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Muslim fined for burning poppies on Remembrance Day - Comments

TheRationalizer's Avatar Comment 1 by TheRationalizer

If it is illegal to burn something symbolic to the UK population such as a poppy then we have to be indiscriminate and also make it illegal to burn Bibles and Qurans.

At which point will it become illegal to burn cows on a barbecue to save upsetting Hindus?

It was a poppy, a fake poppy, they didn't even harm any poppys in the production of their video.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 10:20:14 UTC | #599985

MrTicketyBoo's Avatar Comment 2 by MrTicketyBoo

Freedom of speech is worthless without the right to offend. If Mr Choudhury wants to burn poppies as an act of protest, let him (provided he doesn't cause a fire hazard!). The law shouldn't be in the business of protecting people's feelings.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 10:33:53 UTC | #599988

Matt B's Avatar Comment 3 by Matt B

I get the feeling that that the WBC are somehow an exception to the way things normally work in America. At any given moment, someone protesting the way they do can be picked up for "disturbing the peace," "hate speech," or "incitement of violence." Why do they get a free pass on this? I'm sure the media attention is one reason. Being a church is probably another (as the Professor says; "religion trumps everything.")

It's impossible to live in a civilized society and still maintain absolute freedom. There are limits that we need to accept to ensure a degree of general happiness. However, I'm not sure I feel that this is an acceptable limit.

Tony Kibble, the grandson of a second world war soldier, told the court that he felt "sick inside" when he witnessed the poppy-burning.

While understandable, this reeks of retribution from offense - a dangerous slippery slope. My freedom of speech is more important than your "right" not to be offended.

I suppose there will always be people who toe the line of free speech. I just worry that these people are ruining it for everyone else; those who us are able to be more mature and responsible about our freedoms.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 10:51:38 UTC | #599991

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 4 by AtheistEgbert

People get arrested and put in prison for burning the Koran, while this guy gets fined £50 for his 'hate speech'. Not only double standards but absurdity in criminalizing people who offend. What an absurd shameful stupid place Britain is becoming.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 10:52:07 UTC | #599992

Lapithes's Avatar Comment 5 by Lapithes

Here's another question: is it preferable that no one at all can exercise their (his/her) right to free expression if the alternative is that only a select group can? If people are arrested for burning the Koran do we want people to be arrested for burning the Bible too? This must sound like a dig at Muslims but I really wonder at ('as to' ?) the right answer to the question. It's hard choosing between liberté and égalité; and somehow fraternité, as a solution, doesn't strike me as very convincing at the moment.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:03:01 UTC | #599997

sandman67's Avatar Comment 6 by sandman67

This insane idea of unbridled Freedom of Speech has now gone completely off the rails. Freedom of Speech should and must also take into account responsibility, decency and respect.

Screaming abuse at a funeral, or as in this case at a time of national rememberance, is beyond the pale. It is a calculated effort to cause the maximum offence and hijack an event involving mourning of the dead. It is a disgusting act by people only interested in spreading hate and division.

The unbridled persuit of the idea of free speech without any sense of decency and responsibility is what has turned American politics and society into a cesspool of hatred, division, blatant lies, fearmongering, race baiting, gay bashing and sexism. Id prefer we left our US cousins to nestle vipers like the KKK and WBC to their collective chest and applied instead a little common sense, respect and decency.

You will hear Americans say, when this issue comes up: "Ah well if we stop Fred Phelps screaming abuse, then someday "they" may stop you saying you dont like (insert anything else here)".

Utter twaddle. One of the biggest false equivalency arguments out there. An argument that is only valid in a country where deep distrust of the government and paranoia are de riguer....as is the case with the population of the USA.

Over here Mad Mags tried closing down voices when the IRA interview ban was implemented. The news media worked around it by using actor voiceovers, and the government was made to look so stupid the idea was soon dropped. Restricting free speech doesnt wash with the UK public....but it is that same public that support laws such as the one used here to prosecute hate mongering scumbags like this prat or the fundy Christian street preacher who was spreading hate about gays in a town square last year.

Free speech and hate speech are different: one is a virtue, the other a cancer. Look no further than the roots of the Rawanda and Balkans genocides - unbridled race baiting and lies lead to hate and fear....which leads to.... Free speech isnt free. It has direct costs on a society, and failing to recognise that is the position of the idealist idiot.

On a smaller scale look at the UK. The rise of the BNP/EDL and rise of extremist Islamist groups screaming abuse on street corners go hand in hand like some toxic tango. Hmmmm.... I wonder why that is?

So if burning poppies and screaming abuse on Rememberance Day is allowed, how about EDL members vandalising Jewish cemetary headstones? Is that a legitimate protest too? How about if one of the Islamist grups sprayed "Murdering Scum" on the Cenotaph? Is that legitimate free speech?

Where do we draw this free speech line then?

I say its time to be intolerant of the intolerant, and stamp out the haters good and hard. If you want to spew poison and hate on a sensitive occasion like Rememberance Day then do it to a crowd of your fellow travellers behind closed doors in whatever house of hate and fear you frequent.

Society comes first, and decency and respect must be maintained.

So....free to speak? Yes.

Free to spout hate and bile on purpose to offend and cause trouble? Hell no!

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:14:35 UTC | #599999

emastro's Avatar Comment 7 by emastro

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson

Burning a book, any book, even a religious one, as well as burning a symbol important to so many people, like the poppy on Remembrance Day, is a despicable act; but despicable is not (and should not be) the same as illegal.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:14:43 UTC | #600000

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 8 by Stevehill

@The Rationalizer

If it is illegal to burn something symbolic to the UK population such as a poppy then we have to be indiscriminate and also make it illegal to burn Bibles and Qurans.

It is. Or at least it's illegal to incite religious (or racial) hatred - so it would depend entirely on context. If I chose, privately, to burn a lot of surplus books on a garden bonfire to clear some shelf space for Mr Dawkins ouevre, that's my business. If I do it on the steps of a mosque, preceded by a press release, that might well be a different question.

@AtheistEgbert

People get arrested and put in prison for burning the Koran

Really? Who?

I've said before that if the law in Britain is wrong (I'm not wholly sure it is) then let's lobby to change it. But at the moment it seems to be enforced fairly sensibly and judges are probably in the right ballpark doling out petty fines rather than trying to make martyrs of people for what are, basically, fairly minor public order offences.

Incidentally, Fred Phelps' protests are illegal in (from memory) 45 US states despite the resent SCOTUS ruling - because those states have passed workable laws to that effect.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:21:49 UTC | #600001

emastro's Avatar Comment 9 by emastro

@Sandman67

So if burning poppies and screaming abuse on Rememberance Day is allowed, how about EDL members vandalising Jewish cemetary headstones? Is that a legitimate protest too? How about if one of the Islamist grups sprayed "Murdering Scum" on the Cenotaph? Is that legitimate free speech?

It should be noted that both examples you make cross the boundary of vandalism - which is, as far as I know, prosecuted under current law.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:23:07 UTC | #600003

Cinaed's Avatar Comment 10 by Cinaed

If you are burning poppies it means you don't have any respect or care for the men who fought and died saving our country so then what the hell are they living here for? I mean if they have that much hate and disrespect for past soldiers then to hell with them. I wouldn't care if all the poppy burners were deported. If the hell of what men went through (including my grandfather) in WW2 FOR US were fresher in your minds maybe some of you would agree with me.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:25:10 UTC | #600005

sandman67's Avatar Comment 11 by sandman67

Ahh I was waiting for the inevitable Thomas J quote.... its like the Hitler Law....its inevitable.

Look

Thomas Jefferson, a man I deeply admire, lived nearly 300 years ago in times vastly different to those we live in now, and while he may have said and done some completely admirable things....it was 300 years ago.

I live in the here and now, and the potential sh*tstorms on our doorstep are a whole different world of hurt, and ones that can and do cause much more serious issues. I dont recall Mr J ever having to deal with bombs going off in the high street or train stations or people driving dynamite laden waggons into business premises whist screaming religious platitudes.

And one more thing....back in Mr Js day, I think if Id have turned up at a state funeral and burned a flag, Id have found myself hanging off a nearby tree in a very short time.

Free speech is a lovely thing on paper, but Id rather not have to pay the price in blood and societal decay just so some hate mongers can have their shabby 5 minutes of fame.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:28:58 UTC | #600007

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 12 by Cartomancer

I would say that people should be allowed to do whatever they like in terms of free speech, up to the point where what they are doing causes real and significant psychological harm to others. Just causing offence to someone is not sufficient justification for penalising an act, but I can well imagine that the excesses of poppy-burning or Phelpscraft could result in genuine and debilitative psychological trauma for the already distressed victims. There is a huge difference between just offending people's sense of decency or propriety and causing painful trauma. Deliberately and knowingly causing psychological harm to others is a form of torture, which is rightly illegal in both jurisdictions. One would have to demonstrate that the torment was sufficiently severe in a court of law however.

With reference to the two particular examples, I would tend to think that poppy-burning at what is, in the end, an arbitrarily chosen state ritual, is far, far less likely to cause genuine trauma than the Westborough vileness, so the judgements seem the opposite way round to how they should be, based on my interpretation of the harm caused.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:29:02 UTC | #600008

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 13 by Stevehill

I wouldn't care if all the poppy burners were deported.

There's a 75-80% chance they are British and that's not an option.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:29:19 UTC | #600009

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 14 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

I equate burning poppies at a Rememberance service to yelling homophobic abuse at a funeral. Both should be classified as a public disturbance and illegal. Similarly, buring a Bible in a church, or a copy of the Qu'ran immediately outside a mosque should be illegal. All are clear cases of trying to antagonise and obstruct people from going about their lives.

However, they should be free to burn their poppies, yell their homophobic views or burn the holy books in other public arenas.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:30:43 UTC | #600010

josephor's Avatar Comment 15 by josephor

Even a terrorist supporting fanatic like Mr Choudhury has a right to freedom of expression.It is also within the scope of freedom of expression to compare Mr Choudhury and his supporters with pond scum.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:38:55 UTC | #600012

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 16 by hungarianelephant

Comment 11 by sandman67 :

Thomas Jefferson, a man I deeply admire, lived nearly 300 years ago in times vastly different to those we live in now, and while he may have said and done some completely admirable things....it was 300 years ago.

That's true. They were much more violent times. You were far more likely to be murdered. Within living memory, the Ottomans had just barely been turned back from the gates of Vienna, and there had been full-blooded religious wars in which millions of people had died.

The frontiers of his own country were not settled. The population was under threat from indigenous people, from the French, and from their own people.

The vast majority of the population had no say in the make up of their leadership. You were barred from public office if you didn't take the appropriate religious vows. Tyranny was commonplace, and all thinking people realised that it was necessary to be allowed to carry guns to protect you from your own government.

You were saying?

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:48:21 UTC | #600016

aball's Avatar Comment 17 by aball

Personally I am shocked by the lack of free speech in the UK. These guys were demonstrating, Demonstration is a democratic right. If it offends people, that's too bad.

And this is not the first instance of the UK nanny state oppressing unpopular views and acts in the name of protecting people's right not to be offended. Recently a number of people were arrested under racism laws for burning a Koran and posting the video of the act on Youtube. Then there was the case last year of two B&B owners appearing in court for having a debate with a muslim guest over Islam.

I find these muslim protesters dispicable, but I still believe that they should have the right to air their views in a non-violent way. It's called free society and it's what makes us better than Saudi Arabia.

The UK should adopt the US model of absolute freedom of speech (as long as this doesn't promote violence).

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:48:23 UTC | #600017

mmurray's Avatar Comment 18 by mmurray

Comment 12 by Cartomancer :

With reference to the two particular examples, I would tend to think that poppy-burning at what is, in the end, an arbitrarily chosen state ritual, is far, far less likely to cause genuine trauma than the Westborough vileness, so the judgements seem the opposite way round to how they should be, based on my interpretation of the harm caused.

There seems to be some legal challenges to the latter

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Phelps#Efforts_to_discourage_funeral_protests

with one going up to the supreme court.

Michael

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:50:14 UTC | #600020

Callinectes's Avatar Comment 19 by Callinectes

I agree with Christopher Hitchens in his stance of First Amendment absolutism, and I am constantly amazed by how many people here in the UK find the very idea appalling.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 11:52:16 UTC | #600021

valla's Avatar Comment 20 by valla

If these people burned artificial poppies which were displayed as part of an authorized function, they committed an act of vandalism. A 50 pounds fine seems to me a proportionate punishment.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 12:12:58 UTC | #600024

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 21 by SaganTheCat

I agree with above. it's vandalism

freedom of speech is important to me and if that means people who have nothing to say other than hate-filled sentiments then let them. beat's having them hide their intentions.

There are criminal laws to protect people's person and posessions. we have social rules to protect peoples beliefs and emotions. of course I don't like the idea of people being offended particularly if they're mourning the loss of a loved one but I have no idea what it is to be a religious nut job and for all I know the offence they feel when someone picks on their imaginary friend is every bit as painful as a parent losing a child. they're a bit different mentally after all.

People should be free to behave in a way that causes society to ostracise them. There's plenty of amunition to use against islamists without getting wound up about burning poppies, which is rather ironic considering that's what the allied forces are spending much of their time doing in Afganistan.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 12:37:46 UTC | #600029

JackR's Avatar Comment 22 by JackR

Yes, I was pretty appalled by this. It really is quite worrying how anti-free-speech and free expression the UK is becoming. What this chap did was an act of purely symbolic protest that harmed no one. It doesn't matter whether or not we agree with his protest, it should be defended, and it's outrageous he was prosecuted for it.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 12:39:03 UTC | #600031

mixmastergaz's Avatar Comment 23 by mixmastergaz

Personally, I'm undecided.

I partly agree with Sandman's assessment of where tolerating this may lead - the excesses he alludes to in the US. And I agree that the EDL is clearly a response - a reactionary response at that - to the sort of fool who would do his best to cause offence by burning poppies. This just ratchets up the rhetoric on both sides and makes 'diplomatic relations' impossible.

Freedom of speech is not complete, unbridled freedom to say or do anything. One may rightfully be prosecuted for displaying an obscene placard in public for example. So let's stop pretending that there aren't in fact limits to freedom of speech. But it's hard to imagine how to legislate in a way that wouldn't close the door to other, legitimate forms of protest, and it is difficult to know where to draw the line.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 13:42:42 UTC | #600040

maria melo's Avatar Comment 24 by maria melo

Perhaps you are wrongly calling it "free-speech". What about free choice of one´s own sexuality, in the case of Fred Phelps. That´s the real problem with freedom and it´s limits: one is free while not putting at risk other´s freedom. (that´s really a "cliché" however it still is true.)

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 14:08:56 UTC | #600046

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 25 by aquilacane

I have no problem with this. Symbol worship is as ridiculous as imaginary sky daddy worship.

Besides, it depends who's history you are looking at. If you were a supporter of the Ottoman Empire, you wouldn't give a damn about these dead soldiers. Despite the fact that the region would have probably undergone balkanisation anyway. With or without invading forces, they weren't permitted the opportunity of self determination. That can piss people off.

Although I doubt that is why they are burning them. They just want to start a pissing match over a worthless piece of plastic. When I ripped in half the small pocket bible I was given in grade 5 it was the same thing. I call it fuckyouism.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 14:09:54 UTC | #600047

Ode2Hitch's Avatar Comment 26 by Ode2Hitch

Opposing 'Hate Speech' or oppressing minority opinions?

Like it or not, in most cases, the voices which people seek to silence are often the most important voices to be heard.

People that oppose freedom of speech are making a rod for their own backs and (most likely due to a lack of serious consideration or foresight) supporting/instigating the destruction of freedoms that have taken centuries to acquire.

Of course, there will always be arseholes in this world. Something else people need to start accepting.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 14:31:49 UTC | #600053

Cinaed's Avatar Comment 27 by Cinaed

Comment 26 by aquilacane :

I have no problem with this. Symbol worship is as ridiculous as imaginary sky daddy worship.

Besides, it depends who's history you are looking at. If you were a supporter of the Ottoman Empire, you wouldn't give a damn about these dead soldiers. Despite the fact that the region would have probably undergone balkanisation anyway. With or without invading forces, they weren't permitted the opportunity of self determination. That can piss people off.

Although I doubt that is why they are burning them. They just want to start a pissing match over a worthless piece of plastic. When I ripped in half the small pocket bible I was given in grade 5 it was the same thing. I call it fuckyouism.

Symbol worship? What the hell are you talking about? The poppy is used to remind us of the men who fought and died in WW2 for you and I. Anyone who publicly burns poppies is saying that they don't care about what this country fought for and the don't respect it's history. You people don't know an enemy when you see one.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 15:03:01 UTC | #600071

bendigeidfran's Avatar Comment 28 by bendigeidfran

I think its a good idea burning poppies. They do much to cultivate future crops. Its good to remind people how the magic symbols control them too. I can't stand remembrance day pious cannon fodder recruitment festivals. I don't do it myself because its a bit off to spoil someone's party.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 15:22:29 UTC | #600081

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 29 by Stevehill

Having now checked (by the dubious route of borrowing somebody's Daily Mail in the pub at lunch time because I won't buy it), it turns out that Mr Choudhury is indeed British, born in Britain. He's also on benefits, which is germane to the size of the fine.

If we believe in one law for all (no sharia etc), then we have to apply the criteria: how would we feel about this case if the culprit were, say, a slightly dotty aging white Briton, maybe with early stage dementia, or possibly an ex-serviceman with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Deport him (how?). Acquit him? Fine him say £1,000 which he can't afford, then lock him up when he fails to pay it? Or a £50 fine and a stern warning to try to stop getting up people's noses so much in future?

I'd say the court got it about right.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 15:43:03 UTC | #600093

SomersetJohn's Avatar Comment 30 by SomersetJohn

I wonder what this fool and his hangers-on would have done if someone had stood in front of him and burned his magic book while he was burning the poppies.

I consider both actions equally provocative, and should be either punished the same or ignored the same.

If I am the burner of one, then I MUST defend the right of someone to burn the other, if I truly believe in freedom.

Tue, 08 Mar 2011 15:48:05 UTC | #600096