The United Kingdom’s Continuing Koran Censorship

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies. You may follow Harrod on twitter at @AEHarrod.


krMark Stephenson confessed at a February 28, 2014, United Kingdom trial “threatening behavior” while watching a December 7, 2013, Birmingham soccer game.  Stephenson’s behavior involved Koran desecration, merely the latest case demonstrating deferential British censorship with respect to Islam’s holy book.

According to one news account, a woman gave pages of a Koran taken from her handbag to Stephenson and about 20 other soccer fans during the game.  Stephenson ripped the pages and pretended to burn them with a lighter while saying to a stadium worker that he had the “Muslim bible, we hate Muslims.”  Another worker overheard fans shouting “Koran, Muslims and burning.”

Stephenson received a £235 fine for a “religiously-aggravated public order offence,” a British hate crime that, among things, encompasses “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behavior.”  “We hope that in the future you will not ever, ever participate in any such incident,” Judge Ronald Healey declared in sentencing Stephenson.  It is “considered extremely offensive to some members of the community.”

“It’s disgraceful to allow pure hatred to come to an area like” Birmingham “with a high Muslim population,” Muslim Member of Parliament Khalid Mahmood had said of the incident in his hometown in December.  The “culprits should be dealt with severely and be charged with incitement,” he demanded.  A Middlesbrough Football Club spokesperson also condemned the incident involving the club’s Koran-desecrating fans as violating a desire to “eradicate racism in all its forms.”

Other Britons have also had legal difficulties due to Koran desecration, even when, unlike Stephenson, their behavior has not involved possible questions of property violations or individual insults and threats.  Six men faced racial incitement charges in September 2010 for their burning of a Koran behind a Gateshead pub on the September 11 anniversary of Al Qaeda’s 2001 attacks, a burning filmed and placed on Youtube.  A group spokesman declared the burning a “private joke” and that they were unaware of who filmed the incident.

The men responded “to historical images of Muslim extremists burning American flags and effigies of western leaders,” the spokesman said.  The group was also “sick of British soldiers being killed out in Afghanistan and then being spat at and called baby killers” domestically.  The self-professed “English nationalists” also expressed “frustration” over “one law for Muslims” and another for Caucasians.  “Our community is one of mutual respect,” local Gateshead officials stated in condemning the incident.

The following November police arrested a 15-year old Birmingham girl for placing on Facebook a video of her burning a Koran at her school.  “All involved have reacted very positively,” local councilman Robert Badham qualified, however.  The “children at the school know how serious it is.”

Subsequently on January 19, 2011, a former soldier burned a stolen library Koran stolen on a Carlisle street in an event reported as “witnessed by shoppers and schoolchildren.”  Admitting in court theft and “religiously aggravated harassment,” Andrew Ryan expressed being “shocked” by a Muslim burning a memorial poppy on the British equivalent of Memorial Day, Remembrance Day.  Condemning Ryan’s “theatrical bigotry,” Judge Gerald Chalk noted that Ryan sought “to cause maximum publicity and…distress.”

The following April Welsh police arrested Sion Owens, a senior member of the far-right British National Party, for burning a Koran in his garden, an event filmed in a video leaked to the press and then transferred to authorities.  A Home Office statement said that the “government absolutely condemns the burning of the Qur’an” as “fundamentally offensive to the values of our pluralist and tolerant society.”  Authorities, however, withdrew charges against Owens.

Atheist Peter Crawford came next on May 12, 2012, when he ripped up his own Koran in front of an Islamic information booth in Leicester while telling the booth’s Muslims staffers that Islam was a “load of bollocks.”  Prosecutor James Bide-Thomas questioned whether Crawford engaged in a “legitimate” free speech or violated the law against “harassment, alarm or distress by insulting behaviour, basically upsetting people.”  Crawford’s prosecution collapsed with a hung jury.

Yet per famed English political essayist George Orwell, some religions in modern Britain are more equal than others.  A pro-gay church contributed a Bible to a 2009 exhibit at Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA).  Visitors could write their names in its margins, the church explained, to demonstrate how LGBT people “have been marginalised by many Christian Churches and also our desire to be included in the love of God.”  Yet many visitors wrote in the text what a Christian organization called “obscenities and atheist ramblings.”  Would the exhibitors “do the same if it was the Koran?” the Christians wondered.

An exhibit video, meanwhile, showed the singer Roxanne Claxton ripping pages out of a Bible and stuffing them into her knickers and bra as well as eating them.  As a “bisexual woman,” Claxton declared, “I wanted to celebrate both the masculine and feminine aspects of my identity in relation to my faith as a Christian woman.”  By contrast, the video appeared “disgusting and offensive” to a Pope Benedict XVI advisor, who echoed comments about the defaced Bible in saying that the exhibitors “would not think of doing it to the Koran.”

“[C]omplete indifference” marked official reaction to GoMA in contrast to the schoolgirl Koran burning, an Anglican blogger noted.  Under this modern British double standard, the Koran, a religious book, enjoys vigorous protection against defilement as a form of racial bigotry, while the Bible, along with other revered items, is subject to criticism like anything else.  In the face of Islam, British justice has sunk even further.

This article was sponsored by the Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum.

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  • Defeat Them

    I’ve got a special punch-coran. Velvet-bound, easy on the knuckles.

    • Dyer’s Eve

      I love it! Well said!

  • Mileaway

    I need another Koran, I’m out of tp! There are NO good Muslims, only those that haven’t killed you, YET! ALL Muslims are jihadists in waiting! Islam is a cancer on the world! 1400 years of Barbarism! 1400 years of HATE, MURDER, PEDOPHILIA AND OPPRESSION!

    • mark

      Please… the idea is to clean ones bottom, not use a quran to make it more dirty!

  • GeorgeRomero

    It’s the same thing in our modern popular culture.Ozzy Osbourne , Marylin Manson , Soundgarden , all scream anti Christian themes , even in 2014 ,getting away with it because they make millions and know there is not going to be a mob of screaming religious madmen waiting outside their mansions with a big sharp dagger in their hands ready to liberate their heads from their cowardly scum necks (spit).

  • Dyer’s Eve

    “It’s disgraceful to allow pure hatred to come to an area like” Birmingham “with a high Muslim population,” Muslim Member of Parliament Khalid Mahmood had said of the incident in his hometown in December. – A bit rich coming from a bloody Moslem. Yes, ‘Moslem’. Pure hatred is at the centre of that barbaric death cult known as Islam. I wonder how many Christian Bibles that Khalid Mahmood has desecrated.

    • mark

      Why muslims are so full of hate is because its copying allahs hatred, read for yourself http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/Pages/Quran-Hate.htm

    • Michael Copeland

      Exactly.
      “As a muslim I must have hatred for everything which is non-Islam”.
      Anjem Choudary

      • Humam Zaman Hashib

        and those non-Islamic things include: Rape, murder, Alcohol, pork meat, Obscenity and people like you who has no life and hate others for no reason.. etc etc.

        • JJF

          NO reason?? Excuse me! Rape and murder are CORE Islamic values- so said your ‘prophet’. He also said “LO, I have been made victorious through TERROR!!”

          53 Muslim rape gangs under police investigation….

  • Lokalkosmopolit

    There was a guy in Germany who got 1 year suspended sentence for having labelled toilet paper rolls with ”Quran, the Holy Quran” and sent these to television stations, 22 Mosques and Muslim institutions. Lol. We can doubt whether this is the right method for combating the religion of hate, but the question remains, what would have the German dhimmi authorities done, had a Muslim person ridiculed the Bible in that manner. Probably nothing. Link: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/urteil-ein-jahr-bewaehrung-fuer-koran-auf-klopapier-a-402647.html

    • bob smith

      i agree but if given the choice, i would use steel wool to wipe my a$$ rather than that mudslide tp.

      • rightrightright

        If your dog has a little accident, it can be useful.

  • Stephen Powell

    The new definition of a ‘bigot’ is anyone who is not willing to enthusiastically commit racial suicide and marginalize their own children.

  • bob smith

    “It’s disgraceful to allow pure hatred to come to an area like” Birmingham “with a high Muslim population,” Muslim Member of Parliament Khalid Mahmood had said of the incident in his hometown in December. The “culprits should be dealt with severely and be charged with incitement,” he demanded.

    1. “… in his hometown…”

    2. ” …he demanded.”

    Now, just think of it. a member of parliament, a congressman, a senator, a president (?), a prime minister, etc., has the time to involve themselves in petty day-to-day charges of people yet convicted but only accused? (can you say trayvonnn and black privilege)

    couldn’t have anything to do with mudslime privilege, could it?

    you can use the bible in association with a toilet and equate it as art and yet if the same brain dead, ball-less and gutless artist was to do the same with the koran all would be wrong?

    by the way, where the fuc! are the atheists in denouncing islelamb and allahan?

    • mark

      Protecting the most evil book in the world shows how low our leaders have sunk.

      • bob smith

        Mark, I believe it is and has always been about money. those in the ‘know’ must be well heeled ($).

    • A Z

      Bob,

      Could you please change your post icon.

    • JJF

      What makes you think atheists like Islam? Being American, ‘all atheists are satanic’ sums you up.
      From an atheist hater of Islam and contributor to several anti- Islam sites….

      • bob smith

        wtf are talking about you over-reaching clown?

        get your head out of your atheist a$$ and therefore attack all religions equally or none at all.

        why are atheists solely focused on Christianity? answer me that you ignorant pos!

        show me proof of that otherwise FO!

  • Demetrius Minneapolis

    Good to see them get a taste of their own medicine, and deservedly so. Now how about removing the sharia zones?

  • Habbgun

    Everything done to the Jews would be considered blasphemy to Moslems and would seem to come under British hate laws. Denial of legitimacy, attacks on kosher slaughter and circumcision, To deny that the Jews have a homeland is a direct attack on the Jewish religion. Sure in a free speech situation you can’t force other people’s belief but that is definitely not the case with Islam. You can not attack Islamist behavior and core beliefs. That is considered hate speech but only one religion gets protected in that way.

  • Jake-a-runi

    When did Islam become a race?

  • Elsie

    IT’S A DISGRACE THAT EVIL MUSLIMS CAN BURN OUR POPPY ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY AND CHANT EVIL AND HATE TO THE BRITISH PEOPLE YET WE ARE CALLED THE RACIST.HOW MANY BIBLES IN COUNTRIES ACROSS THE WORLD HAVE BEEN BURNT IN THE NAME OF THAT EVIL CULT THAT IS ISLAM WHERE JIHADISTS ARE WAGING WAR AGAINST CHRISTIANS, BURNING DOWN CHURCHES, KILLING CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MURDERING BABIES AND CHILDREN.WE THE BRITISH PEOPLE SHOULD BURN THEIR FLAGS AND THAT UNHOLY BOOK THEY CALL THE QUR’AN……

  • Ho Hum

    How can Anjem Choudary get away with his hate-filled marches? Why don’t police arrest and charge him?

    If the police are not willing to arrest Choudary there is nothing stopping a private citizen from taking a video of Choudary’s hate-filled rants and bringing it in front of a justice of the peace with a request that a warrant be sworn for Choudary’s arrests.

    • Veracious_one

      “How can Anjem Choudary get away with his hate-filled marches? Why don’t police arrest and charge him?”
      They are afraid they might ‘offend’ Muslims….and ‘offended’ Muslims are a violent lot….

      • Tim N

        Offending them is “Islamophobic’ and ‘racist’.

  • SimonNorwich

    Does anyone know why the Bible and Koran are exempt from being legally defined as “religiously-aggravated offensive, insulting and threatening”?

  • shmo123

    Britain is a cesspool of political correctness.