The recent arrest of a suspected neo-Nazi, Sean Creighton, 44, on a terrorism offence contained an interesting footnote. He allegedly possessed a badge with “burn your local mosque” written on it. This idea, to burn a local mosque, has appealed to neo-Nazis and Islamophobes in Europe and North America.
The image, however, comes from the artwork of an obscure black metal band named Mogh, who released a live album in 2012.
Mogh describes itself as a “Persian/Israeli/German extreme black metal project”. Its influences range from nihilism, the occult and the Orient. The band uses anti-Islamic imagery and symbolism in its album artwork and merchandise. The band has marketed itself as “anti-Islamlic black metal” on t-shirts bearing the “burn your local mosque” design.
In spite of the above, the band were ‘shocked’ to learn that their artwork had been used to incite racial hatred.
In a statement, Mogh said: “It shocks us because of many reasons. Mogh is an international conceptual art and band which includes members from Germany, Syria, Iran, Bulgaria and Peru.
Mogh philosophy believes in every person as a star regardless of its race and believes religion in any form steals that identical essence and makes you an systematic slave.”
Mogh state they have lost family members in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution.
Later variations of the “burn your local mosque” image had removed Mogh’s satanic logo. Social media accounts have used it as an Islamophobic call to arms.
In New York, a venue closed after hosting a neo-Nazi music festival last May. A Twitter user posted photos from outside the venue, which included a neo-Nazi owed van covered in hate stickers. One such sticker included “burn your local mosque”.
Mark Bennett, 48, was jailed last July following a racially aggravated public order offence at a mosque in Bristol. Bennett and others had placed rashers of bacon on the door handles of the mosque. They had shouted racial abuse at a member of the mosque, thrown bacon sandwiches at the mosque, and tied a St George’s flag to the railings with the words “No Mosque”.
A Facebook page, linked to Bennett, had posted the “burn your local mosque” image, with the caption “Fire in the hole..!!!”
Two Instagram users in the United States have promoted “burn your local mosque” patches in recent months. Both posts encouraged individuals to message for further details. The user ‘houndsnhogs88’ promoted the patch a day after the terrorist attacks in Brussels. He captioned the post: “After much deliberation, I’m finally putting this on my vest #burnyourlocalmosque #JeSuisBruxelles #fuckIslam #stopIslam”.
On November 14, 2015, Patrick Keogan had allegedly made online threats against two Islamic centres. In one alleged Facebook post, Keogan included an image of a mosque in flames, captioned with the text “burn your local mosque”. His attorney argued that the allegations do not constitute “crimes of violence.” The judge, however, found probable cause to charge Keogan.
Tell MAMA staff became aware of the image last year. On February 27, 2015, the Facebook page of the Sunderland North East Infidels had uploaded the image. In early 2016, Tell MAMA received numerous reports of social media accounts sharing the image. A Twitter account linked to the notorious troll John Nimmo had targeted Tell MAMA staff with this image in 2015.
By April 2016, Tell MAMA reported that an individual had been arrested for posting this image online.
The “burn your local mosque” meme had built a European audience since at least 2014. On November 6, 2014, an online post in German promoted the “burn your local mosque” patches atop bullets. A reverse image search revealed the use of the image as an avatar on a Polish language forum that same year.
Nor does this idea exist in a vacuum. It’s possible to buy patches which read ‘burn your local church’.
In spite of its obscurity and niche genre, the imagery, while offensive, became, by accident, a means for racists to allegedly target Muslim communities.