In what appears to be part of a recent uptick in prejudicial attacks on the heavy metal community, 16 year-old metal fan Ben Moores was brutally kicked and beaten by a gang in Lancashire, England.
Moores believes he was attacked because of his style of dress, taste in music, and long hair. He was assaulted near a supermarket in the small town of Waterfoot, where fifteen 'gangsters' stamped on him, punched him, pulled out clumps of his hair, and hatefully called him "mosher," and "freak."
"They were doing it because of the way I look; because I've got long hair and I like metal music," Moores told Noisecreep. "It's all because I dress a bit different and have different interests."
Though he survived without life-threatening injury, Moores suffered severe bruising to his head and body, and is missing patches of hair. "When they got me on the ground, I thought I was going to die," he said. "There was no stopping them; they wouldn't let me up. I had blood all over my face by the end. When I was getting kicked and stamped on my head and on my wrists, there was nothing I could do. Thinking about it now makes me shiver in shock."
Moores enjoys metal, an often-misunderstood music genre that is falsely believed by the misinformed to perpetuate hate or violence.
Moores was not the first 'metalhead' to be attacked for his fashion and beliefs. In fact, just two miles away from where he was attacked was the place where, in 2007, a gang savagely beat 20 year-old 'goth' Sophie Lancaster to death, while her boyfriend, Robert Maltby, suffered permanent brain damage. The couple was ambushed and simply attacked "for being goths."
Lancaster's mother, Sylvia, commented on the recent attack on Moore, noting, "It's disgraceful, what has happened. The fact that young people gang together like that and think of it as fun is just wrong. People have no right to do this -- it's beyond me why they think it's okay." Sylvia was deeply saddened to know that, nearly five years after her daughter's death, "there have [still] been no lessons learned."
"We were proud to know our daughter," Sylvia had said of Sophie. "She was a beautiful girl with a social conscience and values which made her a joy to know. The thing that makes me most angry is that it is seen as an isolated incident. These attacks are far from isolated. Just because you follow a different culture, you are targeted; you are seen as easy pickings."
Seven of the fifteen who attacked Moores - ranging in age from 14 to 18 - were arrested in connection with the incident.
Members of metal communities and underground subcultures are also at risk elsewhere. In the Middle East, Iraqi youth who identify with heavy metal are being targeted and killed by extremist death squads.
Death squads circulated flyers throughout Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, warning that those who "dressed metal" would be killed, and that "God's punishment" would rain down upon them. They also associated some metal fans with the LGBT community, making similar threats to gay teens and young adults.
Thus, for gay men in Iraq, the threat has been just as serious: Militias have killed more than 50 people who led alternative lifestyles in the past week, according to reports.
"What do you see about me that is so wrong?" said one Iraqi youth who did not want to be named. "I'm a normal guy. But I almost wish I could die, rather than live like this."
These developments come just weeks after the headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party's newspaper were attacked and ransacked by Iraqi federal police.
In response to the intolerance that metal fans and other alternative youth face, Sylvia is campaigning for attacks against people based on appearance to be recognized by lawmakers as hate crimes, and addressed appropriately.
In 2009, she made headway in this regard: After meeting with the London Justice Minister, Sylvia was told that although Straw could not alter the hate crime law itself, he would propose changes to sentencing guidelines for judges.
Kate Conboy-Greenwood, manager of the Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred, and Intolerance Everywhere (S.O.P.H.I.E.) campaign, remarked, "What we are asking for is that when it comes to sentencing, judges are given guidelines to treat attacks like those [on 'goths' and metal fans] as they would if it were a racially motivated assault, or a homophobic incident.
"People from alternative cultures need to know that there is protection in the law."
One of the Iraqi youth being persecuted, Noor (20), said her style was simply about "self-expression," and that, due to the hatred she was exposed to, she and her family have fled north. She didn't know when she would feel safe enough to return.
"Is this what we get," she said, "because we dress in black?"
Photo: Sophie Lancaster, a goth, was kicked and stomped to death by a mob of youths, due to dressing differently and belonging to a misunderstood and feared subculture. Lancashire Police/AP