HAMPSHIRE Christian and Muslim leaders have joined forces to condemn a US anti-Muslim film – and the violence it has sparked across the world.
The film Innocence of Muslims denigrating the Prophet Mohammed, has provoked unrest in many parts of the Muslim world over the past ten days.
The condemnation from Hampshire’s community leaders comes as the film’s director, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, was back behind bars for parole violation.
A judge in California ordered him to be detained after he broke the terms of his probation since his release from prison last year.
Nakoula had been convicted of fraud in 2010 and now faces a two-year jail sentence.
At least 33 people have died, including the US ambassador to Libya, in a wave of attacks across the Middle East.
Fresh protests then erupted over a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed published in a French magazine last week.
Now the county leaders of four Christian denominations along with the Muslim leaders from mosques and Islamic centres in Fareham and Portsmouth have urged peace.
In a joint statement, they said: “One of the fundamental values of Islam is peace and the Islamic faith is a peaceful religion.
“Those who want to attack this faith have provoked a small minority of Muslims into doing precisely what has occurred.
“Muslims should recognise that this is an attack on their faith, but treat it with the contempt it deserves. This is a short film made in the USA by a small group of people who don’t understand Islam, and is not representative of America as a whole.
“We need to remind people to react with calm, peace and tolerance. The violence that has led to the destruction of property and the taking of innocent lives completely contradicts the teaching of any religion, including Islam.
“We strongly condemn such violence that does nothing to honour the Prophet whose honour the demonstrators want to defend.
“Freedom of expression is not absolute. As people of faith, we re-iterate that freedom of expression doesn’t justify spreading hatred based on faith, race, ethnicity or gender.”
The signatories to the joint statement include the Rev Dr Andrew Wood, chairman of the Southampton District of the Methodist Church, the Rev Clare Downing, moderator of the Wessex synod of the United Reformed Church, Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo and Imam of the Al Mahdi Wessex Jamaat Community in Wickham , Sheikh Aminur Rahman.