Imprisoned for criticizing Islam – and we not allowed to know why

 Update on the the British case of Darren Conway, (pictured left) who on March 6 was sentenced to a year in prison for posting anti-Islamic materials in the window of his ground-floor apartment in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Thanks to CJR reader Edgar Davidson for sending this in:

In March I blogged about the astonishing case of Darren Conway who was sentenced to a year in prison for posting ‘anti-Islamic materials’ in the window of his ground-floor apartment in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.  No information about the actual posters was provided in any news reports. There were concerns that the material was simply standard factual information about Islam and Mohammed (including the fact that, by having sex with the  9-year old Aisha, Muhammad would be classified as a pedophile in any Western society).
In order to find out exactly what the posters were I filed a Freedom of Information Request to the Crown Prosection Service.
I have now had a response from The Crown Prosecution Service. They have refused the request for information about the posters on the grounds that it is ‘not in the public interest’.  Here is their justification:

There is a substantial public interest in many circumstances in protecting from disclosure information gathered for the purposes of a criminal case. The defendant in this case was prosecuted as he publically displayed the offensive posters referred to in your request. As displaying this material was proven to be a criminal offence in a criminal court, and the graphic and violent images depicted in these posters caused offence in the neighbourhood in which they were displayed, there is a very strong public interest in these articles not being distributed any further.

This is truly Machiaevellian.  All I asked for was information about the posters – I wanted to know in what sense they were ‘offensive’. For example, if a poster depicted Mohammed as a pedophile, then surely the CPS could simply have said just, that and we could make up our minds about whether this merited a prison sentence. Since the CPS are not even prepared to describe the posters, I suspect that what they really fear is that people may be angry to find out that you can now be imprisoned in the UK for expressing an opinion about Islam based on truth.

U.K. Thought Police Send Man to Prison

By Bruce Bawer at Frontpage:

A few days ago I did some reflecting here on the steady rise of sharia in Britain, as exemplified by the BBC’s frank admission of its unwillingness to mock Islam, the harassment of an air passenger for an innocuous remark about hijab, and the see-no-evil response of a BBC reporter to mass displays of pro-sharia aggression in Luton.

Alas, the evidence of Britain’s decline and fall in the face of Islam just keeps on coming. This week’s case in point is that of Darren Conway, who on March 6 was sentenced to a year in prison for posting anti-Islamic materials in the window of his ground-floor apartment in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. As the BBC puts it, he was “convicted of a religiously aggravated public order offence for putting anti-Islamic literature in his window.”

For once, the language used by the BBC was restrained and objective in comparison with the rhetoric employed by local news organizations covering the story. Here’s how the website This is Lincolnshire began its report:

 

A Gainsborough man who plastered his front window with vile anti-Islamic hate literature has been jailed for a year.

Darren Conway, a self-confessed supporter of right-wing organisations, was given a 12-months’ sentence at Lincoln Crown Court.

Note the way in which the reporter deploys the words vile and self-confessed. The very inclusion of such language in a supposedly objective news report means that what we are reading here is not, in fact, anything of the kind; what it is, rather, is an effort by the writer and the website to signal to their audience that they’re on the “right” side of this issue. The use of such language is a gesture of dhimmitude, an implicit statement of submissiveness, a tacit communication of acceptance of the sharia-based notion that, yes, criticism of Islam is vile and should be punished. And it is a plea: don’t hurt us. Similarly, note the use of the words offensive, inflammatory, and racist in this opening sentence of the article about Conway in the Worksop Guardian:

 

The offensive actions of a Gainsborough man were blasted by a judge as he was jailed for displaying inflammatory racist posters in the front window of his flat.

The word racist occurs frequently in the articles about the Conway case. Although most of the descriptions of the items posted in Conway’s window are very sketchy, there is nothing in any of them to indicate that any of the materials were genuinely racist; it seems pretty clear that when the reporters writing about Conway employ the word racist, they are making the now familiar equation of Islam criticism with racism.

Exactly what did Conway post in his windows? The most extensive description I could find was in the Worksop Guardian, which said that he had put up “posters, literature and photographs which attacked the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim religion,” “slogans such as ‘Jihad works both ways,’ ‘no surrender,’ ‘Muslims are the most hateful of them all’ and a letter confirming that he was a member of the BNP.” Another source tells us that the materials “contained derogatory comments about Islam” and “promoted the BNP,” while “one poster showed a picture of an English Defence League demonstration.”

It would be useful to actually see the items Conway posted, so as to determine for oneself just how “vile” they were, to discover whether anything was, in fact, racist, and to find out if Conway called for acts of aggression or for somebody’s murder or anything like that. If he did incite violence, there might be good reason to put him behind bars; but I have not found any suggestion anywhere that this was the case. (Conway himself has been quoted as saying, “I have no problem with Muslims, although I do believe the Islamic faith is very much flawed but as for people who follow it I have no personal problem with.”)

 

In any event, just as nearly all the major Western news organizations refused to show the Danish Muhammed cartoons, none of the media reporting on the Conway case have dared to vouchsafe readers a glimpse of the materials he posted. No, we’re simply expected to take their and the prosecutors’ word that the stuff was, indeed, vile. One prosecutor, Edward Johnson, is reported to have “described the material…as grossly offensive towards the Muslim faith.” Meanwhile the Crown Prosecution Service’s own website has posted an extensive statement on the matter by Judith Walker, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS East Midlands:

Everyone has the right to live free from harassment in a tolerant society. Darren Conway displayed highly offensive posters in his window targeted at the Muslim community. Although they were targeted at Muslims, they would cause offence to virtually anyone that saw them.

Today’s conviction sends a strong message that targeting groups in society in this deliberately offensive way has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. The words and images used by Conway were particularly disgusting, so it was important to bring this case to court and ensure that he faced the full consequences of his actions.

The Crown Prosecution Service will continue to treat cases based on hatred with the utmost seriousness. It is essential that everyone in our community is free to live without harassment and that anyone who jeopardises that freedom will face prosecution.

 

We all owe Walker a debt of gratitude, for in this statement she takes us right to the heart of the matter, giving us a crystal-clear picture of how these people think. To place in the window of your home slogans and pictures that add up to a criticism of Islamic ideology is not to exercise your freedom of speech; it is to commit an act of “harassment” that has no place “in a tolerant society” and that must therefore be punished.

Note Walker’s chillingly Orwellian understanding of the concept of freedom, which has its roots not in Magna Carta or the Enlightenment but in sharia. When she says that it is “essential that everyone in our community is free to live without harassment,” she means nothing more or less than this: that it is the right of Muslims in Britain to live in a society free of criticism of their religion. And when she says that “anyone who jeopardises that freedom will face prosecution,” she means this: that any British citizen who thinks that he enjoys the right under British law to criticize anything, including Islam, is mistaken; he does not have any such right; and if he acts as if he does, he will be incarcerated.

Walker’s pretense to the contrary, there is, needless to say, a colossal double standard at the heart of her thinking. The recent history of Britain has shown that a great variety of statements and actions by British Muslims that many non-members of their faith might well consider exceedingly vile and offensive, and might legitimately regard as acts of harassment — including a number of the statements and actions recorded in the above-mentioned BBC report on Luton — are in little or no danger of leading to prosecution or imprisonment. Such is the kind of legal thinking, and juridical practice, that, more and more every day, is shaping the destiny of the land of John Stuart Mill and Winston Churchill.