Dewsbury can hardly be described as a particularly picturesque place. This valley and its surrounding towns are largely characterised by the gloomy sandstone buildings left over from the industrial revolution. Maybe it’s just me, but the landscape around here feels grimly oppressive. I cannot help being reminded of the “dark satanic mills” which are mentioned in the William Blake poem written sometime around 1804. There’s a kind of bleakness which hangs over the place, like a dark cloud. Perhaps it is a ghost of the smog which must surely have hung in the air of this town in days gone by.
William Blake wrote and painted on the subject of empire and war; being acutely aware of, and concerned about imperialism, commercialisation of empire, and the senseless wars of kingdom and empire. As a leading writer of his period, he expressed these ideas eloquently and powerfully.
Not so Azhar Ahmed. His words of protest against the ongoing violence in Afghanistan were a case study in badly expressed anger. So much so that a spokesman for West Yorkshire Police said, “He didn’t make his point very well and that is why he has landed himself in bother.”
So now this 19 year boy finds himself facing Dewsbury Magistrate’s court, charged with a racially aggravated public order offence. He’s also facing a deluge of online racist abuse from serving soldiers and their Facebook friends, nationalist blogs, and doubtless numerous other repositories of cretinous reptiles.
I’m left wondering what would have happened if Azhar Ahmed had been a white teenager called Steve Williams. Would his Facebook post have been reported to the police by the people who saw it? Would he have been arrested? Would he have been charged with a “racially aggravated public order offence”?
But enough of that speculation: here we are, and we need to deal with brutal reality of the situation. Azhar is defending himself against a very serious charge of being brown and disagreeing with the war in Afghanistan. This is apparently an imprisonable offence, so he’d better do a very good job of convincing the court he wasn’t racially aggravating public order (or something). There won’t be much mileage in trying to convince the magistrate that he is actually white, so he’s going to have fall back on somebody actually reading what he wrote and being able to see that there isn’t the faintest trace of any racial element to his words. That shouldn’t be too difficult should it? Should it? Let’s recap on that post:
“People gassin about the deaths of Soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have.been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmful familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE FOKKIN SUM! gotta problem go cry at your soldiers grave & wish him hell because thats where he is going..”
I’d ask any individual, be they a police officer, CPS decision maker, magistrate or judge, to point out the reference to nationality, ethnicity, religion or colour in the above. Please. Because I’ve looked really hard, and I still can’t find it.
But that’s enough for now. We’ll find out what Dewsbury Magistrate’s court makes of it soon enough. I’m holding out for some common sense, but experience tells me that this may take far too long to arrive.