heil Hitler!

    Thank God my Granny left Motherwell in 1901. The USA is screwed up, but Not So Great is a warning to us.

  • Laird

    Incidentally, if anyone here hasn’t followed Lesley Bates’ link to Chuck’s “Open Letter to General Petreus”, it’s worth a read.

  • Nuke Gray

    If you are not allowed to burn leaves in your own backyard, how soon before all barbeques need to be licenced, and usage overseen and regulated by the local council? Could be a good satire in that …..

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Hate it and leave it, Britisher pals.

  • Verity

    Novus … “… an unavoidable conclusion that Islam has nothing to do with race whatsoever, and any attempt to define in racial terms any offence against Islam must be seen and exposed for the mendacity that it is, which is something I would routinely have expected from this blog.”


    The left is assisting the islamics in promoting the late comer (only in the 800s AD) koran to a special status. It’s just a book recording the beliefs of a bunch of primitives who lived in the desert and were led by an – alleged – epilectic* who at times appeared to be receiving messages from someone trading under the name of “allah”.

    How does it happen that this belief system, which has produced absolutely nothing in the furtherance of the human race, is being promoted by the enemies of progress (the western commies) without people falling over with laughter? This is a desert individual who created a “religion” and this “religion” is being promoted as the destroyer of the advanced West?

    They should bear in mind that the advanced West, and its ally, India, which knows these people only too well (why do you think they agreed to Partition and the creation of a new state, Pakistan, the minute they got independence from Britain?), has the power to blow them back to allah in bits as a contribution to the religion of pieces.

    *No offence whatsoever intended to people who have the condition of epilepsy. To remote desert inhabitees in the 800s, this condition was probably rare enough to be singular, and appear as though the sufferer was conveying a special message.

  • Epic Stache

    September 11, 2011 is Worldwide Burn a Koran Day.

    On this day people throughout the world will burn Korans.

    Until then, people worldwide will plan to burn Korans,
    they will publicize their intent to burn Korans,
    they will encourage others to burn Korans, and
    they will defend the right of all people to burn Korans.

    Happy Worldwide Burn a Koran Day!

  • John

    Update on this, It seems 2 teens 14 and 15 have been arrested for burning a Koran in Brittan.

    25 November 2010
    Girl, 15, arrested over ‘Facebook Koran burning video’

    A teenager has been arrested on suspicion of inciting religious hatred after allegedly burning an English language version of the Koran.

    The 15-year-old, who lives in the West Midlands, allegedly posted the video, filmed two weeks ago on her school premises, on Facebook.

    The video was reported to the school and subsequently removed, police said.

    A 14-year-old boy was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of making threats. Both have been released on police bail.

    It is thought the girl was allegedly filmed setting the booklet alight while other pupils watched.

    Two Facebook profiles have also been removed from the site, police added.
    See BBC article here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-black-country-11835253

    I am an American citizen, In the next few days I WILL be burning a Koran and posting it and my address on Youtube, If I am retaliated against, I WILL DEFEND MYSELF. This worldwide fear of religious fanatics and terrorists has gone way to far!

  • jo lee

    Would it be illegal to burn Mein Kampf, anouther book very similar to the KOran which also called Jews Pigs and wanted genicide of racis and beleifs, mabe all Muslims should be held account for after reading this totaly repulsive book at Nurimberg, thanks, don’t make silly comments back unless you have objectivly read the book theres good Hufflepuffs