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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 13:58 GMT
Churches condemn far-right party
Staffordshire's church leaders have condemned the British National Party for distributing leaflets depicting a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

A Diocese of Lichfield spokesman said the 5,000 leaflets also criticised plans for a mosque in Stoke-on-Trent.

The BNP had offered the local council 100,000 for the land in Hanley which was earmarked for the Mosque, he added.

The Bishop of Stafford said people should "stand against the evil trying to divide us".

It is wrong and irresponsible that this cartoon has been produced by the BNP
Church leaders

Peace and unity

Church leaders from several faiths met at the proposed site for the mosque on Wednesday to offer prayers for peace and unity.

In a statement they said: "It is wrong and irresponsible that this cartoon has been produced by the BNP with the intention of causing hurt to our Muslim brothers and sisters and to divide a community who are working hard to cement the existing good relations."

"Right-minded people will see through this blatant and desperate exploitation."

'Dangerous threat'

The Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Rev Dr Gordon Mursell, said: "This is important because we believe the BNP represent a really dangerous threat to all people who care about the future of our society."

The piece of land proposed for the mosque has been empty for ten years.

Stoke-on-Trent Council has proposed to give it to Muslims in the area for a mosque on a peppercorn lease. The land has planning permission, but building work has not yet started.

A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman said the party had made a written offer of 100,000 to buy land earmarked for the mosque.

There is no suggestion at the moment that plans will change, he said.

We are against any more mosques being built
Phil Edwards, BNP spokesperson

No threat

BNP spokesman Phil Edwards said the church leaders' statement was nonsense.

"We are not a threat to anybody," he said.

The leaflet, which has been delivered across north Staffordshire, depicts a picture of the cartoon and another of the subsequent protest in London.

"The pictures ask which is worse - a cartoon or the protesters carrying banners with death threats on them. It encourages a debate and that is what we are looking for," he said.

He agreed the BNP did not want the mosque, or any more mosques built.

"We are against any more mosques being built. But we are for a debate whether it is in the best interests of this country that so many should be built in Britain."


SEE ALSO:
BNP prints controversial cartoon
22 Feb 06 |  UK Politics


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