A Christian street preacher has been awarded £2,500 after he was wrongly accused of Islamophobia.
Oluwole Ilesanmi was preaching outside Southgate tube station in North London in February, when he was approached by two officers who wrestled his bible from him, put him in handcuffs and arrested, the Mail on Sunday reports.
The 64-year-old was accused of hate speech after a passerby called the police on him.
Ilesanmi admits describing Islam as an ‘aberration’, but says he was purely expressing his view point as a Christian rather than degrading Muslims.
One of the officers told the preacher he was disrupting the peace, telling him ‘no one wants to hear that – they want you to go away.’
A passerby caught the moment Ilesanmi’s bible was taken from him, showing the man’s visible distress.
One of the officers can be heard saying ‘you should’ve thought about that before being racist’.
The officers handcuff the former dentist before one of them gives a thumbs up to the camera. The grandfather was then bundled into the car and driven for several miles, before he was ‘de-arrested’ and let out the car.
Unfortunately, Ilesanmi wasn’t carrying any money on him and so he only managed to get home thanks to the kindness of a stranger who gave him his bus fare to get back.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, he said:
I believe God loves everyone, including Muslims, but I have the right to say I that I don’t agree with Islam – we are living in a Christian country, after all.
I was upset when they took away my Bible. They just threw it in the police car. They would never have done that if it had been the Koran. Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
The Metropolitan Police has now agreed to pay Ilesanmi £2,500 for wrongful arrest and for the distressing treatment he received.
Police initially claimed they’d only taken him 200 yards up the road, however when the Christian Legal Centre took on his case, they discovered a bus ticket which proved he’d been taken much further.
The Met has admitted it was more than four miles away but claims he was offered a lift home which he refused.
The case was raised in parliament and a petition with 38,000 signatures calling for greater religious freedom for Christian street pastors will be delivered to Government next week.
A Met Police spokesman said:
The Met respects and upholds the rights of all individuals to practice freedom of speech, and this includes street preachers of all religions and backgrounds.
However, if the language someone uses is perceived as being a potential hate crime, it is only right that we investigate. In this case, it was deemed appropriate to remove the man from the area.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist at UNILAD. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining the LADbible Group team in 2017.