A 19-year-old West Yorkshire man was arrested by police at the weekend after posting a video on social media showing him tearing apart a Koran with his teeth, before putting it in a toilet and then burning it.
The unnamed man, who has since been released on bail, was considered at-risk by West Yorkshire police after a number of violent threats to his life were made in the comment replies on the video, which showed him destroying an English translation of the Islamic text. Some went as far as calling the police to complain that they had been offended by the video.
After the video was posted, it received over 100 comments, and over 1,000 shares on social media.
Arrested on suspicion of a racially or religiously aggravated public order offence, the man has not been allowed to go home because of the continuing threat to his well-being from individuals offended by the video. The Yorkshire Standard reports he has been released to an “alternative location” for his own safety.
Speaking of the arrest, Superintendent Mabs Hussain of Leeds District Police said: “We appreciate and understand the distress this video has caused and I would like to reassure residents of both West Yorkshire and elsewhere that we are taking this matter extremely seriously and progressing this investigation as quickly as possible.
“Due to the nature of this offence, any decision to charge must be taken by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We are currently preparing an advice file which we will be submitting to the Crown Prosecution Service in due course. In the meantime the arrested man has been released on bail to an alternative location.
“We are aware of strong feelings expressed by a number of people in response to this video. We would again urge people to allow this investigation to run its course and remind members of the public that we will take robust action against anyone who acts outside of the law”.
This man is not the first young Briton to have been arrested for burning a book. In September 2010 six young men were arrested for pouring petrol on and burning two Korans in a pub beer garden. In a statement at the time, Northumbria police said the offence was not related to creating, sharing or viewing a video, but rather they were specifically arrested on “suspicion of burning the Koran”.
Two months later, a 15-year-old girl was arrested by West Midlands police in a separate incident for posting a video of herself burning a Koran with her school-friends. In the aftermath of that burning, the chief of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said burning was deeply offensive: “The Koran is the most sacred thing to over a billion Muslims worldwide”.
“You can see that in the way Muslims treat the Koran, washing before touching it and in many Muslim homes you will find it on the top shelf above all other books and we will never destroy the Koranic texts”.