Three Muslim men in England have been found guilty of stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation after distributing a leaflet that said Islam called for anyone caught committing homosexuality to be executed.
Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed handed out the pamphlet, called The Death Penalty?, which showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts that said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality.
They were convicted by a jury at Derby Crown Court of distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation in the first prosecution of its kind since legislation came into force in March 2010.
Mehboob Hussain and Umar Javed, who were also charged with the same offence, were found not guilty by the jury. Judge John Burgess, Honorary Recorder of Derby, adjourned sentencing until February 10 for pre-sentence reports.
During their trial the jury of seven men and five women heard the men, who are all from Derby, admitted distributing the leaflet, but said they were simply quoting and following what their religion teaches about homosexuality and did not intend to threaten anyone.
Bobbie Cheema, prosecuting, had told jurors: “In this country we have many freedoms. Sometimes we take them for granted perhaps. Our legal system gives us rights and protects those rights. When individuals are charged with serious criminal offences a jury has to hear the evidence, consider the issues and decide whether guilt has been proven, your presence here is one of the ways in which our rights are protected.
“One of the ways in which we organise our society can be summed up in the common phrase, ‘live and let live’. This case is all about the antithesis of that approach to life.
The charges related to one of a series of three leaflets distributed and a fourth not distributed. One was entitled Turn or Burn and featured a burning person in a lake of fire as an image of hell.
The leaflets were distributed after Friday prayers and were part of a protest mounted by a group of Muslim men against the Gay Pride parade due to take place on 10th July, 2010.
Ali had told police he wanted to advertise a Muslim protest against the parade by distributing flyers. Ali was urged by police to take legal advice to ensure the contents of the flyers would not cause offence.
Ali had organised the distribution of the professionally produced colour leaflets and the others were arrested for distributing them.
Ahmed, a father-of-one, told the court he handed out the leaflets as part of his religious beliefs.
The jury at Derby Crown Court heard how one witness had felt he was being targeted and feared he would be burned, said Sue Hemming from the Crown Prosecution Service.
“While people are entitled to hold extreme opinions which others may find unpleasant and obnoxious, they are not entitled to distribute those opinions in a threatening manner intending to stir up hatred against gay people,” she said in a statement.
“This case was not about curtailing people’s religious views or preventing them from educating others about those views; it was that any such views should be expressed in a lawful manner and not incite others to hatred.”