Wednesday, 1 June 2011

"Gay-free zone" stickers: choosing the right targets

We learned this afternoon that an 18 year has been sentenced to a £100, ordered to pay £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge for placing stickers in various parts of east London, designating them as "gay-free zones".

The stickers caused a lot of controversy in the area and even more discord within the LGBT community but thankfully nothing serious came out of it. The affray is probably already much more than what the people behind the stickers were expecting to achieve.

Nevertheless, already I have seen people commenting that the sentence isn't enough, that is is a "f*cking joke". It seems to me that it is on the contrary about fair and probably quite close the maximum of what it could have been for the charge of public order offence of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour.

It seems to me that £200 is quite a lot for someone who is on the dole, particularly as punishment for something they didn't even think was wrong.

At the tribunal, Mohammed Hasnath, who, it seems couldn't afford a lawyer, declared:
"Basically, some people just handed them [the stickers] to me so I just put them up. I didn't say anything, it doesn't say that I am going to punish them it just says what God says in the Koran."

"I wasn't the one who made them, some people gave them to me and I only put up a few, there were hundreds of them up. I didn't know the police were going to get involved or that it was a offence or anything."
"But I just put up stickers, I didn't harass or swear at anybody or anything."
Of course, I can only go by what is reported in the article linked to above but those two paragraphs have the ring of truth to me.

I am convinced he didn't stop for a second to reflect on the real meaning of those stickers. While I am not trying to find excuses, I think that the people complaining about the sentence are barking up the wrong tree.

I am perhaps being naive here and too trusting in humanity but it feels that in his mind Hasnath was only seeing the perceived positive act of affirming what he had been told is said in the Koran. And that this act was totally dissociated of any possible negative impact on some other human being.

And this is clearly what the people who gave him the stickers were counting on, taking advantage of his gullibility and probably lack of education. It seems to me, after reading his words, that in their anger, those asking for a harsher punishment, endow Hasnath with intellectual capabilities that, unlike them, he probably doesn't possess. No thoughtfulness or empathy for something in him. Only blind, thoughtless submission to religious doctrine, whether true or false.

It's clear to me that Hasnath doesn't have the means both financial and probably intellectual to organise what is a concerted campaign in the east of London and also in at least two other cities in the UK.

We should not waste our energies on one of the inept and insignificant pawns, who has now been punished anyway, but rather turn our attention to those manipulating those pawns. They are the ones who should know better. They are the really dangerous ones. They are the ones whose nefarious actions we should denounce. They are the ones we should go after and remain vigilant against.


  1. Firstly he was fined just £100 not £200 and secondly ignorance of the law is no defence. I suspect that had this man seen stickers saying Muslim free zone then he would have quickly reported it to the police. A community service order would have been more appropriate and some restorative justice.

    Of course if gay people who had decided they had enough of Muslim homophobia posted such anti Muslim stickers,then not only would the perpetrators have been punished far more severely, but the BBC would have been banging on about the whole business, discussions about why it had happened and was this an isolated incident etc etc.

  2. The fine is indeed £100 but he still to pay £200 , which for someone on jobseeker allowance (£65 per week), is not far from a month's "salary". Fines are decided on the ability to pay, remember?

    I don't understand why people get so hung up on this guy anyway when it is abundantly clear that he is not one of the organisers.

  3. the reason people are upset is because a coordinated, multi-city attempt to create _homorein_ zones was treated as no more than abusive flyposting. that said, the judge was constrained by the law's treating organised gayhate as less important than religious or racial incitement. the absurdity of the sentence points to the need to change the laws so that gays receive the same protections as muslims, blacks or jews.

    I do agree with you though that the guy they arrested is a simple-minded patsy (not that that in any way mitigates what he did - I don't care if he bashes gays "in good faith" or not and i'm shocked to hear that line of argumentation). but the community would be better served if the police went after the organisers of this multi-city campaign. this arrest, the conviction and he arguments over it all seem a bit of a sideshow and distraction from investigating and stopping the scum behind this campaign of intimidation.


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