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Act against protesters: UK minister

The demand came after anti-cartoon protests in London saw slogans glorifying the July 7 blasts, writes Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2006 20:34 IST
Nabanita Sircar
Nabanita Sircar

A British minister has called for police action after London protests against Prophet Muhammad cartoons.

It saw people shouting threatening slogans glorifying the July 7 bombings and calling for the enemies of Islam to be killed, during Friday's demonstration in London.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said that the police must bear down "very heavily" on those responsible. Scotland Yard has received more than 100 complaints about the protest.

No protesters at the demonstration outside the Danish embassy - over the cartoons first printed in a Danish newspaper - were arrested on Friday, but specialist police officers were understood to have taken film and photographic evidence.

One protester, who dressed as a suicide bomber, has said he made "no apologies". Speaking to the Daily Express newspaper, Omar Khayam, 22, from Bedford, said he wanted to highlight "double standards".

In an interview Hain said it was worrying that demonstrators were "doing things and saying things that are completely unacceptable and intolerable. The police need to bear down on them very heavily and trace down those who have committed offences and prosecute them where they can get the evidence," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There's freedom of speech on the one hand, that's sacrosanct, but on the other hand incitement to terror, incitement to suicide bombing, all of those are clear infringements of the law."

Radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed told Today that in Islam, whoever insulted a Prophet must be "punished and executed". He said, "We are not saying ourselves to go there and start to look to him and kill him, we are not talking about that. We are talking about Islamic rules. If anybody insults the Prophet, he will have to take a punishment."

Shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve has demanded to know why no arrests were made at Friday's protest, while shadow home secretary David Davis called on police to take a "no tolerance" approach.

Former Conservative chancellor Kenneth Clarke said it was going to do great damage to community relations and to Islam in this country "if they are allowed to behave with impunity, when we have so many laws now affecting other things, that people are being prosecuted for comparatively minor political demonstrations".

Labour MP Shahid Malik, who is on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, has called on Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair to make prosecutions. Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said there would be "no sympathy" among Muslims for those who waved "incendiary" placards or banners.

"The tragedy is that these newspapers who have printed this cartoons, by refusing to apologise have allowed extremists to step in and exploit a situation which has caused real hurt and distress to mainstream Muslims. Those extremists who were inciting violence were trying to hijack genuine feelings amongst Muslims for a more violent agenda," he said.

But Lord Harris, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said officers were putting public safety first. "You have got to look at what is the best way of handling a demonstration to make sure it doesn't escalate into serious violence or get out of hand," he said.

First Published: Feb 06, 2006 20:34 IST