10/06/11 - Article No: 1400

Two Men Sentenced to Prison for Spray Painting Mosque - Facebook Rumour

collected February 2013

In May 2010 Tohseef Shah spray painted a British War Memorial with "islam will dominate osama is coming" he was fined £50 & walked free from court. In November 2010, Emdadur Choudhury burned a Poppy during the. 2mins silence. He too was given a fine, £500 and walked free from court. Today, 2 men have been sentenced to 12 months in prison for spray painting a Poppy on a mosque. Pass this on if you think its a disgrace.
collected October 2011

This message which is currently circulating rapidly across social networking site Facebook asserts that two men have been sentenced imprisonment for spray painting a mosque despite much lesser sentences being handed out for other examples of racial crimes but actioned out by Muslims.

The specific stories mentioned in the message are mostly true (but the fines have been mixed up). Tohseef Shah was fined £500 in compensation,£85 court costs and two year conditional discharge for spray painting a memorial statue and Emdadur Choudhury was fined £50 for setting alight a poppy, and finally it is also true that two men have been imprisoned for 12 months for spray painting a mosque. The two men, Steven James Vasey, 32, and 24-year-old Anthony Donald Smith were convicted in Durham this month.

At first glance, one may justifiably feel angry at this apparent injustice which makes the British justice system appear soft on racial crimes committed by minorities. But as with all brief and racially charged messages circulating the Internet, it does not really tell the whole story.

Firstly, the two men sentenced for 12 months not only defaced a mosque but additionally put a brick through a window of an Asian run business and spray painted two other properties ran by Asians, and by the defendents own admission their actions were racially motivated and planned in advance - this in contrast to Tohseef Shah who`s actions were deemed to be political. Racially motivated crimes often receive heftier sentences and despite, for example, Emdadur Choudhurys crime of poppy burning being more controversial, strictly in the eyes of the law, the two men from Durham committed a more heinous crime.

Sentencing is based on many different factors, especially including the severity of the crime and the judge handing the sentence and of course there will be what many percieve to be lighter sentences and heavier sentences given for what appear to be similar crimes of similar severity. However if you think that lighter sentences seem to be reserved for people who are of Asian descent you would be wrong, because a message like this will duly omit the numerous accounts of racial hatred aimed towards Muslims that have not been met with a custodial sentence, such as the case of Wayne Havercroft who was only fined for leaving a pigs head outside a proposed location for a mosque and a spray painted sign saying "No Mosque here. EDL" - or the Sunderland man who was only fined for spray painting a mosque.

This message has picked three - albeit true - stories because they fit the overall meaning the message attempts to convey - hatred towards what the message creator believes to be a racially corrupt/soft justice system. Whilst one could reasonally argue that the two men from Durham did receive a significantly harsher sentence than both the men in the other two stories, it should be noted that these are just three stories and does not necessarily accurately reflect the way the British justice system convicts people of differing faiths.

Of course we invite all of our readers to come to their own conclusions but they should do it with all the facts and not the limited information contained in this message. Circulating this message, however, is not advised [especially "without question" as irresponsibly mentioned in a later version of this hoax] because it is essentially racial propoganda which can potentially cause hatred and isolation towards ethnic minorities.

February 2013 - UPDATE:
A later version of this hoax (written within an image showing a poppy painted on the Jami Mosque) incorrectly attributes the later case of the two men being given 12 months for spray painting a mosque to Portsmouth when they were actually convicted at the other end of the country, in Durham.

The Jami Mosque in Portsmouth was defaced in 2010, and the image in the later version of this hoax shows the result of that vandalism, but it is an entirely different case to the pre-mentioned case where two men were arrested for 12 months. In this case one man was arrested on a public order offence.

Social media and the Internet is rife with rumour, misinformation, propaganda and untruth. It is like this because people can be irresponsible with what information they choose to share.

Our community works hard to try and debunk and assist in as many cases as possible, as well as teach people how to share responsibly. We believe it is important that anyone who uses the Internet be able to identify false rumours and fully understands the possible consequences of spreading false information.

If you are interested in this, feel free to read our two-part blog. Part 1 deals with how to spot and debunk Internet rumours and Part 2 deals with the reasons why you should never circulate false information.

Additionally if you have fallen for this rumour or have Facebook friends that have, you can join our growing Facebook page here or sign up to our mailing list here.

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