UK

PM on Pope comments: 'There is a right to cause offence'

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Media captionThe UK PM said people did not have the right to 'wreak vengeance' if offended

Prime Minister David Cameron has disagreed with a comment made by Pope Francis, who warned against mocking others' religions.

Following the attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the Pope made his point by saying someone who insulted his mother could "expect to get punched".

But Mr Cameron, speaking to CBS News, said the media had the right to publish material that was offensive to some.

Twelve people were killed by militant Islamists in the attack in Paris.

A policewoman and four people at a kosher supermarket died in separate attacks in the French capital earlier this month.

'Right to offence'

Speaking to the Face the Nation programme on the American TV channel CBS, Mr Cameron was asked how to "find the right balance" after the Pope defended freedom of expression but said there were limits to freedom of speech.

The pontiff had said religions should be treated with respect, so that people's faiths were not insulted or ridiculed.

Mr Cameron replied: "I think in a free society, there is a right to cause offence about someone's religion.

"I'm a Christian - if someone says something offensive about Jesus, I might find that offensive, but in a free society I don't have a right to, sort of, wreak my vengeance on them."

He said as long as publications acted within the law, they had the right to publish any material, even if it was offensive to some.

Former Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries, writing in the Independent on Sunday, also suggested the Pope had been wrong to make the comments.

He said: "I am a great admirer of the Pope, but when, to make the proper point that we should not insult the faith of others, he said his assistant could 'expect a punch' if he cursed his mother, I was aghast.

"The reference to a punch could easily be taken for a justification of violence in response to insult."

'Poisonous death cult'

Asked about the current threat of terrorism, Mr Cameron, who is on a visit to the US, said: "Frankly, we've been in this struggle against extremist Islamist terrorism now for well over a decade and a half, so we know what it takes to win. It's going to take a lot of perseverance."

He said that, while the threat had "changed and altered", it was "still based on the fundamental problem of a poisonous death cult narrative, which is the perversion of one of the world's major religions".

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and American secretary of state John Kerry, will host international talks in London later this week to discuss the progress made in tackling the Islamic State group.

The extremist group has seized large areas of territory in Iraq and Syria since last year.

Mr Cameron's interview will be broadcast on CBS News later on Sunday.

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