With the kind of wearying predictability that makes you want to curl up under a duvet while someone – Richard Briers, perhaps – reads you a Mr Men story as you fall asleep, the usual suspects have taken it upon themselves to compare Nick Griffin and Mark Collett’s acquittal with the conviction of Mizanur Rahman, and to conclude that because one case involved people being nasty towards Muslims and the other involved a Muslim being nasty towards non-Muslims, then there must be “a sinister double standard” going on.
“The verdict clearing Nick Griffin on race hate charges stands in stark contrast to the case of a young Muslim man convicted the previous day on very similar charges. In both trials, the defendants were accused of using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred”, writes Laura Smith in the Guardian. The two verdicts do indeed stand in stark contrast to one another. In one case, the jury found the defendents not guilty, and in the other the jury found the defendent guilty. Why might this be? Well of course there’s the possibility that a double standard was being applied by the randomly chosen members of the public comprising the two juries who’d painstakingly listened through weeks of evidence before coming to their respective conclusions in the two separate cases which had nothing to do with one another except that their conclusions happened to coincide within a few days. Perhaps the jury in the Rahman case – who’d heard about how he publicly said “Oh Allah, we want to see another 9/11 in Iraq, another 9/11 in Denmark, another 9/11 in Spain, in France, all over Europe. Bomb, bomb France. Bomb, bomb France. Nuke, nuke France. Nuke, nuke France” – simply based their verdict that he was guilty of inciting murder on the fact that he was a Muslim.
Perhaps the jury that unanimously acquitted Griffin for his remarks about Islam made at a private meeting did so purely on the grounds that he was white. But, perhaps, the difference between the two cases was, in fact, that Rahman was actually guilty, and Griffin actually innocent. In which case, what should be the correct response, if you want to avoid accusations of double standards? “Well Nick, we don’t think that the evidence here is sufficient to convict you, but a Muslim guy was found guilty a couple of days ago for something similar – although to be fair it was an open and shut case – so because we don’t want people to think we’re prejudiced, you’re going down, sorry”.
That’s not the legal system I want. It’s quite unbelievably important that each and every individual case should be judged on it own merits. The only evidence that need be considered is the evidence pertaining to that particular case. What pissed me off so much about the Aishah Azmi case was the insistence by some commenters to turn it into something bigger than what it was, which was an argument about whether having cloth covering your mouth hinders your ability to teach English. It wasn’t about Islamophobia, or a Clash of Civilisations, or secularism, or the war in Iraq. It was about having cloth over your mouth. It’s absolutely vital that every argument and case like this is judged on its own merits, and on the particular circumstances that pertain to that particular case. Otherwise, we know the verdict in advance, and the facts don’t matter, and justice is dead.