x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Muslims angered at charge for white racist

A white supremacist will be sentenced today for threatening to blow up Scotland's main mosque and behead Muslims.

LONDON // A white supremacist will be sentenced today for threatening to blow up Scotland's main mosque and behead Muslims. Neil MacGregor, who described himself to police as "a proud racist", admitted at earlier court proceedings to threatening to bomb Glasgow Central Mosque and kill a Muslim a week until all the mosques in Scotland were closed. What has amazed and angered Muslims is that MacGregor's plot has received scant mention in the Scottish press and none at all in the wider UK media.

There has also been accusations of double standards against the police and prosecuting authorities because MacGregor, 36, was charged only with breaching the peace and not much more serious terrorism offences. "Imagine if a Scottish Muslim pleaded guilty to threatening to blow up Glasgow Cathedral and behead one Christian a week until all British troops were pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan," said Osama Saeed, chief executive of the Scottish Islamic Foundation and a leading member of the Scottish National Party.

"There would be outrage, right? It would be splashed over the front page of every newspaper in the land. It would be the top of all news bulletins." Yet in this case, it was only after Mr Saeed began phoning major news organisations and after a motion was tabled in the Scottish parliament that the case attracted even limited media coverage. In his parliamentary motion, Frank McAveety, a Labour member of parliament from Glasgow, expressed "disappointment that recent threats to Glasgow Central Mosque and threats to behead one Muslim a week have been under-reported, and calls for the media to ensure that abhorrent acts of terrorism are covered regardless of the perpetrators".

MacGregor made his threats in an e-mail and a phone call to Strathclyde Police last year. He was said to have been angered after seeing a video of the beheading of Ken Bigley, a British engineer who was kidnapped in Baghdad in 2004. In his e-mail, MacGregor said: "I'm a proud racist and a National Front [an extreme right-wing organisation] member. "We as an organisation have decided to deal with the current threat from Muslims in our own British way, like our proud ancestors. "Our demands are very small. Close all mosques in Scotland. If our demands aren't met by next Friday, we'll kidnap one Muslim and execute him or her on the internet, just like they did to our Ken Bigley.

"Those monster evil Muslims cut off his head with a kitchen knife, so we would like to repay the compliment. Every week we'll kidnap and behead a Muslim if our demands aren't met." MacGregor subsequently called police to say he had planted a nail bomb in Glasgow Central Mosque. Officers immediately rushed to the building but found nothing. Bashir Maan, president of the mosque, said: "The police arrived in the evening and evacuated about 100 worshippers. They then searched the whole premises. The Muslim community was very worried at the time."

Mr Maan admitted he had been surprised when MacGregor was charged only with a racially motivated breach of the peace, instead of much more serious offences. It was, he felt, "a deliberate and overt illustration of double standards in the use of anti-terror laws". The Scottish Islamic Foundation has written to the Crown Office, responsible for bring prosecutions in Scotland, demanding to know why MacGregor was charged with such a minor offence.

"We believe that if a young Muslim had similarly been radicalised into threatening violence after viewing videos from Iraq, he would have been dealt with completely differently by the police and prosecuting authorities," Mr Saeed said. "MacGregor can count himself lucky that his trial took place at the Sheriff Court rather than the High Court, where terrorism cases normally go, and the punishment is stiffer. This apparent discrepancy has to be explained.

"Islamic and far-right extremism are stablemates when it comes to violence - a toxic mix of ideology and grievance. We hear glib assurances that far-right extremism is being dealt with, but the evidence says otherwise. "It's all too easy to dismiss MacGregor as a fantasist and lunatic - many of the Muslims convicted of terror offences could be similarly described." In a statement, the Crown Office said it had been decided to charge MacGregor with breach of the peace, aggravated by racial hatred, "after a full and careful consideration of all the facts and circumstances".

A spokesman added: "The facts of the case made it clear that this was a hoax bomb threat which was racially aggravated. There was no evidence of terrorist motivation or intention." Muslims, however, are comparing the MacGregor case to that of Mohammed Atif Siddique, 22, who was jailed in Glasgow for eight years in Sept 2007, for "collecting terrorist-related information, setting up websites and circulating inflammatory terrorist publications" on the internet.

Aamer Anwar, Siddique's lawyer, told the Muslim News newspaper: "Why is it that when white males are involved in what is quite obviously the commission and preparation of terrorist acts, the authorities are not prepared to use the [anti-terrorism] law, but are ready to use it when Muslims are involved?" dsapsted@thenational.ae