Cartoon protester in London was 'cheerleader'


The Guardian 

A British Muslim chanted "7/7 on its way" and "Europe you will pay with your blood" at a demonstration over cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, a court has heard. 

Abdul Saleem, 31, was the "cheerleader" of hundreds of protesters who gathered to protest over the publication in a number of European countries, the Old Bailey heard. David Perry QC, prosecuting, said the cartoons which were first published in Denmark had sparked demonstrations across the continent and in the Middle East. 

A large number of Muslims believe their religion forbids "any pictorial depiction or representation" of the prophet, a jury was told. Mr Perry said Saleem had been captured on film chanting slogans, which also included "bin Laden on his way" for the crowd to respond. 

"There is the defendant addressing the crowd denouncing democracy, making it clear that European countries will pay for what they have done, even the United Kingdom where the cartoons were not even published. "He made it clear that Europeans had to pay, that blood would be spilled, and that this was necessary.

He made reference to the suicide bombings in London and he encouraged the crowd to chant the words that he himself used." The jury was told that the demonstration had taken place on February 3 last year, beginning at about 1.30pm.

It involved a march of two to three hundred from the Regents Park mosque to the area around the Danish embassy in Sloane Street, about five minutes walk from department store Harrods, the court was told. The protest ended outside the French embassy at about 5pm. 

Mr Perry said that police feared that if they carried out any arrests they could spark "public disorder", but that they would gather evidence of criminal offences by using video equipment. 

Saleem began addressing the crowd as it made its way down Baker Street near the junction with Marylebone Road, with chants including "democracy, hypocrisy" and "democracy, go to hell". He also said "UK, you will pay, Islam is on its way, UK you will pay, sharia is on its way", the court heard. 

"The reference to 'democracy go to hell' and the denunciation of democracy may be a reflection of the defendant's belief that democracy is incompatible with his views of Islam, that the only true Muslim states are those governed by sharia law, the laws based on the Koran," Mr Perry said. He added: "At each point in which there was a chant, the crowd would respond repeating what he said.

In other words, he was the cheerleader encouraging the crowd to repeat what he was saying." Saleem, 31, of Mellish Street, Poplar, east London, denies one count of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir up racial hatred.

The trial is expected to finish later this week. 

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