| |Muslim extremists who handed out leaflets calling for homosexuals to be hanged, stoned and burned to death were facing up to seven years in prison last night.
The group handed out the material in the street as well as posting it through letterboxes in a hate-filled campaign calling for the execution of gay people who they claimed were at the root of society’s problems.
Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed and Razwan Javed are the first to be prosecuted under new laws against inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The pamphlet, called The Death Penalty?, showed an image of a mannequin hanging from a noose and quoted Islamic texts that said capital punishment was the only way to rid society of homosexuality:
Yesterday as they were found guilty at Derby Crown Court, residents spoke of how the three fundamentalists wanted to transform their small area of Derby into a ‘medieval state’ under Sharia law.
Anyone who dared to question their extreme agenda was branded an ‘M15 agent’ or a ‘sell-out,’ they said.
Last night it emerged that:
-Muslim fanatic and hate preacher Anjem Choudary was secretly invited by the group’s ringleader, -Ihjaz Ali, for a series of meetings in Derby;
-The group had links with the extremist organisation Al-Muhajiroun, which is banned under UK anti-terror laws;
-Moderate Muslim leaders who spoke out against the group’s activities were targeted in a hate campaign in which their faces were printed on ‘wanted’ posters;
-Police had to be called during local elections because the group’ s supporters were standing guard at polling stations, ordering Muslims not to vote.
During the trial, the court heard how the group’s activities intimidated residents and left gay people frightened to walk on the streets.
The first, entitled ‘Death penalty?’ proclaimed that ‘Allah permits the destruction’ of gay people and that ‘the only question is how it should be carried out’.
The second, entitled ‘Turn or Burn’, featured a burning figure in a blazing lake of fire and warned that the decriminalisation of homosexuality was ‘the root of all problems’.
A third, entitled ‘GAY - God Abhors You’, warned of ‘severe punishment’ for homosexuals.
A fourth leaflet linked to the group, which was never distributed, described homosexuality as a ‘vile, ugly, cancerous disease’. It referred to ‘queer sinners’ and ‘faggots’ and posed the question ‘Gay Today, Paedophile Tomorrow?’
Ali, 42, Ahmed, 28, and Javed, also 28, all of Normanton, Derby were found guilty of distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. They will be sentenced next month.
Two others who distributed the leaflets, Mehboob Hussein, 44, and Umar Javed, 38, also of Normanton, were cleared of inciting hatred.
The offence was created by an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, brought in March 2010.
Stirring up hatred against homosexuals now carries the same penalties as inciting hatred based on race or religion.
During the trial, gay residents told of the impact the leaflet campaign had on their lives. They gave their evidence from behind screens because they said they were terrified of the group knowing they were gay.
Ben Summerskill, head of the gay rights group Stonewall, said extreme anti-gay propaganda had become a choice tactic for preachers of hate, who knew that other extremist messages – relating to terror or religious hate – would land them in prison.
‘It’s clear that one form of extremism fosters another,’ he said. ‘It’s no surprise there’s a link between violent and extreme homophobia and religious extremism.’
At his trial, ringleader Ihjaz Ali insisted he was just a ‘hard-working, family man’ with traditional Muslim views.
But yesterday a video emerged which shows Ali at a meeting with notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary. Ali booked the room in a local community centre on ‘several occasions’ for secret meetings with the notorious fanatic.
Choudary has frequently praised the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks and called for all gays to be stoned to death.
Ali, a taxi driver, had told community centre staff he wanted the room for an ‘Islamic discussion group’. But police were called in when they realised Choudary was attending the meetings.
On the video, taken in 2009, bearded Ali can be seen remonstrating with police officers as they order Choudary out, telling him he is ‘not welcome’ in Derby.
Holding a letter the police have handed him, Ali can be heard saying: ‘You say to me according to this letter…(that I)… support violent extremism.’ The policeman replies: ‘Of course you do.’
Labour councillor Fareed Hussain said the footage of Ali with Choudary was ‘not surprising.’
He said that Ali was ‘openly associated’ with Al-Muhajiroun – a group headed by Choudary and banned under British law because of its suspected links to international terrorism.
Ali, he said, had ‘openly distributed literature’ in the name of Al-Muhajiroun from a stand on the Normanton high street. And he would ‘subject younger Muslims to pressure’ to take part in his fundamentalist campaigns.
‘I think it is extremely likely Ali and his associates are still linked to Al-Muhajiroun,’ the councillor added. ‘I don’t for a minute believe these five who distributed the leaflets were operating in isolation.’
One resident, who did not want to be named for fear of being targeted, said the extremist group led by Ali ‘wanted to turn the clock back to a medieval state’ under Islamic law.
Another, Oweyss Lal, 18, a sales consultant, said: ‘They target teenagers who are not very educated. Anyone who speaks out against them is labelled an MI5 agent or a sell-out.’
Mr Hussein said although they ‘did not represent a majority at all,’ Ali and his accomplices were ‘very aggressive, vocal and intimidating’.
During local elections in 2006, a group of Muslim men gathered at the polling station in Normanton to intimidate voters. ‘They told people that voting was forbidden by Islam and any government is illegitimate unless it is an Islamic caliphate,’ he said.
‘I had to call the police – they were scaring people.’
Mr Hussein said he was then singled out himself in a frightening poster campaign. In the same week the ‘death penalty’ leaflets were distributed, hundreds of ‘wanted’ posters appeared in Derby accusing Mr Hussein and other Muslim community leaders of ‘selling out’ to a western agenda.
‘The alleged crime was encouraging Muslims to be part of wider society,’ he said. ‘I was shocked – the posters were very intimidating.’
One gay resident summed up the atmosphere in the area.
‘It used to be lovely round here,’ he said.
‘Now, because of these people, you don’t feel safe. I don’t have any problems with Muslims. But these lot need to realise we live in England, not some Islamic state.’