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28 September 2015

The Baitul Futuh Mosque Fire, Far Right Hate Speech And Facebook Rules

As you may be aware we posted yesterday about the vile comments on the English Defence League Facebook Page concerning the fire at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in London on Saturday. Similar comments (and just as vile in many cases) were seen on UKIP pages as well. We will not repeat any of those comments here.

Morden mosque fire: 70 firefighters tackle blaze

It's amazing how people confuse ‪#‎FreeSpeech‬ with ‪#‎HateSpeech‬ forgetting that all speech does, and should have consequences.
We considered that these posts constituted not just a breach of Facebook Terms and Conditions but an offence under The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. Accordingly, the page, and the posts, were reported to Facebook.

To our surprise, and to the anger and frustration of many, Facebook replied that in their view this did not constitute a breach in their Conditions. This is their clarification of what they consider to be 'Hate Speech'. Apparently they allow you to say anything you pretty much like as long as you state it in a way that suggests 'humour or satire'.

Who knew?
Facebook didn't like
this #Brelfie image
by Alyssa Milano

However woe betide you if you post an image of a mother breastfeeding her child. Until very recently they were mostly block-banned. The most natural and beautiful thing in the history of Homo Sapiens? No, that's not allowed. Nigel would probably call that a result. Ironically, there's a Facebook Page to discuss the Breast Feeding Pic ban.

Oh, and some other things Facebook has banned : Pictures of elbows, suggestive town names, images of children with Downs Syndrome, and men kissing.

And by the way, it's just fine to post videos of beheadings.

Clearly the rules are wrong concerning Online Hate Speech. But changing the rules IS actually possible, both via pressure and National Legislation. The Twitter #FreeTheNipple campaign got Facebook to change it's rules. Nipples are now okay so long as they have a baby clamped on.

On this matter Facebook does actually review it's position regularly and continuously updates it's own guidelines.

Recently German Chancellor Angela Merkel challenged facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the subject of Facebook inaction on Hate Speech - and German Justice Minister Heiko Maas met Facebook representatives earlier this month to discuss what the company could do to prevent Far-Right groups posting racist and inflammatory comments about refugees. Merkel has received assurances from Zuckerberg that the company will take action.

Zuckerberg and Merkel.
Not the best 'Blind Date' for either of them.
Not that we saw much progress today.

At least Germany is setting up a Task Force to combat the problem. Yes, Germany. We might have to reconsider the old stereotypes. Germany truly is leading the way in this arena.

So how does this help us in the UK? It doesn't, yet. That's for another day. Meanwhile we won't let this matter rest. It's not what we do.

Well, the traditional route is to write to your MP - and in this case we've had a bit of luck, in two ways. This writers' local MP happens not only to have visited the mosque often (as a Christian, by the way) but was a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee on E-Crime.

Well, lucky strike number 1.

The report they produced is here, to download. We've just read right through it, it's interesting.

And the MP (who 'promises to reply within 14 days') replied within an hour. The matter hopefully will be addressed at an upcoming Home Office Select Meeting, ideally with a view to possibly setting up a similair Task Force as Germany, which we think is the best option.

Even better, this writer had the pleasure of a discussion a few months ago on this very subject with Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon. It's his local mosque, and he's Under Secretary of State Minister for Countering Extremism.

Lucky strike 2.

He has also been made aware of this issue. We're pretty confident he'll be on the case.

In the meantime, two teenagers have been arrested for arson in connection with the incident. It will be interesting to note their motives, if any, and what prompted them to commit such an offence.

As an aside, the Baitul Futuh Mosque is the largest in Western Europe.

Interior of the Bait ul Futuh Mosque, London

It's a rather beautiful building, and was built entirely from donations from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, who believe in 'Jihad by the Pen'. They are a peaceful Islamic Group who reject entirely all forms of violence. They believe that the "answer of hate should be given by love".

Anyone have a problem with that? Because we certainly don't.

They categorically reject and condemn every form of terrorism. They do not provide "any cover or justification for any act of violence, be it committed by an individual, a group or a government."

They even believe that religion and science must work in harmony with each other.

It is a side of Islam you won't read about in the Media. Perhaps this sign, on their mosque wall, should be put on a poster opposite the offices of the Daily Mail.

In the meantime, if your feelings about the comments on that page were as angry as ours, we'd ask you also, to email your MP. These issues need weight behind them. Every email will help.

You can find your MPs contact details here, on the Official Parliament page, but a better link is the 'Write To Them' site here, where you can directly find and email your MP from one page.

Thank you.
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