British man of Indian origin given 20-month jail sentence for posting Islamophobic tweets

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In a path-breaking development that could set a new precedence in tackling Islamophobia on Twitter, a court in Birmingham has sentenced a British man of Indian origin to 20 months in jail for racially motivated tweets targeting Muslims.

Islamophobia
Custody image: West Bengal Police

The West Midlands Police in UK issued a chilling warning that Rhodenne Chand’s sentencing must serve a lesson that anyone who ‘posts inflammatory messages risks arrest for committing hate crimes.’

In Its tweet, the West Midlands Police wrote, “A #Birmingham man has been convicted of stirring up racial hatred with a string of Islamaphobic tweets − as we warn anyone who posts inflammatory messages will risk arrest for committing hate crimes.” Its subsequent tweet was even more forthright as it warned, “Lots of comments on this tonight. To be clear, this is not a case about free speech. It’s a case which shows we don’t tolerate hate crime.”

Chand, a resident of Kingstanding in Perry Barr area had posted 32 tweets in the space of a few days immediately after the terror attacks at the Manchester Arena in May last year. Some of messages posted by the convicted man encouraged violence against Muslims and for mosques to be attacked. In one particular tweet, Chand had claimed that he wanted to “slit a Muslim’s throat.” His twitter rant was reported to police, which wasted no time in taking a dim view of his Islamophobia.

After his arrest on 17 June last year, Chand confessed to his crime but said that he felt disgusted at himself for posting those hateful tweets. He told officers that he was “venting” in the aftermath of the Manchester and London Borough Market terror attacks and had stopped using Twitter.

However, a specialist prosecutor assessed the case and determined the posts showed intent to stir up racial and religious hatred and that such “violent rhetoric can cause considerable harm once it is in the public domain”.

Chand was charged with publishing threatening, abusive or insulting material intended to stir up racial hatred. He admitted the offence and appeared at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday, when he was jailed for 20 months.

West Midlands Police said that its Superintendent Mat Shaer was working closely with the Association of Muslim Police to ensure the force’s approach to hate crime continues to improve. Superintendent Shaer said, “This case saw the sustained release of offensive, threatening material aimed at Muslim and Pakistani communities − it left people fearing some of the threats could be carried out by him or his twitter followers.

“The law is careful to try and not penalise expression of opinion, even in strong and possibly offensive terms. But Chand’s tweets were a much baser expression of animosity towards a section of society and were totally unacceptable. We take hate crime very seriously and anyone found to be stirring up hatred on the grounds of race, religion, sexuality, or disability could find themselves in court and facing a criminal conviction.

“Court outcomes like this are important in order to reassure communities of our willingness to make progress in the way we tackle hate crime matches how proud we are to police such a diverse region.”

Another British man who had called for Muslims’ killings following the terror attack in Manchester was sentenced to 12 months in jail last September. The British Police’s zero tolerance to Islamophobia must serve a lesson to the Indian law enforcing agencies, that are often seen ignoring similar threats issued by the right-wing Hindutva groups on Twitter. Some of these vicious Twitter users are followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior members of his cabinet.

Some of these right-wing Twitter users were recently called out by India’s foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj, after she faced threats of assassination from some of them.

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