Methodist Church statement regarding offensive cartoons and inter-faith relations

Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Methodist Secretary for Inter-Faith Relations: 'In the light of the current controversy over the publication of cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad, the Methodist Church affirms that freedom of speech and responsibility depend on one another in a democratic society. The right to speak freely cannot be separated from the responsibility to draw back from causing deliberate provocation or offence.

'The Methodist Church recognizes that immense hurt has been caused to Muslims throughout the world through the publication of the cartoons. It is saddened, however, that a minority of Muslims have responded with violence in word and deed. This harms the good name of Islam and plays into the hands of those who want to portray Islam as inherently violent.

'We affirm that dialogue and respectful debate are the best way forward. We would call for restraint and dignity on the part of both Muslims and Christians. The silent vigil that took place outside the Stratford Street Mosque in Beeston, Leeds, yesterday, is an example of what will diffuse the tension created by this situation. A hundred members of the local faith communities in Beeston gathered before the afternoon prayers to demonstrate their unity and solidarity, especially with members of the Muslim community. We would encourage similar acts of solidarity in other regions.'

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