Insights from the UK and beyond
An American Christian preacher who rose from obscurity to cause global uproar this year by threatening to burn the Koran says he plans to visit Britain to speak at an event hosted by a far-right anti-Islamist group.
Anti-extremist groups have urged the British government to ban entry to Florida Pastor Terry Jones, whose threat to burn Islam's holy book on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks provoked widespread condemnation.
Britain's Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May said on Sunday she would be looking into the case.
On his website, Jones said he been invited to a rally held by a group called the English Defense League (EDL) in the town of Luton, north of London, in February.
(Photo: Official papal visit memorabilia at Catholic bookshop in London September 15, 2010/Toby Melville)
Demonstrations are planned for Pope Benedict's four-day state visit to England and Scotland, with the main focus likely to be on a Protest the Pope campaign march in central London Saturday, Sept 18.
Other separate protests are planned, including a bus poster campaign by a group supporting women's ordination and a silent witness by the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland.
If you like debates about religion but were turned off by the uproar in the United States over Koran-burning and the New York Islamic centre, take a look at the rhetorical duelling that's been going on in Britain ahead of Pope Benedict's visit there starting on Thursday. For the past few weeks, the leading lights of secularist and atheist thought have been hammering away at the Catholic Church, playing up its sins like the sexual abuse crisis and arguing that the pope doesn't deserve the honour of a state visit. A quick Google search digs out plenty of them. (Click on the screen grab for video on British group's proposal to arrest Pope Benedict during his visit/MSNBC via YouTube)
On the other side, a group of lay Catholics has formed a speakers' bureau ready to face off with the critics and defend the pope and the Church. They're a kind of rapid reaction force, ready to appear anywhere to refute the secularists and atheists. The result has been a feisty in-your-face exchange providing the pro and contra arguments for many current disputes over the Catholic Church. Some arguments could be criticised as too emotional or even irrational, but boring they're not.
By Maria Golovnina
Peaking through the iron gates of the Vatican’s residence in London, four people rallied quietly on a rainy afternoon holding photographs of children they said were abused by Catholics priests around the world.
With a week to go before Pope Benedict’s visit to Britain, the low-key rally drew little press and the activists were about to leave when six police cars swooped on the scene flashing warning lights.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair must feel like a hunted man. And that’s probably what his vocal critics want. First, he postpones his planned book signing because of possible protests and now a private party planned for the Tate Modern gallery has gone the same way.
The obvious cause of the anger prompted by Blair can be summed up by one word: “Iraq”.
A committee of MPs has warned police they must not impose restrictions on demonstrations “unless it is necessary and proportionate to do so.”
“The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right and one that the state and police have a duty to protect and facilitate,” said Andrew Dismore, chairman of the human rights committee.