There’s no room for ethnic, religious or sexual hatred in the UK

We’re just too small and cosy.

Britain First leader and deputy leader jailed for hate crimes

Jayda Fransen (left) and Paul Golding (right) arriving at court to hear the verdicts - 7/3/18

The leader and deputy leader of far-right group Britain First have been found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment.

Paul Golding, 36, and Jayda Fransen, 32, were arrested over the distribution of leaflets and posting of online videos during a gang-rape trial.

Fransen was convicted of three counts of religiously aggravated harassment. Golding was found guilty of one charge.

Both were jailed at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court.

Fransen was handed a 36-week sentence and Golding 18 weeks.

During their trial in January, the court heard they had targeted homes and people in Kent whom they believed were connected to a rape trial at Canterbury Crown Court where three Muslim men and a teenager were convicted of rape and jailed.

The pair, both from Penge in south-east London, were arrested in May last year.

Islamophobia is the modern equivalent of antisemitism. It shouldn’t matter what religion you are, or of no religion at all, you should be free from persecution by bigots opposed to your faith or lack of it. Religion should be a purely personal matter, not something enforced by the state, or the cause of bigotry by individuals.

I say enforced rather than endorsed; the Queen is the head of the Church of England after all, but the C0fE isn’t forcing its beliefs on any one at the moment, not even its own members. The state, meaning the government, should take a completely secular approach, neutral towards all faiths.

This is not to deny the persecution by religious fundamentalists of those who don’t agree with their beliefs. Neither is it to affirm the validity of any belief system – no faith can be defended by reason, though some religious believers pretend it can be reasonably defended.

It is simply to state that unless you have committed, or are conspiring to commit, some crime against an individual, community or humanity, you should be free to practice your faith, or have none at all, as you choose, without physical threat. Doesn’t mean others can’t publicly argue against your beliefs, whatever they are, just that you have the freedom to hold them, so long as they involve respecting the right and freedom of others to do the same.

All participants in this mutual respect pact are the good guys, whatever their individual beliefs.

The bad guys are the ones who do not respect the freedom of others to hold differing views about religion. We call these religious fundamentalists, and they exist in every religious faith, not just Islam. There are Protestant Christians, Catholic Christians, Muslims of various sorts, Hindus, Buddhists… all without exception have had episodes here and there, some more than others, of persecuting the group they have chosen to hate, even unto genocide. I wouldn’t exempt the Israeli treatment of Palestinians from this criticism, either. But that’s a complicated case, with much bad blood on both sides.

So when we single out Muslims in general as the objects of hatred and bigotry, simply because some Muslims are involved in terrorism, that interferes with the right of Muslims to peacefully pursue their faith. Same applies to any believers in any faith, or lack of it. Just because some believers in a faith are dangerous extremists, or even worthless bastards, doesn’t say anything about the others who aren’t.

So a jail sentence sounds good. I doubt these folk will learn anything from it, though. They’ll just feel like martyrs for an viciously extremist cause.

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