Man, 32, arrested 'for burning Koran in city centre anti-Muslim protest'

  • U.S. pastor who threatened to burn Koran banned from UK

A 32-year-old man has been arrested after a Koran was allegedly burned during an anti-Islamic rant in Carlisle.

He was held after a man was reported to have stood on a street in the city centre loudly making pronouncements against the Muslim religion in front of a large crowd.

The incident came as controversial American preacher Pastor Terry Jones who caused an international storm by threatening to burn the Islamic holy book was barred from visiting the United Kingdom.

Florida pastor Terry Jones

Controversial: Pastor Terry Jones sparked outrage with his plan to mark the anniversary of 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran

In Carlisle, the man is then alleged to have set fire to the Koran he was holding before discarding it on the floor and hurrying away.

Officers arrived at the scene a short time later and are now investigating.

A spokesman for Cumbria Police confirmed that a 32-year-old man has been arrested.

He added: 'Just after midday on Wednesday, police received reports that a Koran was being burned by a man in Carlisle city centre.

'Police have seized the remains of the book and a 32-year-old male has been arrested on suspicion of using racially aggravated threatening words or behaviour.

'The man remains in police custody where he is helping officers with their inquiries.'

One witness said: 'A huge crowd gathered  in the city centre and the man was basically burning the Koran in the middle of  town.

'He didn't throw the book to the ground, but carried it around while it was burning.

'He then dropped it before leaving. He had been shouting anti-Islamic comments.

'People were absolutely horrified, it was shocking to see that in Carlisle, the  whole thing lasted about three or four minutes.'

A shop worker who did not wish to be named said: 'The first we heard of it was through the link radio we have, that alerts us to  trouble.

Provocative: Dove World Outreach Center church pastor Terry Jones speaks to the press about his planned Koran-burning session

Provocative: Dove World Outreach Center church pastor Terry Jones speaks to the press about his planned Koran-burning session

'I thought it was really weird, you don't expect to hear that someone is  burning a Koran outside your shop.

'People are entitled to their opinions, but it is wrong to voice them in such a way.

'I think it probably had something to do with the right-wing American who has been banned from the country.'  

Pastor Terry Jones was banned by the Home Office under laws forbidding entry to people who may incite hatred.

He had threatened to burn copies of the Islamic book at his Florida-based church to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America last year.

He had been invited to England by a group called England Is Ours, next month.

Speaking on BBC 4's Today programme, Pastor Jones told of his disappointment at being refused entry to the country, before describing Islam as 'wrong and of the devil.'

He told John Humphrys: 'I believe that the Bible and Christianity and Jesus Christ is the only way. That means that Islam and all other religions that point to salvation other than Christianity are wrong and of the devil.

'That is actually normal Christian doctrine.'

Pastor Jones then added: 'We have always tried to make it clear we are not against Muslims or the Muslim community.

'We have always spoken out in relationship to the radical element of Islam. We believe in freedom of speech, we believe in freedom of religion.

Global anger: Pakistani lawyers carry a burning U.S. flag during a protest in the aftermath of Pastor Jones' comments

Global anger: Pakistani lawyers carry a burning U.S. flag during a protest in the aftermath of Pastor Jones' comments

'From a religious aspect, from a Christian aspect, we would consider the religion of the devil, so would the Anglican Church, even though they might not say that.

'That’s because no one has the real guts to stand up and say what they actually believe because of fear of prosecution and of being called a hate preacher.

The Home Office has decided that Pastor Jones's presence here 'is not conducive to the public good'.

A Home Office spokesman said: 'The Government opposes extremism in all its forms which is why we have excluded Pastor Terry Jones from the UK.

'Numerous comments made by Pastor Jones are evidence of his unacceptable behaviour.

'Coming to the UK is a privilege, not a right, and we are not willing to allow entry to those whose presence is not conducive to the public good.

'The use of exclusion powers is very serious and no decision is taken lightly or as a method of stopping open debate.'

Pastor Jones was to speak at a series of demonstrations against the expansion of Islam and the construction of mosques in the UK.

A spokesman for England Is Ours said he hoped other members of Pastor Jones's outreach centre would be able to visit and speak to the group if the controversial preacher was unable to get the decision overturned.

Barry Taylor, secretary of the activists' group based in Milton Keynes, said Pastor Jones had planned to visit in mid-February to attend a number of meetings with other similar organisations.

He said: 'I'm very disappointed. The whole object of the exercise is to have a discussion about the Islamification of the UK and just have dialogue about the problems.

'The idea isn't to cause trouble or kick up a stink. These things do need addressing and people do need to speak about them. We shouldn't be frightened about them.'

Mr Taylor added he had expected around 100 people to attend events organised for Pastor Jones including around 30 members of England Is Ours.

'It's quite possible that other members of his outreach may be able to come,' he added.

'I understand Pastor Jones is planning some visits to nearby European countries and we will be able to go and visit him there.'

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.