No one should be under any illusion regarding the increasingly oppressive nature of the UK state. The creeping criminalization of previously legal protest action has been seen countless times recently; students protesting against tuition fees and the politically-motivated sentences handed down to those convicted of last summer's riots being just two of the most obvious examples.
Things have taken a very sinister and outrageous turn, though, with the arrest of nineteen year-old Azhar Ahmed. It is alleged the youth recently posted the following comments on his Facebook page:
"People gassin about the deaths of soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy's were the Taliban not innocent harmless familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE FOKKIN SCUM! gotta problem go cry at your soliders grave & wish him hell because that where he is going.."
Strong words, to be sure, and undoubtedly offensive and upsetting to many, not least the bereaved families of serving soldiers. However, we'll gloss over the tragic irony of his comments being lent substance by the rampage of a US serviceman which resulted in the deaths of sixteen civilians, including nine children and three women. An irony further compounded by the motivation for his comments being the imbalance in the media coverage of casualties in Afghanistan. With blanket coverage given to the six recently killed British soldiers compared to the virtually non-existent acknowledgment of Afghan civilian casualties, it seems he at least has a point, however uncomfortable some might find his choice of words...
But that aside, the real concern here is the offence with which West Yorkshire Police have charged him; that of committing a "racially aggravated public order offence" with the hapless teen due to appear at Dewsbury Magistrates on March 20th. It's difficult to see how his words, as reported, constitute racism in any way. Instead, significantly, and worryingly, his comments amount to an overtly political statement. So; it seems we have a state which now deploys the flimsiest of legislation to silence political dissent. Set in context of vicious austerity measures and the increasingly totalitarian methods used to suppress and quell the resulting protests, this marks a new and very serious attack on civil liberties and personal freedom.
Welcome to justice and democracy, UK style
However, don't despair. It's not all bad news. It seems we also have another state in operation, one which works in parallel to the one experienced by the unfortunate teenager. Under that state it appears perfectly acceptable for serving, or former, soldiers and their friends to post the most noxious and racist filth on Facebook without any sanctions being incurred.
On March 12th, one Scott McHugh, who appears to be a serving soldier, posted on his Facebook wall, in response to Ahmed's comments, "Azhar ahmed you sick horrible twisted paki bastard, how can you say that about our soldiers!"
Further investigations reveal conflicting reports of McHugh’s military status, with friends of the youth contacting this writer to claim he was actually discharged some three months previously. However, Al-Akhbar report an Army spokesman stating McHugh was discharged as recently as last week, as a result of the comments. “He was dismissed last week as a result of abnormal administrative action. He was no longer a serving member of the army,” a British Army spokesman told the news outlet.
To add yet further confusion, Liberal Conspiracy report an MOD spokesman stating that McHugh had not been discharged.
In any event, McHugh was joined by several of his friends on Facebook, in response to his comments, some of whom commented as follows...
Leighanne Gillott: " He's disgusting and should be fucking hanged!! He won't get away with it, locked up or not somebody will get him, he will get what he deserves!!x"
Lee Crisculo: "Fucking sick twat burn his eyes out smelly fukka"
Helen Massey Gordge: "Cheeky smelly pakki cunt wants tying to a tree n shooting ...Smelly fukker..Lock him up n throw the key away ..Grrrhhhh....SKUM...!!"
Robbie Joedys Sampler: " He's nothing he's gunner die veryy soon"
Danielle Lufc Harker: "Dirty smelly greasy bastard needs fuking torturing the dirty paki bastard!!"
The comments were subsequently removed and it appears as though someone reported McHugh to Facebook administrators, as his defiant rejoinder, and that of a friend, seem to suggest...
Scott McHugh: "some body else had just reported my comment who ever it is Get back on ya Camel and f**k off!”
Danny Wheeler: "probably a paki shagger lad fuck em there shitbags for not admitting who it is!"
In contrast to the absence of any support for the source of McHugh’s fury, the Casuals United blog list an EDL demon outside Dewsbury Magistrates Court for the day of Ahmed’s appearance, March 20th, with the racist grouping intent on bringing pressure to bear to ensure his conviction.
The nature of these two connected but contrasting cases raise serious and disquieting questions. Welcome to justice and democracy, UK style. Right about now, I doubt I'm the only one with a grim smile, fearing for the future while hearing Joe Strummer intoning, 'Know Your Rights'...
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