Police meeting over play protest

The Sikh community are to meet with police on Monday to discuss a protest about a play in which officers were injured.

An earlier meeting between West Midlands Police and the Birmingham Repertory theatre broke up without agreement.

Three officers were hurt during clashes at the theatre on Saturday after 400 people gathered outside to demonstrate.

The Rep has defended the play – Behzti – and maintains the show will go on.

Management say Behzti (Dishonour), depicting sex abuse and murder in a temple, does not seek to portray the Sikh faith in a negative fashion.

But religious leaders have urged people to boycott the theatre.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Birmingham issued the appeal on Sunday after being involved in recent multi-faith talks with the theatre to try to stop the play going ahead.

The performance on Saturday was cancelled and three people were arrested in connection with the demonstration.

The theatre said some protesters entered back stage and smashed equipment, windows were broken and a foyer door was destroyed.

It added that short of “blatant censorship” and cancelling the production, it could not have done more to appease the Sikh community.

Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris claims the protests against Behzti – which translates as “dishonour” – were “exacerbated” by proposals for laws to ban incitement to religious hatred.

Dr Harris, an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, said: “While any offence caused by a play or a novel is regrettable, it is vital for free speech and the future of our creative arts that this production is not closed on the basis of protests or intense lobbying.

“These protests and the calls for the end of the nativity display at Madame Tussauds have been fuelled by the government’s ill-judged proposals to ban the incitement of religious hatred.

“It has created a climate whereby any religion’s assertion is that their beliefs, leaders, icons and places of worship are protected from criticism, ridicule or parody.”

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Dec. 20, 2004

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