#BrusselsAttacks Are Not an Excuse for Arresting an Idiot

As many of you will be aware earlier this week a group of crazed jihadists brought death and destruction to the streets of Brussels. They killed over 30, injured hundreds and damaged important infrastructure.

After incidents of this nature emotions often run high and some people react in stupid ways. One example is Matthew Doyle from South Croydon who supposedly confronted a Muslim women and asked her to explain the attacks. He allegedly posted to Twitter…

I confronted a Muslim women yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said “Nothing to do with me”. A mealy mouthed reply.

As a result, according to the Daily Mail, he has been arrested, charged and held in custody…

A talent agency boss alleged to have posted a controversial tweet about confronting a Muslim woman over the Brussels terror attacks has been charged with inciting racial hatred.

The tweet, said to have been posted by Matthew Doyle, 46, from south Croydon, sparked social media outrage and countless parodies after it went viral in the wake of Tuesday’s atrocities in Belgium.

Doyle, who attended private Wellington College, was arrested on Wednesday, and police today said he had been charged with with publishing or distributing written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, likely or intended to stir up racial hatred, under the Public Order Act.

A spokesman said he was being held in custody, and was due to appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court tomorrow morning.

There is little doubt that My Doyle potentially posted something stupid, some may even find it deeply offensive — it’s certainly something I wouldn’t do. However it is an outrage that this man has been arrested and charged.

It seems that there is no actual evidence that he did what he said he did in his Tweet, which explains why he has only be charged with making “racist comments”. Quite how someone can be charged with “racist comments” when the target of his idiocy was a global religion is beyond me though. Remember there over 1 billion practicing Muslims worldwide and the country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. It is a non-racially defined religion just like Christianity.

But enough quibbling, the true outrage is that we have a law that can be used to lock people up for “publishing or distributing written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, likely or intended to stir up racial hatred”. The important point here, and I’ve stated this before, is none of these things are objective, they are all subjective and open to interpretation.

What someone finds threatening, abusive or insulting is entirely down to them. When a drunk man in a pub recently called me a “boring ginger bastard” it didn’t particularly bother me, I was more concerned that he was harassing my friend’s wife. I certainly wouldn’t want to see him locked up for a drunken remark. I just wanted him to F the F Off…

This sort of law places untold power in the hands of the prosecutor, AKA the state, as it could be applied to almost any scenario. For example, imagine I shouted at someone in the street, “F*** off you McDonalds eating pleb!”. Is that not insulting or abusive? Yes it is. Should I be locked up for it? In a free country, no. Under this law though I probably should be, because associating someone with McDonalds may be very distressing…

It seems a little pointless to me to claim that the ‘Free World’ is fighting the scourge of Barbaric, Anti-Freedom, Salafist Jihadism when the ‘Free World’ criminalises certain forms of Free Expression. Even if that Free Expression is completely idiotic. In a free society you allow society to deal with the idiotic, not the state.

As one Twitter user proved, social ridicule is often the best ointment for the idiotic…

Confronted a self-service machine in Tesco, Asked it to explain Brussels. It said “Please place items in bagging area”. Mealy mouthed reply.

Update 2016/03/26: It would seem the CPS have seen sense and forced the police to drop the charges. The fact that the police have the idea that they can arrest people for this sort of thing is very worrying though.

  13 comments for “#BrusselsAttacks Are Not an Excuse for Arresting an Idiot

  1. Tim Carpenter
    Mar 26, 2016 at 4:41 am

    The idiot should have been told to f off.

    With an “oh, do” prepended for good measure.

    Ps: if they arrested people for being an idiot, they have to arrest themselves first.

  2. Paul Marks
    Mar 26, 2016 at 9:17 am

    Recently a Muslim shop keeper in Glasgow (Scotland) wished his customers Happy Easter – so another Muslim gentleman killed him.

    Meanwhile the head of the Central Mosque in Glasgow expressed his support of someone who was just hanged in Pakistan for the murder of a high government official.

    Why?

    Well you see the late high government officer had suggested that people who mocked Muhammed should not be killed. He had not mocked Muhammed himself – he had just said that perhaps people who did so should not be killed. So his own bodyguard had to kill him……..

    So, indeed, only an “idiot” would suggest that there is a problem with Islam.

    • Mar 26, 2016 at 11:33 am

      That’s not really the core of the idiocy. There is no doubt that Islam suffers from some ‘issues’. The point here is that this man supposedly went up to a random person they believed to be a Muslim and demanded they explain the attacks. It’s a ridiculous and insulting thing to do, how could they possibly explain them. There are probably professors at fine institutions who can’t fully explain them. It’s like going up to my girlfriend and demanding she explain Israel’s actions in Palestine because she has a Jewish surname. Or going up to a McDonald’s employee and demanding they explain their gherkin policy, why don’t they put them in the McChicken sandwich?

  3. Mr Ed
    Mar 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Firstly, as the edit notes, it appears that charges have been dropped against this man and he has been released, although he might have spent the entire Easter weekend in police custody awaiting a court appearance, such is the respect for liberty in English criminal law. However, he ought never to have been arrested in the first place.

    The process is that the police decide if they have sufficient basis for an arrest, basically a reasonable suspicion that an offence has been committed, and due to the last Labour government, any offence can be an arrestable offence, which previously was not the case. Proportionality is meant to come into it, but the discretion of a constable to arrest or not is wide.

    It should be noted that there is no ‘First Amendment’ right in English law (hence the First Amendment, it is simply the case that it required a specific statute to make speech of various sorts a crime.

    What is also sinister is the speed with which the police act, having reported a burglary in progress at a neighbouring property some years ago on a summer Sunday morning, the police turned up 6 hours later. This comment was daft, but what is not daft on Twitter? How is it that so much effort is devoted to a supposed crime without a single person having been harmed? There must be a political decision on the part of police forces to prioritise this sort of policing, partly as it is low-risk and easy, but also it may help with their ‘metrics’ and what students of Stalinism may recall as ‘gross output indicators’.

    It appears from unusually coherent media reports that the police charged the man despite not having CPS authority to do so, which if true, is a lawless act by the police, so let us see charges of the common law offence of misconduct in a public office brought and were I the judge, a life sentence would be handed out on conviction by a jury, after all, the tree of liberty requires nourishment, but that is by the by.

    The reported offence is this: S19 Public Order Act 1986.
    “19 Publishing or distributing written material.

    (1)A person who publishes or distributes written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting is guilty of an offence if—
    (a)he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
    (b)having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.
    (2)In proceedings for an offence under this section it is a defence for an accused who is not shown to have intended to stir up racial hatred to prove that he was not aware of the content of the material and did not suspect, and had no reason to suspect, that it was threatening, abusive or insulting.
    (3)References in this Part to the publication or distribution of written material are to its publication or distribution to the public or a section of the public.”

    Quite how the comment could be regarded as ‘threatening’ is unclear, ‘abusive’ no, ‘insulting’, again, it was merely fatuous, so below the threshold for an offence on my view of the statute. But the right to be fatuous is as important as the right to property.

    You might note that this law was brought into force under Mrs Thatcher’s government, when Douglas Hurd was the Home Secretary.

    And as regards the McDonald’s example, it could not be an offence under the above section, but it may well come under Section 5 of the same act, harassment:

    “5 Harassment, alarm or distress.

    (1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
    (a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or
    (b)displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.”

    Because freedom is so precious, that it must clearly be rationed.

  4. Ken Ferguson
    Mar 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    The point here is that this man supposedly went up to a random person they believed to be a Muslim and demanded they explain the attacks. It’s a ridiculous and insulting thing to do, how could they possibly explain them.

    Not sure about this.

    If it can be legitimately argued that Islam encourages lethal violence by its adherents against others (eg kill all infidels) then surely it is not unreasonable to ask Muslims why they support such a creed. Certainly they could respond by saying that they don’t believe in the bits of the Koran like Jihad which seem to advocate violence and repression but….

    If I were a member or supporter of the KKK ,who had hanged a black man the previous evening, would it be unreasonable for the man’s brother to ask me to explain my position?

    • Julie near Chicago
      Mar 29, 2016 at 8:06 am

      I had a thought similar to Ken’s; it seems to me the discussion assumes that the question was put in a nasty or snarky or otherwise obnoxious way — a fact not in evidence, at least to me.

    • Nico Metten
      Mar 29, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Islam is not a uniform religion. It has a lot of confessions. A lot of these are not radical at all. Treating Islam as if all Muslims believe the same thing already shows the ignorance of this guys. You would not ask a protestant to answer for the crimes of the Catholic church, would you?

      • Ken Ferguson
        Mar 29, 2016 at 11:00 am

        You would not ask a protestant to answer for the crimes of the Catholic church, would you?

        Of course not.

        But it would be reasonable to ask any Christian to justify those crimes, past and present. which are rooted in the primitive belief system to which they adhere, wouldn’t it?

        Much of the code of Islam is based on repression and violence and while it is clearly acceptable for the Muslim questioned about terrorism to say “they do not do this in my name” and “my interpretation of the Koran is different to theirs” the fact remains that Islamic beliefs are entirely irrational and it is the words of the Koran which are inspiring the violence.

        We can look away and ignore that or we can confront it honestly. At the moment it seems we are still some way from doing the latter.

        • Nico Metten
          Mar 29, 2016 at 11:26 am

          “But it would be reasonable to ask any Christian to justify those crimes, past and present. which are rooted in the primitive belief system to which they adhere, wouldn’t it?”

          No, people are responsible for their own actions. Most Muslims condemn this violence themselves. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful. That shows you that it is absolutely possible to be a Muslim and a good person.

          Sure we need to have a dialogue about religion. But we have such a dialogue and Muslims are debating these topics among themselves. But shouting at random strangers in the street is not helping.

          • Ken Ferguson
            Mar 29, 2016 at 1:51 pm

            “shouting at random strangers in the street is not helping.”

            Yes of course you are right.

            However there is a temptation not to confront malicious beliefs merely because the other person believes it. And so we see, for example, the pernicious attitudes to women which result in forced and arranged marriages and the situation where, in university Islamic societies, women are compelled to sit at the back of the hall and are not permitted to speak.

            The teachings and practices of Islam are fundamentally irrational and anti-libertarian. Of course the conundrum is that we believe that everyone should be free to believe and to do what they want but we must also be unafraid to call out oppressive credos when we find them.

        • Julie near Chicago
          Mar 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm

          Following on from Nico, Mar 29, 2016 at 9:22 am and Ken, Mar 29, 2016 at 11:00 am:

          “You would not ask a protestant to answer for the crimes of the Catholic church, would you?”

          There simply isn’t enough information presented to know whether the tweeter had the slightest idea of what the woman’s particular brand of what particular sect of Mohammedanism was. Maybe he did, and she was asked because he knew her “party affiliation”; or maybe she was just a Muslim woman-on-the-street.

          Moving on. Whether it would be “it would be reasonable to ask any Christian to justify those crimes, past and present” depends on what you mean by “reasonable.” I daresay relatively few Christians could give you much of an answer.

          And in any case, per the report the woman wasn’t asked to justify the Brussels attack, but rather to explain it. Big difference. “Nothing to do with me” could be taken to amounting to “I have no idea,” or “I’m not in a position where I could possibly give you an explanation, because I have no connection to any of the attackers.”

          So: Given the information here, we don’t know that the tweeter was obnoxious or belligerent in his manner when asking the question; we don’t know whether the woman was being evasive or merely honest.

          We — just — don’t — know.

  5. Jordan Lee
    Mar 29, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Being a non-Muslim is one thing. Being anti-Islam is quite another.

    I do realise that certain Islamic values are very different from my own ‘libertarian’ values. However when an Jihadist threatens violence against me, or promises to use coercive acts to punish me for not being a Muslim that changes things. They have broken their part of the liberal agreement that neighbours can be friendly with each other but have different moral compasses. I do not live in fear that Muslims (as a homogeneous group) are conspiring to break the liberal agreement and force me to become a Muslim.

    Islam is religion comprising over a billion people. When we look at the belief systems of individual Muslims it is often virtually impossible to know how much of a person’s morals are purely Islamic or cultural. Different parts of the world practise Islam very differently.

    To expect that that ALL Muslims possess an understanding of PURE Islam is therefore a pointless endeavour. We may well read the Quran or the Hadiths but to suggest that there is a uniform way of interpreting and applying these texts is obviously false.

    I do not expect a Muslim at random in the street to explain WHY an act of terrorism has occurred, much less take responsibility for the act…

    Similarly if a deluded group of gun toting lunatics in rural America calling themselves libertarians got involved in a violent altercation that involved the death of a police officer. I might well be able offer some insight into the possible motivations for such an attack. But I would certainly not feel in any sense feel personally accountable for the death of the unfortunate policeman…

  6. Julie near Chicago
    Mar 29, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    However, just under the longer quote, Rob writes,

    However it is an outrage that this man has been arrested and charged.

    And with that, and the rest of his piece which follows it, I agree.

    Also, What Paul said.

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