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On January 20, 2012, three Muslim men from Derby were convicted of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation after they distributed leaflets calling for gay people to be killed.
In a landmark case, a jury at Derby Crown Court ruled that Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed, and Razwan Javed had breached hate crime legislation by handing out the leaflets outside the Jama mosque, in Rosehill Street, Derby, in July 2010 in advance of a gay pride parade, as well as putting them through nearby letterboxes.
Sentencing will take place on February 10, 2012. The maximum penalty is seven years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Two men, Mehboob Hussain and Umar Javed, were found not guilty of the same charge.
One of the leaflets, entitled "The Death Penalty?," depicted a mannequin hanging by the neck from a noose. "The death sentence is the only way this immoral crime can be erased from corrupting society and act as a deterrent for any other ill person who is remotely inclined in this bent way," the leaflet read, as it discussed various methods of carrying out the death penalty for homosexuals.
Another depicted homosexuals burning in a lake in hell. A third showed the word gay laid out as an acronym to read "God Abhors You."
The defendants admitted distributing the leaflets but pleaded not guilty to the charges. During the trial, the court heard that Ahmed had told police he did not believe that the views expressed in the Death Penalty leaflet were wrong. They expressed, he said, what Islam says about homosexuality.
Defendant Ahmed also claimed that the wording and images in the leaflets were not threatening. He told the court: "We are living in a society and if we don't stop it, something like a tsunami will happen here, something on that scale."
He said it was his "duty as a Muslim to spread what God says about homosexuality. The references on the leaflets are historical facts and quotes from the Koran."
These are the first convictions under laws enacted in 2008 that created the offense of intentionally stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. The laws went into effect in 2010.
In order to convict, the jury had to be convinced that the leaflets were not merely insulting or abusive, but were actually "threatening" and were distributed with the intention of inciting hatred.
In the course of the trial, gay men testified of their experience receiving the leaflets. One believed he was the victim of a hate campaign. He recounted, "They made me feel terrorized in my own home. Sometimes I wondered whether I would be getting a burning rag through the letterbox or if I would be attacked in the street."
According to U.K.'s gay news service Pink News, Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Services' Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said after the verdicts were rendered: "A court has heard for the first time from witnesses how they felt, as gay men, when they read a leaflet calling for the death penalty for homosexuals."
"Everyone has a right to be protected by the law and we regard homophobic crimes, along with all hate crimes, as particularly serious because they undermine people's right to feel safe."
"While people are entitled to hold extreme opinions which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious, they are not entitled to distribute those opinions in a threatening manner intending to stir up hatred against gay people."
"This case was not about curtailing people's religious views or preventing them from educating others about those views; it was that any such views should be expressed in a lawful manner and not incite others to hatred."
Ben Summerskill, head of the British equality group Stonewall, said, "We're satisfied to see these extremists convicted for distributing offensive and inflammatory leaflets that suggested gay people should be burnt or stoned to death."
"This case vindicates Stonewall's long fight to secure specific legal protection for gay people against incitement to hatred. Witnesses told the court they felt threatened and deeply fearful in their own homes."
"People from all communities will feel safer knowing that the law now makes it harder to stir up hatred and violence against gay people."
These convictions have significance not only for the security of glbtq people in the United Kingdom, but also for the continuing debate about Muslim immigration, particularly the question of the degree of assimilation that should be demanded of Muslim immigrants in the country.
Here is how British television reported on the convictions.