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.
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
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
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
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 time.