January 14, 2012

Turn or Burn: A Case of Hate Speech in the U.K.

IslamFive Muslim men are on trial in the U.K. under a hate crimes law for distributing anti-gay leaflets that depicted gay men being executed for the "crime" of being gay. The purpose of the literature appeared to be one of encouraging hatred and even violence against homosexuals. One actually called for the death penalty for homosexual behavior. According to The Telegraph, this case is the first prosecution of an anti-gay hate crime since the law was changed in 2010 to include sexual orientation.

Although it sounds like there were at least four different leaflet designs, the one that formed the basis of the prosecution called for the death of homosexuals.
The leaflet which formed the basis of the charges, entitled “The Death Penalty?”, featured a hanged mannequin and claimed that "Allah permits the destruction" of those who allow homosexuality and those who practise it.

The leaflet added that "the death sentence" had "already been passed on every homosexual" and that "the only question is how it should be carried out". Methods suggested included execution, burning, hanging or stoning.
This seems like a fairly clear example of efforts to incite violence, doesn't it? And yet, I find this prosecution somewhat troubling. I can understand the rationale involved when an offender receives a longer sentence because there was a hate crime component of another crime (e.g., someone assaults a man because he believes the man is gay). What we have in this case looks more like the speech itself is the crime.

I suppose one could argue that the underlying crime is inciting violence and the hate crime component is attached because of how it is directed. But I am not sure that this is what is being argued in this case. The five men were charged with "distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation contrary to Section 29c (1) of the Public Order Act 1986."

I understand and appreciate the desire to promote civility. I'm not so sure about measures that appear to criminalize speech unless the issue is one of inciting violence. What do you think? Should these men be facing prosecution?

Subscribe to Atheist Revolution

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Copyright © vjack and Atheist Revolution, 2005-2014. All rights reserved.