Video of a man violently ripping down a large cross from the roof of a Baptist church circulated, sparking outrage. However, viewers were even more enraged when the police issued a response on the matter.
A video has gone viral for capturing a brazen act of religious contempt at Chadwell Heath Baptist Church in broad daylight. The targeted act of vandalism began circulating on social media, spawning a flurry of anger and shedding light on the apparent bias infecting the justice system.
Initially uploaded to Twitter, the video was filmed across the street from the Chadwell Heath Baptist Church in northeast London, capturing a vandal atop the building’s roof. It is unclear how the man had climbed up to the church’s awning overhanging the entrance. However, his intention to bring down the house of worship’s most prominent symbol of faith was clear.
Police confirmed that Yussef Alwali, who has been reported as either being 19 or 21 years old, premeditatedly scaled the church in an effort to destroy the cross centerpiece adorning the entrance’s awning. The suspect is seen repeatedly yanking and rocking the cross back and forth before it finally gives way.
Although there was no chance of concealing the clearly-recorded suspect’s identity, the Barking and Dagenham Police were hesitant to comment on the crime, much less offer up a name. In fact, they issued a canned response to the public, acknowledging that a “male has been arrested.” When the police finally released Alwali’s identity and charge, it only sparked further outrage.
Despite the obvious nature of the crime, the police announced that they would only charge Alwali with “religiously aggravated criminal damage,” the Echo reports. Understandably, the public was furious that there was no consideration of a religious hate crime, which typically follows an anti-Islamic act of an equivalent magnitude.
“A man has been charged following an incident at a church in Chadwell Heath. Yussef Alwali – 19, from Basildon, Essex, will appear in custody at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, October 20 charged with religiously aggravated criminal damage,” a Met Police spokesperson said.
Disturbingly, it seems that the court is presuming mental instability as a defense for the suspect. According to the prosecutor, not only is the court set to psychologically evaluate Alwali but they are also taking his minority racial status into account, the Daily Mail reports.
Phillipa McCarthy, prosecuting, said, “There have been ongoing concerns about this defendant. On this occasion, he has taken the cross off the Baptist Church. There are underlying issues. Given the racial undertones and Mr Alwali’s background it would be outside your jurisdiction with regards to sentencing given the nature of the offence.”
As for the church, workmen were spotted returning the cross to its former position. When asked, Reverend James Thomas lamented the attack but expressed relief that no one was hurt.
He said, “It was frustrating to have the church vandalised but material things can be fixed with ease.”
The church is described as a “multinational” house of worship with a humble congregation of 70 members. Its description confirms that it does not discriminate when it comes to its attendees.
“We seek to worship God and pray together, to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to encourage people to be His disciples and serve the local community and wider church family. We welcome young and old from any background and experience,” the website states.
The prosecutor’s response leaves many concerned that the court will have sympathy for Alwali and issue a lenient sentence due to his racial background. Understandably, this has prompted many to call into question the impartiality of the justice system.
Many expressed outrage not only over the act itself but also over the fact that there was no mention of a potential hate crime by authorities. They pointed out that when a mosque experiences vandalism, the authorities almost always treat the act as anti-Muslim and additional related charges are launched.