UK: Outlaw street preachers says Archdeacon Martin
'Street preaching can incite religious hatred': Archdeacon of Oxford, the Venerable Martin Gorick
By Jenny Taylor
8th March 2017
A TOP clergyman has said street preaching should be outlawed.
Archdeacon of Oxford, the Venerable Martin Gorick, said: 'Street preaching can incite to religious hatred. I think it should be outlawed.'
His remarks arose after two 'American-style' street preachers in Bristol were convicted last week of a 'religiously aggravated public order offence' under the Public Order Act 1998.
Michael Overd of Creech St Michael, Somerset and Michael Stockwell of Selden, New York were fined £300 and ordered to pay costs after a magistrate at Bristol Magistrates Court found them guilty of disorderly conduct and using 'threatening and abusive words ... likely to cause alarm'.
A video circulating on the web records one of the men, Michael Overd, preaching about 'sinners' before he is asked by a policeman to 'disperse' for 'winding people up', and is then manhandled and arrested as people cheer.
Mr Gorick gave his reaction on the day of the hearing after he had read a paper on blasphemy to the Council of Christian Muslim Relations in High Wycombe, a former chair manufacturing town northwest of London.
He said: 'It's clear that as a society we are open and tolerant of most beliefs and practices.
'As a Christian I am very happy that we do not prosecute people for blasphemy in this country. We have seen in history how terrible it is when political power, or religious majorities attack religious minorities.
'Christians and Muslims will have differences. Hindus and Sikhs will have differences. Sunni and Shia, Catholic and Protestant will have differences.
'There are places in our world when religious minorities feel constantly under suspicion or worse.
'God is not honoured when we act as if we are God and seek to punish people in God's name.'
He said he had not touched on the transposition of blasphemy into the secular belief system.
Mr Gorick said the UK had gone on a big journey on blasphemy law since the thirteenth century when a Christian was burned at the stake in Oxford for converting to Judaism in order to marry a Jewish woman.
'We have come through religious wars and executions to arrive at the age in which we live now. When all can live in peace and minorities are free to practice their faith without fear.
'That is something that gives honour to God.'
He said that the style of street preaching he had seen in Oxford was 'provocative'.
High Wycombe is something of a test bed for interfaith work that incorporates the statutory services with a broad spectrum of Muslim and Christian activists from the town and elsewhere.
It has won praise from politicians and heads for its work countering radicalization, particularly in schools, following high-profile arrests for terrorism offences.
Archdeacon Gorick's presentation followed a similar one last November given by Dr Khaled Zahir, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Central Punjab, who blogs at Understanding Islam UK. He said there was 'no punishment for blasphemy in Qur'an or the Sunnah which are the two primary sources of belief in the religion.'
Nonetheless, Christian mother of five Aasia Bibi is still on death row in a Pakistan gaol, charged with blasphemy -- an accusation she has denied.
The former governor of Punjab Province, Salman Taseer, was assassinated in 2011, by his bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, for defending her.
Three imams in High Wycombe preached sermons during Friday prayers in spring last year, praising Qadri as a 'shaheed' or martyr, and justifying the murder by reference to hadith (alleged sayings of Mohammed) and Islamic jurisprudence.
The CCMR has made strenuous efforts to distance the town's Muslims from the views of the three imams, following an initial complaint by a Muslim.
'We commend the courageous action of the complainant who brought the matter to the attention of the Mosque Committee for investigation,' they said in ta statement published this week, and signed by chair and former town mayor Chauhdri Shafique and vice-chair Revd Hugh Ellis.
Local Conservative MP Steve Baker met the imams who said they had been 'falsely accused'.
It was later established that the imams had used the word 'shaheed' -- described by Baker as 'unwise'. He called for an urgent explanation from the imams.
An 'independent investigator' employed by High Wycombe's elected Mosque Committee concluded the imams had been 'misguided'.
None has been charged.
Islamic teachings 'see no place in Islam for the glorification of murder whatever the motive', says the CCMR statement.
The BBC recently reported from Pakistan that the same religious leaders who are promoting the 'martyrdom' of Mumtaz Qadri are also glorifying the murder of 40-year old Glasgow shop-keeper Asad Shah.
His killer Tanveer Ahmed, from Bradford in Yorkshire, travelled to Glasgow to stab his victim to death for his religious beliefs.
Gaoled for 27 years, Ahmed has recently had his mobile phone confiscated. The BBC Today Programme reported he had been 'inspiring hardliners' in Pakistan by calling them from his cell.
He said he believed Mr Shah -- from the Ahmadiyya sect which Sunnis regard as heretical - was committing blasphemy by uploading videos claiming that Mohammed was not the last Prophet.
Former radical and co-founder of Quilliam Foundation Maajid Nawaz says Britain's Pakistanis are getting their religious opinions direct from Pakistan.
Archdeacon Gorick is a Canon of Christchurch Cathedral in Oxford, and has special responsibility in the diocese for interfaith relations, chaplains and new communities.
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