Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.
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Brit Arrested for Posting Harmless Joke About Nelson Mandela on the Internet
• Man handcuffed, DNA swabbed, imprisoned and harassed for off-color humor
By Dave Gahary
A bizarre case out of Britain illustrates how far political correctness has infected the Western world: a law-abiding shopkeeper was turned in by a local politician for posting jokes about former South African leader Nelson Mandela on his own page on Facebook. The incident resulted in the man being arrested and charged.
Facebook is an Internet website that allows users to post comments and photographs that they can share with others. In case readers were wondering: No, this story is not a joke.
In order to gain a fuller understanding of this matter, this reporter conducted interviews with the shopkeeper, the politician and two United Kingdom police officials. This matter highlights the changing face of England, the entities intent on fostering multiculturalism and the lengths law enforcement will go to force this new landscape onto the island’s inhabitants.
Neil Phillips is a 44-year-old married father-of-two, who for the past 15 years has owned and run a family sandwich shop in Rugeley, “a small little mining town about 120 miles north of London, right in the center of the UK.”
Over the years, Phillips has seen the ethnic makeup of England change and is none too happy with what he considers to be a massive influx of Muslims into his country. He is not shy about expressing his views, which he does many times through the use of his computer.
Although the mainstream media criticizes people like Phillips as Islamophobes, recent data show that there is no doubt these nationalists’ fears are well-founded.
A January 10, 2014 article appearing in London’s The Daily Telegraph entitled “Almost a tenth of babies and toddlers in England and Wales are Muslim, census figures show,” sheds light on Mr. Phillips’s fear that his homeland is being overrun.
Although around three million Muslims account for around 5% of the total UK population of 63 million. However, figures “extracted from data collected in the 2011 census,” “reveal a ‘startling’ shift in Britain’s demographic trend,” according to the Telegraph report. “The percentage of Muslims among the under-fives,” the article stated, “is almost twice as high as in the general population.” The Pew Foundation has predicted Britain’s Muslim community will reach 8.2% of the population by 2030.
The Sunday Times of London reported on January 30, 2009, that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the UK, and that between 2001 and 2009, the Muslim population increased nearly 10 times faster than the non-Muslim population.
In London, Islam is the largest minority religion, where over 40% of England’s Muslims live and make up 12.4% of the population, according to the aforementioned 2011 census. In the boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, Muslims make up over 30% of their populations.
The topic of Muslims arose during this reporter’s interview with Phillips when he was describing his time in custody.
“I was given an evening meal, which was halal,” he said, “which I wasn’t happy about.”
Halal means ‘lawful’ or ‘permissible’ in Arabic and the slaughter must be done by an Islamic-blessing-reciting Muslim with a sharp knife by cutting the throat, windpipe and blood vessels in the neck without touching the spinal cord. This is all done while the animal is conscious, which has affected the sensibilities of many Britons, as their country had implemented the Humane Slaughter Act of 1933, which was introduced to make stunning compulsory.
Stunning is a method of rendering animals unconscious prior to slaughter.
“So we try to avoid it really,” Phillips explained. “If you’re detained, you can’t, can you?”
Mr. Phillips highlighted his concern with halal.
“It’s everywhere,” he said. “All the schools are doing it, all your soccer games, concerts. But they’re not giving you the Christian option.”
Not too familiar with the dietary habits of Muslims, during our interview, this reporter asked the local politician, Mr. Tim Jones, who lodged the personal complaint against Mr. Phillips, about the claims the shopkeeper made regarding his halal meal behind bars.
“That’s absolute nonsense,” Mr. Jones said. “English law allows religious groups to have meat in the way they want it. So Jews can have kosher meat, and Muslims can have halal meat, and the rest of us can have meat that goes to abattoirs which deal with meat in the traditional way. That’s absolutely false.”
Mr. Jones, a Liberal Democrat, is “on the Rugeley Town Council, the lowest level of local government in Britain. Councilors are entirely voluntary,” he explained. “We don’t get any payment at all.”
Again, the facts seem to back Mr. Phillips’s interpretation of halal’s inroads into England.
According to two UK professors, “the halal meat market in the UK is growing at a remarkable rate.” Recently, “the Halal Food Authority, one of the most influential and longstanding certification bodies, estimated that around 25% of the entire UK meat market is halal.” Significantly, it’s estimated that “90% of Muslims eat halal meat.” Britain’s Guardian reported on September, 25 2013 that “more than 100 KFC outlets around the country are currently running an open-ended trial with finger-lickin’ halal.”
Opposition to halal in the UK is growing. A website, “BoycottHalal.com” has sprung up, whose mission is to “demand that food regulations are followed concerning animal welfare needs for proper stunning before slaughter and proper hygiene and clear labeling (in English) on all halal products worldwide.”
The truth about halal is a bit more complex, however.
A May 9, 2012 article in New Statesman, a weekly British political and cultural magazine, entitled “Halal hysteria,” painted a different picture about halal.
“Muslims insist,” wrote Mehdi Hasan, the author, “that so-called ritual slaughter is humane and pain-free because the animal quickly loses consciousness.”
Joe Regenstein, a professor of food science at Cornell University who leads the university’s Kosher and Halal Food Initiative, was interviewed for the piece.
“Compared to modern, secular methods of slaughter,” he said, “the traditional or prophetic method might actually be equal or possibly superior because the initial pain of the throat cut results in the animal releasing large quantities of endorphins, putting it in a state of euphoria and numbness. The cut thus serves as its own stun.
“In 1978,” the article continued, “research . . . showed that the slaughter in the form of a ritual cut is, if carried out properly, painless in sheep and calves according to EEG [electroencephalography] recordings and the missing defensive actions [of the animals].” Significantly, “the German Federal Constitutional Court based its 2002 verdict permitting ritual slaughter on this study.”
It was these issues and others tied to immigration into England that caused the tension between Jones and Phillips to boil over.
“When Nelson Mandela was first ill and he was on a life support machine,” Phillips explained, “I just quipped that my computer was that slow on closing down, I would call it Nelson Mandela. And then a few weeks later, this councilor took it on himself to report it to the authorities.”
Mr. Jones explained his motivation in contacting the authorities.
“I wrote a letter to the police expressing my concerns about a long-running campaign against local Muslims including Muslim businesses which were competitors of Neil Phillips,” said Jones. “I contacted the police because I was concerned that what he was doing was stirring up divisions between people and my initial concern centered on his attacks on Muslims. At the end of that letter, I attached copies of some of Neil Phillips’s posts against Muslims.”
Mr. Jones emailed Phillips’s posts to this reporter for review, which were, by American standards, quite mild.
Phillips disagrees with Jones.
“Local Muslim takeaways (a cookery where food is sold for consumption away from the premises on which it was prepared) are open in the evenings, whereas my sandwich shop is open in the mornings,” he said. “So I can’t see any question of competition, [since] we have different customers.”
In early September, Phillips’s neighbor telephoned him at work to tell him the police were at his house.
Rushing from work, he was arrested in front of his children and transported “to Rugeley police station at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon.”
The police also confiscated the family’s computer.
After a quick stop at the police station, he was transferred him to a larger station, where he was fingerprinted, photographed, DNA-swabbed and interrogated.
“I was interviewed, quite aggressively, I thought,” he said.
About eight hours later he was released in the chill of the night.
A few weeks later, “I received a letter, no apology or anything, just saying, ‘we’re dropping the charges, come and get your computer.’”
After this reporter asked Mr. Phillips what would happen to his DNA sample, and he assumed since the charges were dropped, they would be destroyed, calls and emails were exchanged with the Stafford Police Station who suggested the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) may be able to provide the answer.
After several phone calls and emails, Paddy Cooper from the ACPO sent the following:
I have taken advice on this matter and can advise the following:
I cannot talk specifically about Mr Phillips’ criminal record including any retention periods attached to the DNA sample and/or fingerprints that may or may not have been taken by the police in relation to the arrest of Mr Phillips. All records pertaining to Mr Phillips, whether held on national police systems or otherwise, are considered to be Mr Phillips’ personal data and under UK data protection legislation, they cannot be disclosed to a third party without the express permission of the data subject i.e. Mr Phillips.
The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 requires all DNA samples to be destroyed within six months of being taken. This allows sufficient time for the sample to be analysed and a DNA profile to be produced for use on the national DNA database. All DNA profiles derived from the DNA samples are subjected to a speculative search however the retention period assigned to the DNA profile depends, in the first instance, on whether the person has any previous convictions: if they have, then both their DNA profile and fingerprints can be retained indefinitely. If they do not have any previous convictions, the retention period for the DNA profile (and fingerprints) will depend on whether the person was arrested and charged with a Minor Offence or arrested for a Qualifying Offence but not charged. In both instances the DNA profile is deleted straight away unless an application is made to the Biometrics Commissioner under the legislation to extend the period of retention to 3 years in respect of the Qualifying Offences. If the person was arrested and charged but not convicted of a Qualifying Offence, the DNA profile is automatically kept for 3 years. At the end of either one of these 3 year retention periods i.e. automatic or on successful application to the Biometrics Commissioner, an application can be made to a District Judge to retain the DNA profile for a further 2 years.
Other factors that affect the retention of a DNA profile following a speculative search include where the person has, within the past 2 years, been given a Penalty Notice for Disorder or the fact that a warrant for arrest has been issued or the offence for which they were arrested remains under investigation i.e. its viewed as an impending prosecution.
Whether or not a DNA profile is retained following a speculative search is a complex matter that can only be determined on a case by case basis depending on the circumstances of each individual.
I hope this is of help.
All the best,
With Mandela’s death on December 5, Phillips’s story resurfaced.
“I’ve been overwhelmed with the support I’ve had globally,” he said. I haven’t had one single comment against me and I’ve got hundreds of comments in support from almost every country around the globe. It’s been amazing.”
Journalists, newspapers, a Canadian TV company got in touch with me to do interviews. I’ve been asked to go to Scotland to do an interview with a newspaper. It really has touched a nerve. People are really waking up to [the] thought police.”
“I’ve had messages from South Africa, Ghana, Canada, America, Australia, Europe, everywhere.”
Phillips has a message for the politicians.
“They just don’t live in the real world,” he said. “They don’t live on the ground, if you know what I mean. They’re in their ivory towers telling us we should all live together and all get on, and it’s not happening.”