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Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Testing the "no-go" areas

Much as I find Stephen "Birdshit" Green of Christian Voice a pain in the arse, I hope he further exposes West Midlands police for the prattish plods they are showing themselves to be at the moment by upholding religious privilege.

West Midlands Police, you may remember, showed their appeasement credentials when they tried to take on Channel 4 for their excellent and revealing Undercover Mosque documentary, and were then forced to apologise.

Since then there's been the ejection of a pair of Christian preachers from a Birmingham suburb by the same police force in the guise of one of their Muslim community support officers, because it was a predominantly Muslim area.

The last time I checked I thought Brum was a place for British people of whatever religion (or none) and any visitors to this country who happen to be there, not an area that belongs to Muslims. Perhaps I've been wrong all along.

Anyway, off they went, these two American preachers, with their tails between their legs. I might think them nutters, but they have a right to leaflet, just as you or I do. And I support their right to do so – even if they're spitting bile against gay people or other minorities. Provided they're not directly inciting violence or barring minorities from services that are rightfully theirs, they have every right to say that their chosen belief system believes this and that.

The UK's Daily Telegraph said on Monday:

The evangelists say they were threatened with arrest for committing a "hate crime" and were told they risked being beaten up if they returned. The incident will fuel fears that "no-go areas" for Christians are emerging in British towns and cities . . .

These guys, Arthur Cunningham, 48, and Joseph Abraham, 65, both full-time evangelical ministers, have now launched a legal action against West Midlands Police, claiming the officer infringed their right to profess their religion.

It happened at Alum Rock, an area that has a disproportionate number of Muslims living in it, to the east of Birmingham city centre. Cunningham tells the paper that the police community support officer (PCSO) said they "were in a Muslim area and were not allowed to spread our Christian message". He continued, "He said we were committing a hate crime by telling the youths to leave Islam and said that he was going to take us to the police station."

The paper doesn't tell us that the uppity prat of a PCSO was a Muslim, but he's named by Christian Voice and others (including the Daily Mail), as Naeem Naguthney.

The paper concludes:

The ministers claim he also advised them not to return to the area. As he walked away, the PCSO said: "You have been warned. If you come back here and get beaten up, well you have been warned."

West Midlands Police, who refused to apologise, said the incident had been "fully investigated" and the officer would be given training in understanding hate crime and communication.

Now, Christian Voice are getting in on the act. Members will be gathering at Alum Rock on 14 June at 10 a.m. Green says in a press release that, although West Midlands Police have said the officer would be given training, Naguthney had "summoned two other officers, one of whom, a full constable, is said to have told the preachers not to return to the area, [so] an anti-Christian attitude could be prevalent in the force."

Green would say that. He's a rabid Christian of the frothing born-again variety. What is more likely is not so much an anti-Christian attitude as an appeasing-Muslims attitude.

No doubt there'll be a fair smattering of media at Alum Rock on 14 June.

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