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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 15:11 GMT 16:11 UK
Muslim guilty of inciting racial hatred
Iftikhar Ali was fined 3,000
A Muslim who distributed leaflets in London calling for a holy war against Jews has narrowly escaped jail.

Iftikhar Ali stood in Whitechapel High Street in the East End handing out adverts for a talk by the Muslim political organisation Al Mahajiroun.

Words created 1,400 years ago are equally capable of containing race hate as words created today

Judge Jeremy McMullen

When arrested still holding the leaflets, Ali said: "What is written on the paper is true.

"The Jewish people must die."

The London Underground worker is the first person to be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred with an Islamic religious text.

Guilty verdict

The leaflets read: "The Holy Land, Palestine crying for Jihad."

It quoted a "Hadith" - or spoken word when Mohammed said "the hour will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them".

Included was an invitation to a talk by Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of the Muslim political group Al Mahajiroun.

The 33-year-old was convicted of distributing "threatening, abusive or insulting" material in October, 2000, with the intention of stirring up racial hatred.

Father of two, Ali, of East Ham, London was also found guilty of possessing the material.

Multi-cultural community

On Friday he was fined 3,000, ordered to pay 1,200 costs and given 200 hours community service.

Passing sentence, Judge Jeremy McMullen, QC, told him Whitechapel High Street was the "heart of a multi-cultural community where Jews, Muslims and Christians, as well as members of other faiths, live and work side by side".

At the time of the offences police reported synagogue attacks.

He said supporters of Al Mahajiroun were entitled to their views but not to incite racial hatred.

Religious texts

The judge told him: "There is no defence for the charge put to you that you were relying on religious texts.

"Words created 1,400 years ago are equally capable of containing race hate as words created today.

"Scholarly and faithful study of texts is not unlawful but words used in a holy text are capable of inflaming race hate.

The maximum punishment for inciting racial hatred had increased from two to seven years in the wake of 11 September.

"In the current climate of tension in the Middle East and the tension present at the time ... any stirring up of race hatred is bound to be serious."

But it was clear Ali was a "devout" Muslim and that jailing would prove "counter productive".

Irfan Butt, defending, said his client never intended to stir up racial hatred, stressing that the Islamic religion was "fundamentally a tolerant one and does not support violent action against any individuals".

But he now accepted the leaflets could imply the opposite.

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