Luton Council of Faiths has issued a statement regarding the Paris terror killings and the issues it has raised around the freedom of speech.
“We wish to unite in expressing our deepest regret and indeed anger at the recent murders in Paris, and completely condemn any ideology that supports such atrocities.
“We find it utterly abhorrent and outrageous that hideous crimes such as these are justified in the name of religion by the perpetrators. These killings are, of course, an offence to Islam itself: the sanctity of life is central to Islam, as to all religions.
“On the other hand, it is a matter of shame and a challenge for us all that in the name of freedom of expression and free speech the response to these atrocities has caused deep and grievous emotional hurt to over 1.5 billion Muslims and those of other faiths or no particular faith affiliations.
“Pope Francis speaks for us all in condemnation of both murders and the responses.
“Respect, dignity, mutuality, and of love for each other are fundamental values and principles of all faiths and societies.
“It is therefore a matter of great regret that periodically we are confronted with acts of wilful provocation that are bound to cause deep offence.
“We recognise that freedom of expression and free speech are important and MUST BE DEFENDED.
“However such a freedom must be exercised with due care and responsibility, and cannot be considered as unconditional or as a licence to denigrate, ridicule, offend and insult people’s religious beliefs and leaders.
Luton Council of Faiths has always responded to issues, however extreme, which cause concern, distress and anguish, by calling for restrained and unity.
“An attack on one’s beliefs is an attack on us all.
“Our strength lies in our unity.
“We therefore, remain committed to challenge and condemn all hatred and prejudice in our community - Islamophobia, anti-Semitism to anti-Christian or bearing any other name – by promoting mutual understanding, respect, love and affection for each other irrespective of cultural and religious differences to make our town and world a beacon of harmony, tolerance and acceptance.”