UK’s Merseyside police arrest former cadet for anti-Muslim Twitter tirade

Self-portrait of Amy Graham (right) in police cadet uniform with unidentified colleague, posted to Twitter.

Update: 11 April 2012

Merseyside Police issued the following statement today which was sent to The Electronic Intifada by email:

Merseyside Police can confirm that a 19-year-old woman from Wirral was charged with five offences under the Malicious Communications Act 2003 on Tuesday, 10 April after being arrested on suspicion of posting racially offensive comments on Twitter. The Force started an investigation after receiving complaints from the public about tweets posted by an individual registered on the site that had caused offense.

Original post

Merseyside Police in the UK have reportedly arrested a former cadet who shocked Twitter users with anti-Muslim outbursts, racial epithets and tweets expressing joy at the deaths of more than a hundred Pakistani soldiers in an avalanche.

On 6 April, Amy Graham posted a photo of herself and a man, both of them wearing police cadet uniforms, via her now deleted Twitter account @AmyJgra.

Then on 9 April, Graham engaged in a tirade of tweets about how much she hated Muslims, using extremely offensive language.

Among the statements from the once budding police officer were, “I hate Muslims with a passion,” and referring to “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, using vulgar language. She also referred to one Twitter user using a common racial epithets and wrote, “An avalanche buries Pakistanis.. Haha f**k yes!”

Maev McDaid, President of the Liverpool Guild of Students, was one of several people who complained to police about Graham’s racist Twitter outbursts.

McDaid told me by email that Merseyside Police visited her this morning to take a statement.

According to McDaid, Graham “spent last night in custody,” and had already previously been dismissed from the cadets for poor behavior. McDaid said she’d been told that the police could charge Graham with “racial aggravation.”

McDaid pointed out that Merseyside Police had wrestled with allegations of racism related to the discovery that some officers’ names appeared on a leaked list of members of the far-right British National Party.

McDaid said she was told she was the only person from Liverpool to make a complaint, which she had done citing the welfare of the students she represents.

Contacted by telephone, Merseyside Police couldn’t immediately confirm the details of the Graham case given to me by McDaid, but said they would respond within 24 hours.

Yesterday, after the tweets were brought to my attention, I also made a written complaint to Merseyside Police, the regional force centred in the UK’s northern city of Liverpool – the location with which Graham’s tweets were labeled.

The complaint included screenshots of all the offensive tweets.

Within hours I received a response stating, “Merseyside Police are already aware of this incident, and we can assure you a full investigation is already in progress.”

In December, NBC’s Spanish-language network Telemundo, dismissed a man who had been using the Twitter handle @hotchulo to tweet extremely offensive anti-Muslim comments while identifying himself as a “social media coordinator” for the channel.

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Comments

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While her tweets are abhorrent, and she should lose her job/etc, it is still her fundamental right of free speech. When people start getting arrested for opinions, no matter how atrocious, we are all in danger of losing our freedom.

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That is not an opinion. An opinion requires substance. This is blatant hatred. Did you know in Canada you can be arrested for questioning the Holocaust? Now imagine, what would happen if instead of questioning you were proclaiming your joy that it happened? You'd never see the light of day again. But according to you, that is an opinion. This is too a person laughing at the deaths of people, "An avalanche buries Pakistanis... Haha f*** yes! #lovethis". If what you're saying is correct, then there was also nothing wrong with the hatred of Black people by Caucasians. It was their "fundamental right of free speech" to use racial slurs and to disrespect fellow human beings. Back then it was just about race, but today it's about race AND religion, and if you don't have the "right" one (i.e. White Christian), you will be persecuted. I don't want to live in a world where freedom is synonymous with hatred. I for one am glad this woman was arrested.

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There is a fundamental difference between free speech & verbal abuse. Expressing your opinion requires you to be able to substantiate it if need be. No one can refute that her "opinion" is ridiculous, ignorant, primitive, as well as militant & highly abusive. It boils down to discrimination of the worst kind. If a Muslim person had posted something like this about another group of people, he/she would be labelled a terrorist & no one would disagree. It's time for people to open their minds.

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There is a fundamental difference between free speech & verbal abuse. Expressing your opinion requires you to be able to substantiate it if need be. No one can refute that her "opinion" is ridiculous, ignorant, primitive, as well as militant & highly abusive. It boils down to discrimination of the worst kind. If a Muslim person had posted something like this about another group of people, he/she would be labelled a terrorist & no one would disagree. It's time for people to open their minds.

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In response to Tina's invocation of the Nazi holocaust, and more generally in response to this debate, I would like to quote Noam Chomsky:

"It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers."

I agree that the opinions expressed by this woman are not opinions, which are substantive and may be debated. But I do not trust the state to make the decision as to where to draw the line. The history of states are marked by far more examples of the criminalization of legitimate dissent than of the criminalization of racism, sexism, etc. The public is capable of holding her responsible for her actions without any criminalization her actions by the state.

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Laws against hate crimes and hate speech have existed for quite some time now so I'm not sure where you're going with this statement "The history of states are marked by far more examples of the criminalization of legitimate dissent than of the criminalization of racism, sexism, etc.". To be a bigot is not against the law. To be a bigot who openly spews hate speech to harm another person or group of people, now that is illegal. Being arrested for these actions is not in conflict with "freedom of expression" and I'm mentioning this because I'm assuming "central doctrine" is referring to that. People are careless when discussing freedom of expression. You have the right to say whatever you want, but you don't have the right to hurt another person. It all boils down to mutual respect and feelings, as elementary as that sounds. Everything starts with a feeling. If you hurt a person verbally, it creates a chain reaction and may possibly lead to violence. While most people are quite respectful, and I can only speak for myself, those few that cross the line need to be handled appropriately so that the people who's feelings have been hurt may feel like justice has been served and any lingering feelings would have dispersed. Clearly, I am the sentimental type.

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I'd be interested what the earliest example of a hate crime law you have is, but "criminalization" as I am using it is a sociological term with far broader implications than simply making something formally illegal, though this can be a factor. My apologies if I didn't make my usage of the word clear.

For instance, most industrialized states have formal criminal penalties for a variety of corporate offenses, but given the low rate with which these are invoked, corporate behavior can hardly be said to have been criminalized, even when it breaks the law.

On the other hand, the United States has no laws directly stating that it is a crime to be a person of color, yet people of color are disproportionately the targets of law enforcement agencies, and make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. Despite the absence of overtly racist laws, various populations (all over the world) are criminalized.

Getting back to the issue at hand, despite the presence of hate crime laws, racism on an individual level is rarely punished, much less at the systemic level, which these laws cannot address. On the other hand, the principle upon which hate crime laws sit, that the state can determine the limits of legitimate discourse, is also a principle at the root of the most heinous crimes in human history, including the Nazi holocaust. Throughout history, the catastrophic effects of this principle have vastly outweighed the occasional positive ones.

I would argue that the arrest and possible imprisonment of this woman a) does nothing to solve systemic racism, and b) legitimizes the principle in question, thus contributing to the power of a doctrine with horrific human consequences.

Like I said before, I completely agree that what she is saying is totally horrific, illegitimate, and indefensible. Where we differ is that I believe that the state should not be entrusted to make such a decision.

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That anti semitism is not tolerated whether it is directed at Jews or Muslims.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.