A former soldier in England has been sentenced to 70 days in prison for burning a copy of the Koran (Qu’ran) in public. While a detestable act, the prosecution of individuals for the exercise of free speech is equally detestable and part of a growing trend of such prosecutions in the West under blasphemy or hate crime laws.
Notably, Ryan could have been charged with simply stealing the Koran and burning an object without a permit. Yet, prosecutors went as well for a charge of “religiously aggravated harassment” against the 32-year-old former soldier. He burning the book after he was outraged by the scene of a Muslim burning a poppy on Remembrance Day.
District Judge Gerald Chalk called it a case of “theatrical bigotry”. On that I would agree. However, I would not call burning a religious book a crime.
Ryan was still clearly upset about what he viewed as a double standard when he was sentenced, shouting “What about my country? What about burning poppies?”