Suddenly, we find ourselves in another storm of misinformation. In such storms, conventional wisdom departs from many and oddball stories become political controversies.
Sunday 11th Times and Monday 12th’s Daily Telegraph both carry a story should be prefaced with “…and in other news” or carried in a lads mag. Unfortunately, they are both written with a more sinister undertone. Apparently, Leppard (ST) and Murray (DT) tell us, Muslims are exempt from punitive measures due to the Crown Prosecution Service ruling that the throwing of a shoe is a ritualistic act. Judge Denniss, a man lambasted for his harsh treatment of young Muslims, is now being attacked for his leniency. Douglas Murray, the author of The Telegraph’s article queries whether people can throw “sandals” inside the courtroom, even at the judge himself, creating a wonderful us/them dichotomy when asking: “can they only do so if they are Muslim?” Why Mr. Murray would see sandals “more pertinent” nouns for the foot attire of young Arab/Muslim males is left in subtext. One suspects the director of the Centre of Social Cohesion harbours colonial attitudes.
Murray’s colonialism is not the only thing that has got my back up though, the sheer scope of omission beggars belief. Judge Denniss has been in the news recently for administering harsh deterrent sentences to predominately young Muslim males for stepping over the boundary between “boisterous” and “violent” protest. Seumas Milne’s recent article highlights how the prosecutions following these demonstrations have been politically motivated. Having sat in Denniss’ courtroom, I find it hard to imagine the judge excusing anyone for such triviality. The judge reviews CCTV evidence of the accused, in abstraction from police provocation that is well documented as preceding violent disorder (see http://www.ichr.ps/pdfs/eMRV-1-09.pdf). As most of the accused were told by their duty solicitors to plead guilty, the Judge’s decisions are constrained, he must work within the pre-given parameters. Anyone covering the Gaza Demonstrations will realise how organised the State have been in regards to these prosecutions. The idea that Denniss is seeking to be lenient upon Muslims through his sentencing simply contradicts reality. He speaks as a man under pressure, addressing the observers as if they are judging him, not the accused. A man of Sartrean bad faith, the precedents of “Chapman, Reese and Najeeb” are used to justify the mould of sentencing. It is clear pressure is being exerted from both above and below. One gets the feeling this disinformation is just a way of bleeding the pipes.
On Friday 9th April the judge sentenced a young male who has health problems to 250 hours of community service (served over two years) along with a suspended sentence of one year. He also made it very clear, had it not been for the defendant’s legal team, an 18 month sentence would have been his preferred option. Leniency was the last impression the judge wished to convey stressing that the accused avoided prison time due to exceptional conditions, categorically stating no precedent had been set. The judge refuses to set a precedent over health, or family circumstance. On the 27th March Judge Denniss sent a man of “exemplary character” to prison for two years, despite him being the father and sole provider for a five month old baby and wife.
Perplexing, isn’t it? On the one hand you have the sentences the judge has administered, his insistence that he is avoiding setting any legal precedents, his general discourse of deterrence and his chosen cases. On the other you have this apparent exemption that has set up a precedent that has divided Britain. Muslims can throw footwear at police whereas the average bloke cannot. “This is P.C governance gone mad”, one of the commentators on the Telegraph’s website wrote. If you don’t laugh, you cry. The Labour government have supported and armed Israel while continuing to ignore the elected officials of Palestine, gone to war with two predominately Islamic countries, enacted legislation that renders 95% of British Muslims extreme, attempted to overthrow the leadership of the Muslim Council of Britain, supported torture and extraordinary rendition…to list but a few incursions into the world of Islam.
Tell the 78 protesters who face/faced prison time whose houses were invaded using terror legislation that they are treated exceptionally by this government and they will agree. Tell them that they are being treated unfairly and they will agree wholeheartedly. Use the word “lenient” and they will think you are playing a sick joke.