Calls for Conservative county councillor to be expelled for Facebook comments ahead of Stevenage election
PUBLISHED: 17:55 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:01 02 May 2018
A Conservative county councillor who is standing in tomorrow's Stevenage Borough Council elections has said a social media post which appears to refer to Islam as a "desert death cult" was against Islamic extremism, not the faith as a whole.
Michael Hearn, who represents the Shephall division on Herts County Council, is a candidate for the Shephall ward in the local elections – and describes himself as a “self-made man”.
But Facebook posts from Mr Hearn, who runs his own training college for courses including first aid, have been brought to the attention of the Comet – with some calling for him to be expelled from the Conservative Party for his views.
Mr Hearn has shared posts from far-right groups such as Britain First, whose leader and deputy leader were found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment in March, as well as from white supremacist group Generation Identity – which operates across Europe and propagates the far-right conspiracy theory that white people are becoming a minority in what it calls the ‘Great Replacement’.
In a Facebook comment last summer, Mr Hearn appears to describe Islam as a “desert death cult, killing and raping its way around the globe”, but he claims he was referring to Isis – despite also referring to Bradford West MP Naz Shah as “of the death cult” in August 2017.
Stevenage residents sickened by his posts have called for action. One man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “The views being expressed by Michael Hearn surely are grounds for expulsion, given his promotion of fascist and ultra-racist groups and their material.
“I am disgusted he has been sharing such views for such a long time without any action being taken so far by the local Conservative party.”
In response to these concerns, Mr Hearn said: “My comments are never against Islam as a faith. Indeed I have family members who are Muslim.
“The statements are rather against Islamic extremism and the horrors that it has perpetrated. Isis, also known as Islamic State, is a death cult that targets, pillages and kills fellow Muslims – this I remain passionate in campaigning against.”
Mr Hearn has also said on Facebook on April 21 this year that if daily torture was introduced in prisons he would “buy in”, and wants to bring back the death penalty. He posted: “While foreign grooming gangs are targeting our white girls I’d kill every single one of those criminals personally if the law allowed it.”
The Comet asked for him to respond to these comments as well, but is yet to receive a response.
There were also concerns raised about one Facebook post made by Stevenage Conservative group leader James Fraser in August last year where, in reference to a petition calling for the UK to ban Sharia Law, the Stevenage Old Town councillor wrote: “Because Islam’s avowed aim is to take over the West by any means necessary, I will always fight against this.”
Asked to explain his comment, he said: “The petition relates to a creeping extremism and possible introduction of beliefs which I happily and totally stand against. I am and would be against any introduction, however mild or regional, of Sharia Law.
“I find the views about the treatment of women and homosexuals abhorrent, and I am and will remain a keen opponent of Halal (and Kosher) slaughter and of its hidden introduction into the mainstream food chain. Three very good friends of mine happen to be Muslim and I know largely agree with the above points.”
The Comet also contacted the Stevenage Conservative Association for comment, but the group is yet to respond.
Last week the Conservatives suspended Matthew Clarke from the party – a candidate who is standing in Stevenage’s Manor ward – over comments he made in a now-deleted blog post in 2005 when he called for “gays to face the death penalty”.
In a 2016 tweet Mr Clarke said he had never sent death threats to gay people, but admitted that “in the past I took the view that homosexuals should face the death penalty”.
Mr Clarke expressed his “deep regret” when speaking to the Comet last week, and said he was “no longer the angry and bitter person” that he was when writing the post in 2005.