Members and supporters of the National Secular Society gathered in Portcullis House this week to discuss the future of free speech, two years after the attack on Charlie Hebdo .
The Society was honoured to be joined by Caroline Fourest, who helped edit the Survivor's Edition of Charlie Hebdo published shortly after the massacre.
She discussed the shameful treatment of Charlie Hebdo following the massacre by some UK media outlets: after the attack, Sky News cut her off in the middle of an interview when she tried to show a cartoon of Mohammed. Those who defy Islamic blasphemy
laws don't just face violence and threats, she said, but demonisation from the regressive left.
She stressed the need for secularists to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry but criticised the term Islamophobia , arguing that it conflated Muslims with Islam, and stifled discussion about the religion.
Introducing the event, Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, said:
The heartening outpouring of solidarity, the sense of indignation and outrage, the crowds shouting 'Je Suis Charlie' had offered a brief glimmer of hope.
But the solidarity didn't last, our collective outrage quickly gave way to bitter disputes, and bile against Charlie from those who blamed the victims for their own murder. The crowds went home.
The panel also featured writer and journalist Nick Cohen, Jodie Ginsberg of Index on Censorship and Martin Rowson. Nick Cohen urged those present to buy Caroline Fourest's book, In Praise of Blasphemy , after she said that, despite it being a
bestseller in France, no UK publisher would touch it. He accused people of making feeble excuses for not showing genuine solidarity with Charlie Hebdo , arguing that there were very good reasons to be frightened of publishing a Mohammed cartoon, but that
few would admit that was the true reason.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said that a pincer movement was attacking free speech. She pointed to Government proposals for extremism disruption orders as one example, and criticised Tony Blair and other politicians for
calling for laws against offending religious feelings. She said that society lacked the ability to debate productively and that whatever you did, however innocuous you think it is, somebody will claim to be offended . People went very
quickly after the attack from saying Je Suis Charlie to, Je Suis Charlie, but... and too many claim to defend free speech but in practice out only the kind I like.
Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson spoke about the resistance of the paper to publishing a cartoon of Mohammed, and said that any organisation that did so would face tremendous threats, without the safety in numbers that might have been hoped for in the
aftermath of the attack two years ago. Rowson added that one of the great threats to freedom of speech was the belief that the greatest human right of all was a right to not be upset.
Jim Fitzpatrick MP, who sponsored the room for the NSS, congratulated the Society on hosting the event and said that it was inspiring to hear such a strong defence of free expression.
Noor TV is a digital satellite television channel broadcasting religious and other programming in Urdu from an Islamic perspective to
audiences in the UK and internationally.
On 17 November 2015, the Licensee broadcast the second instalment of a series of four programmes which had been recorded at the Urs Nehrian festival in Pakistan that had taken place in June 2015. The programme consisted of 15 religious scholars and
preachers addressing an assembled congregation with short sermons, homilies and poetic verses.
One of the speakers, Allama Mufti Muhammad Saeed Sialvi Sahib (“Allama Sialvi”), recounted a parable in which he stated that the Prophet Muhammed had given a general command to kill all Jewish people. He stated that upon hearing this command one Muslim
follower had immediately killed a Jewish trader with whom he had long standing business relations. Allama Sialvi held this to be an example of the devotion and obedience of a disciple to the Prophet Muhammed and on several occasions appeared to condone
the killing of a Jewish trader.
We noted that Allama Sialvi held the titles “Mufti” and “Allama”, denoting that he was a figure of religious authority within the Muslim community, and therefore someone whose views would carry some weight within the Muslim community.
We considered that Allama Sialvi's clear statement that religious obedience within the Islamic faith could be demonstrated through murder of Jewish people had the potential to be interpreted as spreading anti-Semitism, i.e. his comments could amount to a
form of hate speech . In this context we were mindful of the Council of Europe's definition of' hate speech', as follows: all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms
of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin
We considered that Allama Sialvi's speech, particularly due to his standing and authority within the Muslim community, involved clear potential to cause significant offence as it held up in unequivocal terms the killing of a Jewish person as an example
of devotion and obedience within the context of the Islamic faith. We also considered that the content had the potential to cause harm by portraying the murder of Jewish people in highly positive terms and promoting a highly negative anti-Semitic
attitude towards Jewish people.
Ofcom's Decision is that an appropriate and proportionate sanction would be a financial penalty of £75,000. In addition, Ofcom considers that the Licensee should broadcast a statement of Ofcom's findings in this case, on a date and in a form to be
determined by Ofcom.
California-based artist Mark Thaler, who created the decorations, appears to have now removed them from sale. He had initially told the newspaper he would consider removing them out of respect for his fellow humans .
Britain's TV censor, Ofcom, has fined Peace TV Urdu £65,000 for discriminatory remarks about the jewish community.
Peace TV Urdu is part of Zakir Naik's Peace TV group based in India. The group is currently under Indian government scrutiny and the process has been initiated to declare them terrorist entities under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. The
channel is also banned in Bangladesh after the Dhaka Terror Attack on advice of the internal security agencies.
Ofcom found the broadcast of the public lectures by an Islamic scholar highly critical and potentially offensive to the Jewish people. This was broadcast on September 12 and 13 on Peace TV Urdu.
Ofcom highlighted a number of discriminatory remarks made about the Jewish people as an ethnic group in the lectures delivered by Islamic scholar Israr Ahmed who died in April 2010. The role and actions of the Jewish people through history from c.1500 to
the present day were examined in the lectures that had comments like this cursed people, this cursed race , found to be offensive under Ofcom's rules.
Ofcom observes that the breach of the code was serious as the content included numerous examples of overwhelmingly negative and stereotypical references to Jewish people which, in its view, were a form of hate speech. The sanctions document notes:
Ofcom was concerned that the highly critical and negative statements made about Jewish people , uninterrupted by an individual likely to be held in high status by the viewers of Peace TV Urdu had the clear potential to cause harm by portraying Jewish
people in highly negative terms.
Peace TV expressed its sincere regret and acknowledged that the programme should not have been broadcast.
National Secular Society protests decision to suspend Louis Smith after he mocked Islam
The National Secular Society has written an open letter to British Gymnastics calling on the body to reverse the two
month suspension given to athlete Louis Smith for mocking Islam.
The sporting body suspended Smith for two months and gave fellow athlete Luke Carson a reprimand over a video in which the two mocked Islamic prayer.
President of the National Secular Society Terry Sanderson wrote to British Gymnastics that's its own censorious actions had caused far more harm than Smith and Carson's mockery of Islam.
In an open letter Mr Sanderson said that:
British Gymnastics has contributed to a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of religious extremists.
Rather than defending free expression, one of the most precious pillars of our liberal democratic society, you have chosen instead to side with extremists and patronise British Muslims by assuming they will take offence at the trivial actions of these
British Gymnastics' condemnation and punishment of Louis Smith and Luke Carson will only serve to embolden the religious extremists who reject free speech and religious tolerance by demanding that Islam must not be mocked.
We urge you to consider whether by taking the actions it has, British Gymnastics has further endangered the safety of these two athletes by giving succour to those who seek to silence all criticism and mockery of their religion.
British Gymnastics' Standards of Conduct prohibits athletes from making offensive jokes or remarks. The National Secular Society has now called on British Gymnastics to revise its code of conduct to protect athletes' freedom of expression.
Offsite Comment: Je suis Louis Smith
Why we must be free to mock Islam. By Brendan O'Neill
Yesterday in parliament Tory MP Charles Walker was speaking about the chilling vilification of Louis Smith and accused politicians of having looked the other way
over death threats to Smith.
During Prime Minister's Questions, he told MPs:
When people make fun of Christianity in this country, it rightly turns the other cheek.
When a young gymnast, Louis Smith, makes fun of another religion widely practised in this country, he is hounded on Twitter by the media and suspended by his association.
For goodness sake, this man received death threats and we have all looked the other way.
My question to the Prime Minister is this: what is going on in this country because I no longer understand the rules
In response, Theresa May seemed to affirm that freedom of speech has been repealed and that the criticism of islam is now officially considered off limits. She said:
I understand the level of concern that you have raised in relation to this matter. This is a balance that we need to find.
We value freedom of expression and freedom of speech in this country -- that is absolutely essential in underpinning our democracy ... BUT ... we also value tolerance to others. We also value tolerance in relation to religions.
This is one of the issues that we have looked at in the counter-extremism strategy that the Government has produced.
I think we need to ensure that yes it is right that people can have that freedom of expression. ..BUT... in doing so that right has a responsibility too.
And that is a responsibility to recognise the importance of tolerance to others.
Offsite Comment: British Gymnastics needs to get off its high horse
An episode of Fireman Sam in which a character appeared to tread on a page
of generic unreadable Arabic-like script has been removed from Channel 5's streaming site, the TV network said.
In episode seven, series nine of the popular children's cartoon, a character carrying a tray of hot drinks slips after tripping on some paper on the floor of the fire station. Several sheets fly into the air, one of which looks to be covered with Arabic
HIT Entertainment, which produced the show, quickly apologised:
It has been bought to our attention that in an episode of Fireman Sam (Series 9, Episode 7), an image of the Qur'an is briefly depicted. The page was intended to show illegible text and we deeply regret this error. We sincerely apologise for any distress
or offence it may have caused.
We will no longer be working with the animation studio responsible for this mistake. In addition, we are taking immediate action to remove this episode from circulation and we are reviewing our content production procedures to ensure this never happens
again. Again, we apologise unreservedly to our viewers.
The episode has been pulled from Channel 5's online streaming platform and the broadcaster said it had no plans to show it on TV.
It is not clear how an unreadable page of Arabic-like script got identified as a page from the Qur'an.
Ofcom have issued the following announcement in the latest complaints bulletin
On 4 May 2016 Ofcom published changes to the rules in Section Three of the Broadcasting Code, and accompanying guidance, to ensure they are as clear as possible for broadcasters.
We publicly consulted on our proposals to revise Section Three of the Code in January 2016.
Section Three relates to crime. It prohibits the broadcast of material likely to encourage or to incite the commission of crime, or to lead to disorder. It also helps to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in services
of harmful and/or offensive material. Ofcom has updated the title of the Section from Crime to Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse and introduced two additional rules which apply to content containing hate speech and abusive or derogatory
Presumably the new rules are:
Section Three: Crime, Disorder, Hatred and Abuse
Hatred and Abuse
3.2 Material which contains hate speech must not be included in television and radio programmes except where it is justified by the context.
3.3 Material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities, must not be included in television and radio services except where it is justified by the context. (See also Rule 4.2).
I bet some religious people will be celebrating, not quite realising that it will be themselves who will get caught out by the new rules when they inevitably insult other religions.
Any by way of examples, the latest Complaints Bulletin chastises:
the islamic channel Noor TV for spreading hatred of jews.
the christian channel SonLife Broadcasting Network for insulting muslims
The Daily Mail reports that the government is set to introduce a new bill with a raft of measures to counter muslim extremism.
Among those measures is the enabling of TV pre broadcast censorship. Ofcom is to be given given extended powers to suspend broadcasts deemed to include unacceptable extremist material .
The Daily Mail article also reveals that a covert Home Office unit has been established to influence the views of young British Muslims using online propaganda tools. The secret campaign aims to bring about attitudinal and behavioural change and a
different voice from Islamic State's persuasive online propaganda.
The Research, Information and Communications Unit (Ricu) had one initiative in which it advertised itself as a campaign providing advice on how to raise funds for Syrian refugees. Employees had face-to-face conversations with students without them
knowing it was a government programme. The official description of the group is:
Established in 2007, the Research Information and Communications Unit (RICU) is a cross-departmental strategic communications body based at the Office for Security and Counter-terrorism (OSCT) at the Home Office. RICU aims to coordinate government-wide
communication activities to counter the appeal of violent extremism while promoting stronger grass-roots inter-community relations.
Offsite Comment: Government floundering with a legal definition of 'extremism'
It's now reported by the Guardian that the counter-extremism bill, cast as the centrepiece of Cameron's legacy programme of legislation, is floundering because the government can't seem to find a legally robust definition of extremism.
It is understood that the bill, to be announced in the Queen's speech on 18 May, has been through dozens of drafts and Whitehall officials are still struggling to find a definition of extremist that will not be immediately challenged in the
A new report on identity and immigration has found that nearly half of England's population support legal limits on free speech when religion is concerned, and that support for freedom of expression has fallen significantly since 2011.
A poll of 4,015 people conducted by Populus for the Fear and HOPE 2016 report found that only 54% agreed people should be allowed to say what they believe about religion. 46% said there some things that you should not be able to say
about religion .
In 2011 just 40% agreed that some statements about religion were off-limits, compared with 60% who agreed that people should be allowed to say what they believe about religion .
The report, on English attitudes towards identity, multiculturalism, religion and immigration was written by Professor Robert Ford of Manchester University and Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate. The report notes that support for limiting free speech to
respect multicultural sensitivities had grown over the past five years . Limiting free speech is most popular among the young and among those most confident with multiculturalism. 58% of under 25s back similar limits on religion as exist for policing racial hate.
Stephen Evans, National Secular Society campaigns manager, said the report made for grim reading :
This report demonstrates how the concept of offense, and the violence that sometimes accompanies it, has created a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the UK. Whilst bigotry of all kinds should be robustly challenged, now is not the time to start
sacrificing fundamental freedoms in order to protect 'religious sentiments'. Restricting free speech will do nothing to improve social cohesion -- and one satisfied demand to 'respect' religion will only lead to yet further demands.
Stringent penalties are in place for religiously-aggravated crimes but the law is not there to prevent us from feeling offended. Free speech is the cornerstone of democratic life any new legal restrictions would be counterproductive, only serving to
stifle debate and erode hard-won civil liberties.
Birmingham's education commissioner says he has banned the use of the term Trojan Horse to describe alleged attempts by groups to take over schools and covertly impose a Muslim ethos.
Mike Tomlinson, appointed in the wake of the controversy, says the phrase was not helpful to attempts to improve Birmingham's schools. He claimed that it could have an adverse impact on teacher recruitment. Tomlinson said no-one in his department
was now allowed to use the phrase.
The Guardian/Observer. has very recently announced that it will be heavily restricting comment on articles dealing with three sensitive subjects -- race, immigration and Islam, on the grounds that there has been a change in mainstream public
opinion and language that we do not wish to see reflected or supported on the site and those subjects in particular attract too much toxic comment.
Most pieces on those themes will not now not be open for comment. Occasional selected pieces will be open, but for a shorter period than the usual three days, and only when it is judged that enough moderation resources can be deployed there and that it
is possible to have a constructive discussion on them, whatever that means.
A few people have whinged on twitter about a scarf design sold by H&M. The scarf is apparently similar to a tallit scarf, a Jewish shawl worn during prayer. Both feature a cream colour, with the same black stripes and tassels.
A couple of trivial tweets were:
Dear Fashion: Please step off other ppl's ritual items (or symbols of liberation, really.)
Yo @hm this is exceedingly uncool.
An H&M spokesperson said:
We are truly sorry if we have offended anyone with this piece. Everyone is welcome at H&M and we never take a religious or political stand. Stripes is one of the trends for this season and something we were inspired by. Our intention was never to
Evangelical Protestant preacher Pastor James McConnell has been found not guilty of making grossly offensive remarks during a sermon in which he described Islam as heathen , satanic .
The high profile evangelical pastor had been charged with two alleged offences after the sermon delivered from the pulpit of his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle on May 18, 2014 was streamed online.
But following a hearing he was cleared of improper use of a public electronic communications network and causing a grossly offensive message to be sent by means of a public electronic communications network.
Delivering his reserved judgment, District Judge Liam McNally said:
The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive. It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances. Accordingly I find Pastor McConnell not guilty of both charges.
In my view Pastor McConnell's mindset was that he was preaching to the converted in the form of his own congregation and like-minded people who were listening to his service rather than preaching to the worldwide internet. He is a man with strong,
passionate and sincerely held beliefs... his passion and enthusiasm for his subject caused him to, so to speak, 'lose the run of himself
The judge said the comments about Islam being heathen and satanic were protected under human rights legislation. When considering the remarks about mistrusting Muslims, Judge McNally said he was satisfied the pastor had not set out to
intentionally cause offence. If the preacher had qualified his remarks, as he did in subsequent media interviews, he could have been spared the legal battle.
Identical video ads on the website www.mulberry.com and on YouTube, seen in November 2015, promoted Mulberry handbags. Both ads showed a man giving a woman a Mulberry handbag as a gift in scenes reminiscent of the Christmas Nativity story. Issue
Forty-two complainants challenged whether the ad was offensive to Christians because it replaced the baby Jesus with a handbag. The complainants objected that it undermined central messages of their faith; that the important scene was being used for the
purpose of consumerism; and that it was blasphemous.
ASA Assessment: Complaints not upheld
The ASA noted that the ad was based on the bible story of the birth of the baby Jesus in a stable, and the visits by the shepherds and the wise men bearing gifts. We noted that the ad had appeared in the month before Christmas and that the complainants
had found the use of religious references for commercial aims offensive. We noted that the ad began with the man giving the woman a gift with the words, I know we weren't doing presents this year, but ... , which we considered suggested a
modern-day, present-giving context for what followed. Later on, after the shepherds and wise men had admired the bag, the man said, Guys, it's only a bag , which we considered was likely to be interpreted by viewers as referring to the
playful and ridiculous nature of the comparison with the Nativity story, and was more likely to be seen as a humorous reference to consumerism than ridiculing the story. We acknowledged that the ad might not be to everyone's taste, but considered most
viewers would understand it as a light hearted take on the Nativity story, intended to poke fun at the effect of consumerism on Christmas rather than mocking or denigrating Christian belief. Because of that, we considered the ad was unlikely to cause
serious or widespread offence.
Deliver us from religious propaganda,
For ever and ever,
The British press is kindly going with a news item about another religious advert refused by cinemas.
Previously A church of England advert about the Lord's Prayer had been banned by Digital Cinema Media (DCM), which handles commercials for the Odeon, Vue and Cineworld chains.
Armed with the knowledge that the DCM refuses to accept religious adverts, and that the previous news story generated lots of free publicity plus lots of views on YouTube, a group called ChurchAds has decided to try its luck for a repeat.
ChurchAds is an alliance of churches and Christian organisations funded and made the 45-second film as part of its annual Christmas Starts with Christ campaign .
The advert featuring a nativity scene, was inevitably rejected as too religious by DCM.
But will this next attempt generate as much hype, and more importantly will it receive so many views on YouTube.
Ofcom gives its verdict on Jimmy Swaggart's christian preaching. But only gay people are protected from such abuse. It seems perfectly OK to label heterosexual porn viewers as living in 'a quagmire of filth'
Jimmy Swaggart The Classics
SBN International, 7 July 2015, 17:00
Son Life Broadcasting Network International ( SBN International ) broadcasts on digital satellite platforms, primarily to a Christian audience. The channel's content consists of music and sermons by Christian televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and
members of his ministry.
A complainant alerted Ofcom to homophobic comments made during a 1985 sermon delivered by Jimmy Swaggart to an audience in Texas, and included in this Jimmy Swaggart the Crusade Classics programme.
At about 17:52 Jimmy Swaggart moved to the centre of the stage and began his sermon. He said that the world, and more specifically the United States, was being inundated by a variety of sexual sins . He stated, Our nation staggers under a
quagmire of filth . He then listed the following as filth : pornography ; homosexuality ; paedophilia ; sexual child abuse and incest, which runs rampant in the United States .
After referring to a Gay Pride event that had taken place in San Francisco, he stated that the Board of Deputies had issued a permit for this vile, degenerate event to be consummated , and went on to say that homosexuals were sex perverts, that
is the correct terminology . To applause from the audience he added that homosexuals were not gay, not alternate lifestyle, but sex perverts . Describing scenes at the New Orleans Mardi Gras, he said that he saw repulsive looking
transvestites , who had disgraced the floats with their obnoxious presence .
Ofcom considered its Rule 2.3:
In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context... Such material may include, but is not limited to...humiliation, distress, violation of human dignity, discriminatory
treatment or language (for example on the grounds of age, disability, gender, race, religion, beliefs and sexual orientation).
Licensee Lancaster LLC stated that this programme was broadcast as a result of human error :
The fact that this programme aired in the UK on 7th July 2015 was a scheduling error which should not have occurred. Lancaster LLC acknowledged that some of the terminology used at the time this sermon was originally delivered might be considered
offensive to members of the homosexual community in the present day, for which the channel sincerely apologizes.
Ofcom Decision: Breach of Rule 2.3
We first considered whether this content had the potential to cause offence. Ofcom noted that Jimmy Swaggart described a Gay Pride parade as a vile, degenerate event , homosexuals as sex perverts , and transvestites as disgracing floats at
a carnival by their obnoxious presence . Specifically referring to the San Francisco Gay Pride event, Jimmy Swaggart described it as the most obscene demonstration in the history of modern day nations [which] took place uninterrupted in the
city of San Francisco and a vile degenerate event to be consummated . Jimmy Swaggart did not specifically identify homosexual people as degenerate , but by referring to the Gay Parade event as a degenerate event , and an obscene demonstration
, viewers would have been left in no doubt that the participants in the parade were themselves being viewed as degenerate and obscene . Further, although he did not describe homosexual people as filth , Jimmy Swaggart did include
homosexuality in his list of sins which were filth . In our view this language was derogatory, homophobic and clearly capable of causing offence.
In Ofcom's view it would have been clear to viewers from factors like the on-screen graphic and style of dress of participants in the programme that the sermon dated from many years ago. We recognised that Jimmy Swaggart's remarks may have been likely to
cause a lower level of offence to some when they were originally made in the 1980s. But we noted that when they were broadcast in this programme in 2015, they were much more likely to be understood by viewers as pejorative abuse, rather than remarks
grounded in religious teaching. We noted that in his sermon Jimmy Swaggart did make some references to scripture seeking to support of his statements, but in our view none of his Biblical references (as summarised by the Licensee) clearly provided
support from the Bible for describing homosexual people as sex perverts and homosexuality as filth . We concluded therefore that these comments were likely to have exceeded the expectations of the audience for this channel.
Breach of Rule 2.3
Shamefully Ofcom seem perfectly ok with heterosexual porn viewers being labelled as people staggering under a quagmire of filth.
Deliver us from religious propaganda,
For ever and ever,
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, has urged Digital Cinema Media to overturn its decision not to show a Church of England advert in cinemas
The Church of England advert, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and others recite the Lord's Prayer, was due to be shown before the new Star Wars film, which opens on Thursday.
But it has been blocked by the advertising agency owned by cinema chains Odeon and Cineworld who understandably have rules disallowing all religious advertising, and the inevitable hassle that goes with it.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has urged the cinemas to reverse their decision. It also announced a major inquiry into the ban and accused the chains of undermining a long tradition of free expression .
Chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said:
We strongly disagree with the decision not to show the adverts on the grounds that they might offend people. There is no right not to be offended in the UK. What is offensive is very subjective and this is a slippery slope towards increasing censorship.
She also claimed people would not understand why a commercial Christmas can be advertised but the central Christian prayer cannot .
[duh... that's because religion causes trouble where as a commercialised Christmas does not!].
A major new report on the role of religion and belief in public life has been criticised by the National Secular Society for calling for a multi-faith approach completely at odds with the religious indifference that permeates British society.
The NSS said the Woolf Commission is wholly misguided in calling for religious representation in the House of Lords to be extended to representatives of other faiths and denominations rather than calling for the abolition of the bench of bishops.
The report was convened by the Woolf Institute, a religious group which studies relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Patrons include the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Iqbal Sacranie, former general secretary of the Muslim
Council of Britain, and Lord Harry Woolf, the former chief justice. Its Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life was chaired by Baroness Ann Butler-Sloss.
Perhaps the most controversial and self-serving of the Report's recommendations however is for the House of Lords to include a wider range of worldviews and religious traditions, and of Christian denominations other than the Church of England. Such a move could see a reduction in the number of bishops and places given to imams, rabbis and other non-other non-Christian clerics as well as evangelical pastors.
Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society commented:
We completely reject this recommendation. The United Kingdom is unique among Western democracies in giving religious representatives seats in its legislature by right. The vast majority have abandoned all links between religion and State, with no
discernible adverse consequences.
The report also calls for the introduction of a statutory entitlement for pupils to learn about religions and non-religious worldviews. It also says attempts should be made to increase religion and belief literacy amongst all journalists and
says every newsroom should retain at least one religion and belief specialist . Indeed it would seem a wise move to try to understand better why it is that so much of the world's troubles, wars, violence and killing is so closely
associated with religion.
In fact the report speaks at great length of it's ideas to plant religious propaganda staff in news rooms. The report states:
Religion and belief literacy
Serious and ongoing attempts need to be made to increase religion and belief literacy among all journalists and reporters. Possible ways of achieving this include:
every newsroom retaining at least one religion and belief specialist, or subscribing to one specialist agency
short courses on political religion tailored to the needs of newsrooms
a core element in all media training courses to include world religions and the implications of the changing religious landscape
exposure to relevant resources on religious literacy in world affairs
the possibility of short placements in religious media outlets and organised exchanges of journalists in religious media with those in other outlets
a national commitment to funding such projects by relevant civil society bodies.
And alarming the report calls for a panels of religious censors to be created:
Consideration should be given to establishing a panel of experts on religion and belief for the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) to use when there are complaints about the media. This may strengthen self-regulation of
the media and help reassure the public about the quality of reporting on religion and belief. The panel would also be responsible for publishing an annual index of religion and belief literacy which would identify media outlets with best practice as well
as those who need to improve the quality of their reporting on religion and belief. It should be noted that the Religion Media Centre is already working towards these proposals.
[Note the Religion Media Centre seems to be a research unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. The director is Abby Day, a former journalist and academic publisher. She is the author of Believing in Belonging: Belief and Social Identity in the
Modern World] .
The next proposal is straight of the book of 1984 Propaganda Annual:
It would be relevant and valuable to establish a prize (along the lines of existing prizes for religious broadcasting and for issues like mental health) which would recognise and reward the best in religion and belief coverage in
the print and social media.
Butler-Sloss concludes saying that the 144-page report's recommendations amount to a new settlement for religion and belief in the UK.
Keith Porteous Wood responded:
Britain urgently needs a new settlement but, for the most part, this report doesn't represent a sensible way forward. Instead of a multiculturalist, multifaith framework, which has serves us so poorly until now, we need a secular framework where everyone
is equal before the law and where citizens interact with the state as equals, not as members of religious communities through a group identity. In a society as irreligious as ours, where religious belief is declining and simultaneously diversifying, this
is a vital principle. It offers our best hope of fostering a fair and open society in which people of all religions or none can live together harmoniously and as equal citizens.
Thankfully the government is not well impressed by the report, and even the Church of England is displeased. The Telegraph writes:
The report provoked a furious row last night as it was condemned by Cabinet ministers as seriously misguided and the Church of England said it appeared to have been hijacked by humanists.
A source close to Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, described the report's recommendations on faith schools as ridiculous . The source said:
Nicky is one of the biggest champions of faith schools and anyone who thinks she is going to pay attention to these ridiculous recommendations is sorely misguided.
The Church of England said the report was a sad waste and had fallen captive to liberal rationalism .
The Church of England has said it is disappointed and bewildered by the refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. The Church called the decision plain silly and warned it could have a chilling effect on free speech.
The advert features the Christian prayer being recited or sung by a variety of people. It had hoped the 60-second film would be screened UK-wide before Christmas ahead of the new Star Wars film.
The agency that handles adverts for the cinemas said it could offend those of differing faiths and no faith , presumably a politically correct euphemism for muslims.
The advert was passed uncut by the British Board of Film Classification and given a U certificate, as well as receiving clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority. The Church of England says it is disappointed and bewildered by the
refusal of leading UK cinemas to show an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer.
However, the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the major cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld and Vue, refused to show the advert because it believed it would risk upsetting or offending audiences. Presumably the
group is understandably fearful of the trouble that religion causes. In a statement, DCM said it had a policy of not accepting political or religious advertising content in its cinemas. It said that:
Some advertisements - unintentionally or otherwise - could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith, and that in this regard, DCM treats all political or religious beliefs
The Reverend Arun Arora, director of communications for the Church of England, said: We find that really astonishing, disappointing and rather bewildering.
Pressure is mounting on a cinema advertising group to reverse a ban on an advert featuring the Lord's Prayer. Politicians and dignitaries have rallied to the War Cry.
David Cameron described the ban as ridiculous . Stephen Fry, a vocal critic of religion, said it was bizarre, unfair and misguided while Boris Johnson condemned it as outrageous and advised people to expect a u-turn :
The Equality and Human Rights Commission also signalled its opposition to the ban claiming it undermined essential British values . The commission said in a statement:
Freedom to hold a religion and freedom to express ideas are essential British values. We are concerned by any blanket ban on adverts by all religious groups.
Digital Cinema Media have said an advert could cause offence to those of differing faiths. There is no right not to be offended in the UK; what is offensive is very subjective and lies in the eye of the beholder.
There is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting their faith through adverts.
Of course nobody has asked the cinema goers whether they would like to be bombarded by religious nonsense. Phantom notes on the melon farmer's forum:
Of course they were absolutely right to turn down this ad. But not because they allegedly bowed to a militant Muslim lobby, fearing the ad would cause offence. They simply knew that accepting this ad would unleash an avalanche of Ian Paisley style
religious rants and images of aborted foetuses on an audience which simply just wanted to watch the latest Bond movie.
The Church of England has now complained to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), warning that the decision by Odeon, Cineworld and Vue to refuse to show the one-minute film in the run-up to Christmas was discriminatory and an assault on
In a further escalation of the row, the Church also said it would use its shareholding in Cineworld to ratchet up pressure on the chain. The Church said that its financial arm would be writing to Cineworld.
A Church statement said it was taking its case to the EHRC because it had a duty to protect the free practise of all faiths in this country . It added:
We believe DCM's decision raises issues of freedom of religion that extend far beyond the circumstances of this proposed advertisement. We resist the idea that the refusal of services on the basis of religious belief is in any way acceptable.
Extract: There's no discrimination going on here...move on please
The Equality and Human Rights Commission weighed in with a statement indicating their concern about blanket bans on religious advertising. The Commission's opinion concluded that there is nothing in law that prevents Christian organisations promoting
their faith through adverts. The statement did little, however, to answer the trickier question about whether there is anything that legally requires DCM to show the ad and whether the Church of England may have a cause of action.
The Equality Act 2010 outlaws discrimination on the basis of nine protected characteristics including religion or belief. It applies to any business that provides goods, facilities or services to members of the public, such as a cinema.
Section 13 provides that a person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
...a challenge to DCM's decision is likely to be unsuccessful. DCM, by refusing to air adverts they reasonably regard as Political or Religious Advertising would be treating all religious organisations the same way and therefore not discriminating
on the basis of religion or belief.
Update: National Secular Society gets to the bottom of the affair
Time for the Church to come clean on the Just Pray controversy
With a considerable media firestorm the Church launched a crafty piece of marketing for their Just Pray campaign -- centred on the accusation that their Lord's Prayer advert had been banned because it was offensive . One week on, new
facts raise significant questions about their claims.
About 200 people have compalied to the newspaper censor Ipso about a cartoon by Mac published in the Daily Mail. It featured caricatured refugees crossing the border into Europe, accompanied by rats scurrying across the floor.
The Daily Mail's managing editor's office said in a statement that:
As should be blindingly obvious, Mac's cartoon is a comment on the terrorist atrocities in Paris. The rats were intended to depict terrorists smuggling themselves into Europe amongst innocent refugees.
Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, wrote to the paper's editor, suggesting that the animation:
Appears to liken immigrants of the Muslim faith to rats. To me, and to many of my constituents, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, this cartoon appears to be Islamophobic,
And, what is more, comes at a time when our country's Muslim community - which was as shocked and saddened as we all were at the unforgivable atrocities in Pairs - feels under threat of demonisation.
The letter was published by an unofficial group campaigning for Jeremy Corbyn to become UK Prime Minister (JeremyCorbyn4PM). The group tweeted:
Well done to @RichardBurgon for standing up to the @DailyMailUK over their disgraceful cartoon. Needed to be said.
The press censor Ipso confirmed it had received 200 complaints regarding the drawing.
There has been a bit of a debate in America about why Christianity, which would have formed a central part of the lives of the aristocracy in the early 20th century, is largely absent from the TV drama Downton Abbey .
Now the man tasked with ensuring the historical accuracy of the series has revealed why Downton does not do God. Alastair Bruce, who serves as the show's historical advisor , said that executives in charge of the series had ordered producers to leave
religion out of it , for fear of alienating an increasingly atheistic public.
For instance, the Crawley family is never shown in the process of sitting down to dinner, with the action instead shown from part-way through the meal . This, Bruce said, was to avoid having to show the characters saying grace. Bruce explained:
In essence you hardly ever see a table that isn't already sat at. We never see the beginning of a luncheon or a dinner, because no one was ever allowed to see a grace being said , and I would never allow them to sit down without having said grace.
I think that the view was that we'd leave religion out of it, and it would've taken extra time too. I suggested a Latin grace, but they decided that was too far, and no one would've known what was going on.
Bruce said that he was even banned from featuring napkins folded in the shape of a bishop's mitre, for fear of breaching the religious edict:
Everyone panics when you try to do anything religious on the telly. I still wish we could've got some decent napkin folds , but I was always left with my triangle.
Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television also revealed that earlier in the year that the channel had considered renaming the series, because it featured the word Abbey in the title. He said:
I can remember discussions that almost seem comical now. We talked about the word Abbey. Would people think it would have nuns or monks in it and be a religious series? But we satisfied ourselves they wouldn't and did a bit of marketing around it.
The Muslim Council of Britain held a conference this week entitled Terrorism and Extremism -- how should British Muslims respond?
And the response seems to be to call for the censorship of reports about the terrorism and criminalisation of criticism of the extremism.
Calls were made for the UK's newspaper censor, Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), to censor press stories critical of groups of people rather than the current remit to investigate press stories that are unfair to individuals.
The Muslim Council of Britain both called for that to change, amid what some claim is slanted press coverage of Islamic issues. The coincil had previously criticized media coverage of issues such as that of Muslim grooming gangs , in which groups
of men in areas such as Rotherham, Derby, Bristol and Oxfordshire were accused of raping thousands of children. Representatives of the MCB have said that linking the story to the Muslim faith was not fair.
Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said that there is currently no recourse under the press standards code when a particular group is attacked by the media:
There's been many examples in the media, where we've tried to go to the code but we've not been able to, he said. If there is a way that a representative group can launch a complaint on that issue, that would be valuable.
One of the most high-profile cases in which IPSO rejected a claim of discrimination came last spring, and involved a column in the Sun newspaper about the migration crisis. Controversial columnist Katie Hopkins suggested that Europe should use gunboats
to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and compared those fleeing their home countries to cockroaches. But IPSO rejected complaints over her column, because it did not refer to specific individuals.
The conference also discussed the restoration of blasphemy laws, abolished in 2008 after they had largely fallen into disuse by then, given that the last successful prosecution was in 1977.
On the topic Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya News that he would have no problem with blasphemy laws being reintroduced"
It should apply to all religions. If we have laws, they should apply to everybody. Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to them... but it must apply equally to everybody.
David Anderson QC spoke on the topic saying he would not object to a public debate over the issue, although had doubts over whether such laws should be reintroduced:
Personally I'm not sure whether I would welcome a blasphemy law, because I think we have to be free to make fun of each other. We even have to be free to offend each other, he said. [But] I would have no problem with the idea of a democratic debate on
whether there is room for some kind of blasphemy law.
Miqdaad Versi said:
Muslim communities need to be able to respond to accusations Muslims, or against the Prophet, in a more effective way. Whether there should be legislation is something that really is a more complicated question.
Comment: One religion's blasphemer is another religion's saint
Here's a spectacular illustration of the big problem with blasphemy laws: religions contradict, and therefore blaspheme, one another.
This Catholic web site
presents, and accurately translates into English, criticisms of Muhammad and Islam made by a priest who has been declared a saint. Notably, St john Bosco was a kindly and gentle old chap, deploring corporal punishment at a time when Dr Arnold of Rugby
firmly believed in a good flogging in front of the assembled house. He observed:
"It would take too long to tell you all the stories about this famous impostor (...) Mohamed's religion consists of a monstrous mixture of Judaism, Paganism and Christianity. Mohamed propagated his religion, not through miracles or persuasive words,
but through the force of arms. [It is] a religion that favors every sort of licentiousness and which, in a short time, allowed Mohamed to become the leader of a troop of brigands. Along with them he raided the countries of the East and conquered the
people, not by introducing the Truth, not by miracles or prophecy; but for one reason only: to raise his sword over the heads of the conquered shouting: believe or die".
A man who threatened to blow-up a shop and stab its staff for selling French magazine Charlie Hebdo in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Shamim Ahmed sent an email to South Kensing ton's The French Bookshop on January 17 with the subject line: 'Protect your neck while you are still alive. Ahmed accused the bookshop of selling the satirical magazine against Muslims and said
they would face major retaliation if they continued to stock it. He then made two threatening phone calls to the Bute Street shop on January 22, telling the owner:
I'm going to come and stab you, I'm going to come right away and blow up the shop. I'm not afraid of the police, I'm a Muslim.
Ahmed was fined £1180, told to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and indefinitely placed under a restraining order which prevented him from contacting The French Bookshop or its staff, or encouraging others to do so. He was handed a 20-week sentence
suspended for two years.
The Message is a 1977 Lebanon / Libya / Kuwait / Morocco / UK historical biography by Moustapha Akkad.
Starring Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas and Michael Ansara.
This must-see epic depicts the birth of Islam. In the 7th century Mohammed is visited by Angel Gabriel who urges him to lead the people of Mecca and worship God. But they're exiled in Medina before returning to Mecca to take up arms against their
oppressors and liberate their city in the name of God.
A Glasgow cinema that cancelled a screening of The Message, an Oscar nominated film portraying the life of the religious character Muhammad, has been urged to reconsider its decision.
About 100 complaints were made ahead of a scheduled showing of 1977 film at the Grosvenor Cinema next month. The complaints about the film's content, such as the portrayal of Muhammad's close companions by non-Muslim actors led to the cinema's decision
to ban the showing. No doubt an unstated fear of trouble also played a part in the decision.
The Islamic Society of Britain has protested the Grosvenor's cancellation in the face of a small number of objections, which came in the form of an anonymous petition signed by 93 people, according to the Herald. A spokesman for the ISB said:
As Scottish Muslims we believe in the principles of freedom of speech and have worked for decades to promote the rights of people to make Islam relevant to British society. These protestors demonstrate the worst elements of our community, as they are
imposing their beliefs on others.
We will not be bullied by these people. We are also appealing for the Grosvenor to stick to the original agreement, and show the film.
The National Secular Society has also written to the cinema to express its concern at what it called a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of some religious extremists . NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans
It's a sad sign of the times that such a small petition has forced the venue to cancel. We hope the cinema will change its position and not allow the weapon of offense to be used to restrict its freedom as a cinema to screen films and the freedom of
audiences to watch them.
SNP MSP Humza Yusaf also denounced the decision, saying:
I am apalled that they have caved in the face of a few narrow-minded imbeciles.
Followers of an ancient Indian religion are to gather outside a Birmingham theatre to protest over a play that depicts their guru as a villain.
Members of the Central Valmiki Sabha International organisation are 'outraged' that the production - Tagore's Dance Drama: Valmiki Pratibha - shows the group's guru, Bhagwan Valmiki GI, as a robber, looter and killer.
Worshippers from across the UK will demonstrate outside the Mac arts centre in Edgbaston on Sunday, the day the play is due to be performed. Representatives of other faiths, including Sikhs and Christians, are also expected to join the protest.
Jagdish Rai, general secretary of Central Valmiki Sabha UK, said:
There is a great deal of upset within our community. There has never been any evidence to suggest that our guru was a thief, he came from royalty. We will not have this and this is why we are planning this protest.
There are people from all faiths attending because they want to support our cause. If someone was saying something against their faith, they would feel the same.
This will be a peaceful protest. We are not interested in violence, we just want to get our message across. There will be a lot of people there because there is a great strength of feeling about this.
We are fine for the play to go ahead, but we want them to eliminate the part where they depict the person we worship as a thief and a thug because we do not believe this to be the case.
The play is being performed by Nrityakunj, a South Asian dance, drama and arts company based in Manchester, and choreographed by artistic director Mitali Dev. It has already been staged in London, Manchester and Liverpool.
Anne Marie Walters has announced that the Mohammed cartoon exhibition that she and others had planned for September in London has been cancelled. She explained:
Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with both Scotland Yard and counter-terror detectives. My conclusion? That the risk of running this exhibition is simply too high. When setting out to do something like this, one has to be
prepared for the possibility of threats, or even violence, but it's easy to underestimate the impact such things will have on the people around you.
There's a very real possibility that people could be hurt or killed, before, during, and after the event. This, together with the fact that our venue had indicated it wanted to pull out citing security and insurance concerns, and given the fear that
people were feeling generally, the only responsible thing to do was to pull back and try to learn some lessons.
A play exploring the motives behind radicalised young people joining Islamic State has been cancelled less than a fortnight before its opening night, with the creators claiming the voices of the young cast have been silenced .
Homegrown , a National Youth Theatre (NYT) production, was closed down with the creators saying they were given no prior warning. Director Nadia Latif and playwright Omar El-Khairy believe the production was cancelled due to external pressures,
claiming both local authorities and police got involved during the development of the play. Latif said:
There was no warning. We got an email on Thursday night saying the show was cancelled, rehearsals are done, and the cast were told on Friday morning. And that was really a sucker punch, not least because we didn't see it coming at all. There must have
been some extraordinary external pressure to cancel the production to justify that emotional trauma on a cast of 112 young people.
The play had a cast of 112 people aged between 15 and 25 who were mostly from ethnic minorities. It was originally due to take place in a school in Bethnal Green linked to the case of schoolgirls Shamima Begum, Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase who
travelled to Syria to become jihadi brides. The play looked at this emotive issues of jihadi brides and attitudes towards Islam in the UK.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) of Northern Ireland have defended their prosecution of James McConnell, the Christian preacher who called Islam Satanic.
In a letter sent to the National Secular Society, the PPS have doubled-down on their decision to take the case to trial, after the NSS warned that their actions had created a chilling effect on free speech. A Christian organisation warned that many churches will be wary of what they place on the internet until this case is heard and the law is clarified.
Pastor McConnell is being prosecuted under the Communications Act 2003 for sending a grossly offensive message. The Pastor said during a sermon that Islam was a doctrine spawned in hell and that while there may be good Muslims
in the UK, he didn't trust Muslims generally.
In response to a letter of concern written by the National Secular Society urging the PPS to reconsider its course of action, the Prosecution Service have claimed that their controversial decision is in the public interest , and have vowed to
press on despite a raft of criticism from Christian groups, the National Secular Society and an imam, Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, who said he strongly upholds the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to disagree about
matters of doctrine and belief.
The PPS added in their response to the National Secular Society that they had balanced the relevant public interest considerations in their treatment of the case, but that due to the gravity of the preacher's sermon and the circumstances
of the offence and the offender they were right to deal with the matter by way of an informed warning.
Pastor McConnell rejected this warning, which would have remained on his criminal record for 12 months, and this led to the case proceeding to trial at the PPS's insistence.
Extraordinarily, the complaint about McConnell's sermon reportedly came from Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, who recently praised the Islamic State and said that Mosul had become the most peaceful city in the world under IS rule. You can go from east to
west of the city without fear, he claimed. Al-Wazzan is now described as the main prosecution witness in the case against McConnell.
There has been widespread condemnation of the PPS's actions, but Assistant Director Michael Agnew wrote that he remained of the view that the evidence Test for Prosecution is met and that a prosecution was justified given that McConnell has
refused to accept the warning.
NSS campaigns manager Stephen Evans said:
This baffling decision to persist with the prosecution of Pastor McConnell represents a reckless and grievous encroachment upon his - and everybody else's - fundamental right to free expression.
In our view Pastor McConnell was well within his rights to refuse a warning that would have remained on his criminal record for a year, particularly given that he clearly did not incite violence in his sermon and the PPS do not even appear to claim that
he did. Given that, the PPS's behaviour seems even more extraordinary.
Whatever the outcome of this case, the actions of the Public Prosecution Service are likely to have a chilling effect on everyone's freedom to speak openly about their beliefs.
In an open and free society, we should all feel able to express our beliefs and opinions without fear of criminal sanction - regardless of how unpalatable others may find them.
The weapon of 'offense' is increasingly being used to stifle free expression. The desire to live in a harmonious and tolerant society is a noble one, but will not be achieved by the suppression of fundamental freedoms.
We again urge the PPS to drop this case and issue a full apology to Mr. McConnell.
A group of MPs have called for an investigation into a well known blog, reporting on muslim extremism, that is popular with the far right.
The Gates of Vienna
website has also been promoting an upcoming exhibition of cartoons of the religious character Muhammad in London. It has been organised by the former Ukip parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Waters and is set to take place at a location in central London
on 18 September.
The Labour MPs Ian Austin, Ruth Smeeth, Imran Hussain, Paula Sherriff, Wes Streeting and John Cryer have written to the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to consider if the site's owners are breaching the law. The letter reads:
It is clear that these are the ideas that inspired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and as such it is deeply troubling that they are available to inspire others. We would urge you to investigate the Gates of Vienna website and take appropriate
action if anyone involved is deemed to be promoting terrorism and civil disorder.
Austin told the Guardian that the exhibition of Muhammad cartoons was:
Clearly [intended] to provoke a reaction from British Muslims and we must all ensure this does not happen.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said an appropriate policing plan would be put in place for the event but would not comment further.
Campaign group, Sharia Watch UK, has announced plans to put on a London exhibition of cartoons depicting the religious character Mohamed. The groups says it will open in September 2015, and will feature Dutch politician Geert Wilders as a guest speaker.
The exhibition will consist of cartoons of Mohamed, which are being submitted by artists and supporters to Vive Charlie, an online satirical magazine which was set up in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
Anne Marie Waters, director of Sharia Watch, said the aim is not to offend people , but added that people taking offence would not discourage them from holding the exhibition. As well as her role as Director of Sharia Watch, Waters is a UKIP
activist. Waters said that hundreds of cartoons have already been submitted to Vive Charlie, some of which will be shown at the exhibition.
The exhibition is set to take place at a venue that is being kept secret by Sharia Watch, and is reminiscent of the similar event in Texas that took place in May, which resulted in two Isis-inspired gunmen, Elton Simpson and Nadir Hamid Soofi, opening
fire on the building where the exhibition was taking place.
The Metropolitan Police said they had no knowledge of the planned exhibition, and so could not say whether they plan to put any security measures in place at the venue. They added that they may issue a statement on the exhibition closer to the opening
An evangelical preacher who described Islam as satanic and heathen is to be prosecuted for insult.
Speaking to his congregation in north Belfast on 18 May, McConnell said:
A new evil had arisen and there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain.
Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell.
In a statement, Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said the firebrand preacher had refused to accept a lesser punishment which meant the case would not have gone to court. A spokespersector said:
I can confirm that following consideration of a complaint in relation to an internet broadcast of a sermon in May 2014, a decision was taken to offer an individual an informed warning for an offence contrary to the Communications Act 2003.
That offence was one of sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive. The offer of an informed warning was refused by the defendant and accordingly the matter
is now proceeding by way of a summary prosecution in the Magistrates Court.
Pastor McConnell initially defended his remarks made during a sermon at his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle last May but, following a huge public outcry he apologised for any offence or distress caused.
Offsite Comment: A disgraceful use of the Communications Act
The Odeon group has said it will not refuse entry to men to a film being screened as part of the London Israeli Film Festival.
Israeli Charedi film-maker Rechy Elias said she did not want men to see her historical romance, Gift of Fire.
Venues JW3 and the Odeon cinema in Swiss Cottage had agreed to a female only audience despite complaints from men who have requested to see the film. But, Odeon has now decided to lift the restriction. A spokesman said:
We offer a wide range of films throughout the year for all our guests to enjoy. We do not, and will not, restrict entry to any film based on gender.
Festival organisers responded to the Odeon statement by saying they:
Will stand outside the cinema and stop men from going in if we have to.
In response to the Odeon deciding not to enforce gender segregation, the co-founders of the festival, Odelia Haroush, Anat Koren and Patty Hochmann released a joint statement saying they were withdrawing the film. They said:
We could not accommodate Mrs Elias's religious requirements and enable the cinema to maintain its policy not to restrict entry to any film based on gender.
The film contains women dancing and singing, and the Charedi community, and indeed many religious Jews, do not feel that men should be watching this.
We respect the position of the filmmaker and the cinema alike, but have decided at this time we need to honour both parties and the only way to do so is to cancel the screening at Odeon Swiss Cottage.
The Victoria and Albert museum has attempted to conceal its ownership of a devotional image of the religious character Muhammad, citing
security concerns, in what is part of a wider pattern of apparent self-censorship by British institutions that scholars fear could undermine public understanding of Islamic art and the diversity of Muslim traditions .
Similar images have been shown in exhibitions across Europe and America without prompting outrage, much less protests or a violent response.
British museums and libraries hold dozens of these images, mostly miniatures in manuscripts several centuries old, but they have been kept largely out of public view. Fear of displaying them is apparently driven by controversy about satirical or
offensive portraits of Muhammad by non-Muslims, despite the huge difference in form and purpose.
When the V&A was asked if it held any images of Muhammad after the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo , it said there were none. A US expert later provided a link to a poster in its collection, with the inscription Mohammad the
Prophet of God . That page in the database was deleted last week, but can still be found in a cached version. A spokeswoman said their original response was an honest error .
Other British institutions with images of Muhammad in their Islamic art collections show some on websites, but have shied away from exhibitions.