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Police to probe Iqbal's homophobic remarks

Police are interrogating Sir Iqbal Sacranie for allegedly making homophobic remarks during a BBC Radio 4 interview.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 19:31 IST

Police are investigating a British Muslim leader for allegedly making homophobic remarks during a BBC Radio 4 interview last week. Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that homosexual practices were "harmful" and civil partnerships "not acceptable" last week.

During the interview Sir Iqbal said: If you look into the scientific evidence that has been available in terms of the various forms of other illnesses and diseases that are there, surely it points out that, where homosexuality is practised, there is a greater concern in that area."

Asked if homosexuality was harmful to society, he said: "Certainly it is a practice that doesn't, in terms of health, in terms of the moral issues that comes along in a society - it is. It is not acceptable."

Peter Rippon, the programme's editor, was telephoned by an officer at West End Central police station in London yesterday, who said that he was investigating a homophobic incident under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986, which makes it an offence for a person to use "threatening, abusive or insulting words" within the hearing of "a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress" as a result.

The prosecution must also establish that the defendant intended his words to be threatening, abusive or insulting or that he was aware that they might be. In his defence the accused has to prove that his conduct was reasonable. The maximum penalty is a fine of £1,000.

There is no suggestion that the BBC is facing prosecution and it rebroadcast Sir Iqbal's remarks in full on yesterday's PM programme. Sir Iqbal declined to comment further, saying the police had not yet contacted him.

Sir Iqbal defended his comments in a statement on his website last week. "What I said was only to reiterate the well-known Islamic position that the practice of homosexuality is not acceptable," he wrote. "It is a sin. This view is shared in other scriptures, such as those of Christianity and Judaism."