By Al Webb
Religion News Service
LONDON (RNS) A British former soldier has been jailed for burning a copy of the Quran in front of shoppers in England -- an act the judge described as "theatrical bigotry."
Andrew Ryan was sentenced to 70 days for setting fire to the Islamic holy book on Jan. 19 in Carlisle with a cigarette lighter after his first attempt with matches failed.
The 22-year-old ex-soldier's lawyer, Margaret Payne, said his fury was "directed toward radical Islam such as the burning of poppies and flags."
As he was led away to a cell on Monday (April 18), Ryan yelled, "What about burning poppies?"
Ryan was referring to a Muslim extremist who was convicted and fined for setting fire to a poppy -- a symbol of Britain's admiration for its war dead -- during an Armistice Day observance in November 2010.
But Magistrates Court Judge Gerald Chalk told Ryan, "You went out to cause maximum publicity and to cause distress."
Noting the defendant's past record of six public disorder convictions, he added, "You are a man who has a history of violence and disorderly conduct."