Methodist Church statement regarding offensive cartoons and inter-faith relations

Dr. Elizabeth Harris, Methodist Secretary for Inter-FaithRelations: 'In the light of the current controversy over thepublication of cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad, theMethodist Church affirms that freedom of speech and responsibilitydepend on one another in a democratic society. The right to speakfreely cannot be separated from the responsibility to draw backfrom causing deliberate provocation or offence.

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

'We affirm that dialogue and respectful debate are the best wayforward. We would call for restraint and dignity on the part ofboth Muslims and Christians. The silent vigil that took placeoutside the Stratford Street Mosque in Beeston, Leeds, yesterday,is an example of what will diffuse the tension created by thissituation. A hundred members of the local faith communities inBeeston gathered before the afternoon prayers to demonstrate theirunity and solidarity, especially with members of the Muslimcommunity. We would encourage similar acts of solidarity in otherregions.'