Page 3, 22nd September 2006

22nd September 2006
Page 3
Page 3, 22nd September 2006 — Extremists demonstrate against the Pontiff

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Locations: Cardiff, London, Surrey


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Extremists demonstrate against the Pontiff

Police launch criminal investigation into calls by a well-known activist for the Holy Father to be executed for his Regensburg speech, reports Simon Caldwell

A RADICAL British Muslim has said that Pope Benedict XVI should be executed for "insulting" Mohammed, the founder of Islam.

The well-known activist, who cannot he named for legal reasons, was among about 100 Muslims who gathered on the piazza of Westminster Cathedral to express their anger over the Pope's speech at the University of Regensburg, Germany.

Speaking to ITV News, he said: "Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.

"I am here to have a peaceful demonstration. But there may be people in Italy or other parts of the world who would carry that [the killing of the Pope] out."

The demonstration came on a day when worldwide anger among Muslims over the Pope's speech appeared to deepen.

The protesters chanted and held up placards reading: "May Allah curse the Pope", "Pope go to hell", "Jesus is the slave of Allah", "Jesus is the messenger of Islam" and "Trinity of evil: Bush, Blair and the Pope".

Some of them wore military-style camouflage clothing, dark glasses and covered their faces.

Some Catholics on their way to Mass at the cathedral argued with the protesters, while others made a point of praying the rosary in front of them, but the demonstration passed off peacefully without any arrests.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police confirmed on Monday that they were reviewing material gathered at the demonstration and subsequent complaints made to the police.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, in charge of public order policing, said: "We have a long history of facilitating lawful demonstration and are keen to continue dialogue with any group wishing to protest.

"However, what we will not allow is for people to attend demonstrations and break the law. Currently officers are looking at what took place ... and also other publicly made statements, with a view to ascertain if any criminal offences have been committed.

"We will always proportionately police all protest but equally will take decisive action where crime is committed." The police may consider whether the protesters breached the Public Order Act 1986, including "incitement to religious hatred", a crime which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail.

As The Catholic Herald went to press, a police spokeswoman said no one had been charged in connection with the demonstration.

Among those who complained to the police was Tory backbencher David Davies, who demanded to know why arrests were not made.

Mr Davies compared the demonstration to the case of Steven Green, an Evangelical Christian who was arrested at a gay festival in Cardiff for handing out leaflets with biblical quotations saying homosexuality was a sin.

"Although I do not share Mr Green's views, I find it extraordinary that while he was arrested straight away, someone can call for the Pope to be executed and just

walk off," he told the Daily Mail. An investigation into a demonstration outside the Danish Embassy, during which protesters held up placards reading "Behead those who insult Islam", led to serious criminal charges.

So far, the evidence from the Westminster demonstration has not suggested offences of the seriousness of the Danish protest, which included alleged soliciting to murder.

Nevertheless, some British Muslims distanced themselves from the remarks made outside the cathedral.

"We welcome the Pope's clarification in which he makes clear that his own views are not in accord with the 14th-century emperor," said Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain.

"The matter is now closed as far as we are concerned. The danger with these kinds of episodes is that extremists may try to exploit them for their own more sinister

purposes." Earlier on Sunday, Cardinal MurphyO'Connor attempted to diffuse the mounting anger — and the offence taken by Catholics to some of the statements made by Muslims -by ordering a statement to be read out at Masses in every parish in the Archdiocese of Westminster.

"It is quite clear to me that Pope Benedict has no intention of offending the sensibilities of our Muslim brothers and sisters," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said.

"What clearly emerges from his lecture is a radical rejection of any religious motivation for violence.

"For our part we will continue to develop good relations with the Muslim community in our country based on mutual respect and a common desire for justice and peace in our world."

It later emerged, however, that police patrols were stepped up around hundreds of Catholic churches amid fears that they might be attacked by Muslims angry over the Pope's comments about Islam.

Priests in the London area said they were visited last weekend by police officers or were urged to contact police stations straight away.

They were also given numbers to call if their churches were attacked.

A parish priest in Surrey, who did not wish to be named, said he returned to his presbytery after hearing confessions on Saturday to be given an "urgent message" to contact the police as soon as possible.

"I was put straight through to the control room and I asked the officer what I could do for him," he said.

"The police officer told me: 'It is really a case of what we can do for you just to tell you that we are increasing patrols around Catholic churches in this area and increasing security'.

"I asked if he had any intelligence and he said he couldn't say. He said the police were in the business df prevention."

He added that every priest in his deanery had also been contacted by the police.

Fr Raymond Warren, the parish priest of Sacred Heart Church, Kilburn, we St London, also told how he was contacted by the pollee over the weekend.

He said officers left him a telephone number to ring for help from the police in the event of his church being attacked.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said that "reassurance patrols were put in place at the weekend in light of world events, at both Catholic and Christian churches, and Muslim mosques. No incidents were reported." He said that the patrols would continue.

The increased security is believed to be being replicated by other police forces throughout England and Wales.

Pastor luventus: Pagell

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