Four men who threw a pig’s head into a mosque as part of what they called a “prank” are now going to jail, with one of them slated to serve 14 months under English laws against religiously motivated harassment. The men admitted that they planned the shocking stunt with the deliberate intent of insulting Muslims.
Thomas Ashton, 21, Andrew Warner, 30, Travis Crabtree, 25, and Steven White, 28, all confessed to dumping the severed pig’s head in a bag at the mosque on March 24 of last year in Blackpool, England, just two days after British soldier Lee Rigby, an Afghanistan war veteran, was beheaded on a London street in what authorities called an act of terrorism.
Two men who had converted to Islam and described themselves as “soldiers of Allah” were convicted of the savage murder, which they said was in retaliation for actions by Britain and other western countries that harm Muslims.
The imam of the Blackpool Central Mosque, Ashfaq Patel, asked Judge Graham Knowles to show mercy and spare jail time for the four men.
“As long as they realize what they did was offensive and wrong, I don’t think they should end up behind bars,” Patel said.
But Knowles, while impressed with Patel’s appeal, said that the “poisonous” so-called prank on the mosque merited incarceration for the four, who also boasted about leaving the pig’s head at the mosque on Facebook.
“People are and must be free to worship as they please and without this kind of foul attack on them and that which they hold sacred,” Knowles told the four men in court Monday. “Public order must be preserved. What you four did must be denounced.”
Pigs are considered unclean animals in Islam and practicing Muslims are not permitted to eat or even touch them.
But the men sent a Facebook message to the mosque announcing that a package had been left there, without revealing that it contained a severed pig’s head. A mosque volunteer then found the pig’s head.
“Sticking out of the bag was a pig’s ear and he realized it was attached to a pig’s head. He described himself as being totally shocked,” said prosecutor Clare Thomas. “It sent a shiver down his spine. Its presence at a place of worship was highly insulting. Parents and children had started to arrive at the mosque. Some of them saw the head and felt offended and angry.”
Defense lawyers for the four men argued that when they threw the severed pig’s head into the mosque, the four men were not motivated by prejudice but were simply “swept up in the moment.”