Wednesday 30 June 2010

Dewsbury newspaper links Cumbria murder to Muslims

A local Dewsbury’s columnist who wrote that had the Cumbria mass-murderer been carrying the Qur’an he would have been celebrated by “so-called British Muslims” will not face prosecution, Dewsbury police announced.

Almost 300 demonstrators gathered outside Dewsbury Police Station on June 6 in protest at alleged inflammatory Islamophobic comments made in the The Press the previous Friday.

Writing just three days after Derrick Bird murdered 12 people in Cumbria and before the victims’ burials, the local paper’s columnist, Danny Lockwood, wrote that had Bird been carrying a copy of the Qur’an, “he would have been celebrated as a hero by tens of thousands, possibly more, of so-called ‘British’ Muslims.”

Lockwood made the analogy in his weekly column Ed Lines hitting out at the Home Office’s decision to allow Muslim scholar Zakir Naik into the county.

A spokesman for Dewsbury Police confirmed to The Muslim News that 70 people had lodged a formal complaint: “We received a number of complaints about the content of the article which appeared in The Press. We then had to liaise with the Crime Prosecution Service for advice on the matter and enquiries were ongoing at that stage. We received about 70 complaints from people the nature of the complaints was about what was written in The Press.

“Following that week we received notice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that the matter would not be perused any further.”

Dewsbury Police has vowed to “continue to monitor the situation” adding that they have contacted The Press regarding the complaints.

A petition was circulated which asks for a retraction and full public apology. It also calls for local people, businesses and politicians of all persuasions to boycott the paper.

Local campaigner, Abdul Hai, told The Muslim News he and many of Dewsbury’s Muslims were “appalled by the CPS’s decision not to bring charges; this newspaper, and particularly this columnist, has been writing things like this for ten years or more. Sadly we’ve become used to it but this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. People are upset and people are angry.

“To make a connection between the horrific events in Cumbria last week and Islam, or any religion, is deeply offensive. To make these comments just two days after what happened in Cumbria, with the bodies not yet buried and the whole country still in mourning is sick.”

He added. “For years The Press has been targeting Dewsbury’s Muslim community. They always make a link between national and international events to Muslims or Muslim organisations even if it has nothing to do with Muslims. The paper is free and it’s distributed in predominately white areas and in areas were the BNP do well. ”

Atif Asif, who helped organise the protest said: “Three hundred turned out today but there are ten times as many who are disgusted by the hatred The Press spreads. These are people from all backgrounds and religions who love Britain, love Dewsbury and are sick to the back teeth of the poison spread by The Press for years they have talked our town down and encouraged cynicism, hatred and division in its communities.”

“Nobody buys the paper but it’s delivered free in white only areas. If you believed what you read then ‘Asians’ and ‘Muslims’ are to blame for all society’s ills. We are calling on all good people in the town to boycott the paper. We also intend to ask the shops who sell it, the politicians who speak to it and the advertisers who pay for it to make a stand and condemn these truly horrid comments.”

23-year-old law student Karim Jaffer of Wellington Road said: “Lockwood starts his column saying the analogy he’s about to make using the Cumbria atrocity and Muslims smacks of ‘insensitive opportunism’ but goes on to make it anyway. He does so, not because he’s cavalier but because he’s made a calculated move to make a link between Bird’s actions and Muslims.”

A CPS spokesman told The Muslim News: “We were not asked to give a charging decision by the police, but we did provide them with advice. It should be noted that the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 contains wide exemptions for freedom of speech, specifically saying that nothing in the Act shall prohibit or restrict ‘discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions’.
“According the legal guidance evidence would have had to be obtained revealing that Lockwood used ‘threatening’ language ‘to stir up religious hatred. Threatening is the operative word, not abusive or insulting.’
“So using abusive or insulting behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred does not constitute an offence, nor does using threatening words likely to stir up religious hatred.”
Lockwood has since apologised, writing a week after making the controversial comparison, he said, “was about as wide off the mark as I can recall being for quite some time last Friday. No excuses. A couple of explanations maybe, but I don’t mind saying sorry to a lot of honest, decent people who were offended by my comments in relation to mass killer Derrick Bird and Islamic radicals.”


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