Britain jails extremist who burned Koran

A convicted racist who burned a Koran in front of city centre shoppers has been jailed for 70 days after a judge described the act as “theatrical bigotry”.

He is a member of the virulently racist and arguably fascist English Defence League.

Steve Hynd of Newshoggers, who is Scottish and part of our weekly Polizeros podcast, says in email.

The US laws would let Hitler talk and organise unhindered. In Europe we remember how that turns out in a way Americans just don’t.

I think of America, I think of no experience *in living memory* of facists seizing entire industrialized, advanced, nations and unleashing the full might of modern “shock and awe” on civilians by the *tens of millions*

Terry Jones’ intent in burning a Koran here in the States clearly was to incite violence. 70 days in jail is a sentence for their equivalent of a misdemeanor here.

Should Koran-burning be punishable here or would that be just more of the long, slippery slope down to decreased freedoms? or is allowing incitement to violence a long, slippery slope?

Josh Mull, the moderator of our weekly Polizeros podcast strongly advocates for freedom of speech. Also from email.

When say, John Bolton, goes on TV and threatens Iran (and therefore Iranians) with bombing and nuclear weapons – what is that? Is he inciting violence? What about the Project for a New American Century advocating war on Iraq? What about CPAC advocating deploying the military against Mexican immigrants? Where do you draw the line?

When Larry the Cable Guy goes on TV and says Chinese people talk funny, is that theatrical bigotry? What about if Pat Robertson says gay people cause hurricanes, should he go to jail? What about when PM Cameron, or Tony Blair, supports the occupation of Gaza? His INTENT is to cause the occupation to happen, right?

Curbing speech is stupid, arbitrary, and cowardly. It doesn’t solve any problems, it just makes the frightened and entitled feel better about themselves (like locking up black men for drugs – problem solved!!!)

What do you think?

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  • woody

    I think sensible limits can be put in place, with an err toward free speech. Making a law restricting certain types of speech in very limited venues for very limited times would be a reasonable balance. As a good example, nobody should be able to picket or protest things like funerals or births.

    I also think it would be fine to use vague qualifiers in such laws that will change in both meaning and interpretation over time. As an example, the FCC has this in both good an bad ways with it’s ban on broadcast speech. Banning things based on a “community sense of decency” is great, because that definition changes with society. Banning a strict set of words (eg the 7 dirty words) is useless, since as language changes, those words fall out of common usage (or into it), and other more vile words are created.

    I think the key to this isn’t to limit speech, but to hold people responsible for the results of that speech. Shouting fire in a crowded theater is a crime not because the word fire is naughty or obscene. It’s because of the resulting stampede and damage based on it. The same standards should apply for hate speech that leads to a lynching, or acts that serve no purpose other than promoting hate and violence.

    • Terry Jones now plans to burn a Koran outside the biggest mosque in Detroit. A prosecutor there is trying to stop him via legal means.

      This rather clearly is deliberately inciting violence.

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