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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 14:31 GMT
Muslims 'must accept' free speech
Trevor Phillips
People must tolerate things they do not like, says Mr Phillips
Muslims must accept that freedom of speech is central to Britishness and should be preserved even if it offends people, Trevor Phillips has said.

The chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said we should "allow people to offend each other".

And he suggested that Muslims who wanted a system of Islamic Shariah law should leave the UK.

His comments follow angry protests against cartoons satirising the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

'Absurd or unpopular'

Mr Phillips told ITV1's Jonathan Dimbleby programme: "What some minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other.

"That we have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting not by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don't like."

And that commitment to freedom of expression should also allow Muslim preachers to make comments about homosexuality that are offensive to broad segments of the British population, he said.

Trafalgar Square
There were several large protests held in London over the cartoons

"One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is," said Mr Phillips.

He also rejected the idea of Shariah law in Muslim communities in the UK.

"We have one set of laws. They are decided on by one group of people, members of Parliament, and that's the end of the story.

"Anybody who lives here has to accept that's the way we do it. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else," he said.


SEE ALSO
Those cartoons - right or wrong?
03 Feb 06 |  Newsnight Home

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