So reports the Birmingham Post. As is often the case in these incidents, the facts are disputed, but it does seem like even the police department is acknowledging that the police officer didn't act entirely properly:
Two Christian preachers who claim they were stopped from handing out Bible extracts in a Muslim area of Birmingham are calling on police to state clearly their policy on freedom of speech.The police officer involved is apparently PCSO Naeem Naguthney, who apparently helped found the local branch of the National Association of Muslim Police. On a brighter note, the Birmingham Evening Mail reports:
Arthur Cunningham and Joseph Abraham, from the Grace Bible Fellowship Church, in Saltley, had been distributing leaflets in nearby Alum Rock when a police community support officer (PCSO) intervened.
The pair claimed the PCSO warned them to leave the area as they were committing a hate crime by trying to convert Muslims.
West Midlands Police has investigated the complaint and said the officer intervened with the best of intentions to defuse a “heated argument”.
The force, however, did give the PCSO “guidance” around what constitutes a hate crime after the incident.
But the two Christians claim that residents in Alum Rock still believe they are not permitted to preach in the neighbourhood as the police have not told them otherwise....
The Christians claimed they were warned by the PCSO to leave the area. They alleged he said: “If you come back here and get beat up, well you have been warned.”
They also claimed that the Muslim PCSO started ranting at them about George Bush and American foreign policy when he realised that the were from the US. The pair have demanded an apology and damages....
A West Midlands Police spokeswoman said the complaint had been investigated by the force. She said: “The investigation concluded that the PCSO acted with the best of intentions when he intervened to diffuse a heated argument between two groups of men.”
The spokeswoman added that following the investigation the PCSO had been offered “guidance around what constitutes a hate crime as well as his communication style”....
Fears that no-go areas for Christians were emerging in British towns and cities were expressed recently by the Bishop of Rochester.
Yesterday, members of the Church of England, Catholic and Islamic faiths gathered together in a bid to dispel the fears....
Father Bernard Kelly ... said: "There's been a great deal of work going on around here to bring the community together.
"We have young Muslim children who come to the church at Easter and Christmas and take part in nativities and plays.
"Muslim families have no problem in sending their children to Christian schools here, which I think says a lot about people's views and the way the community is integrated."
Toby Howarth, the Bishop of Birmingham's inter-faith adviser, said: "We are worried the message has been sent out that Alum Rock is a no-go area and Christians are being told to leave.
"We want to dispel this myth and put on record that there are really good relationships here between different faiths."
Mohammed Yaqub, who is helping to form the Alum Rock Residents' Association along with two churches, said: "I don't think there is a problem with Christians and Muslims here.
"It's the first time we have created a residents' association here and that's due to Father Kelly, Christians and Muslims working together."
Mr Yaqub, a Muslim who works as a volunteer for the chaplaincy at Heartlands Hospital, said the preachers who were stopped had "the right to free speech"....