Muslim councillor removes support for Louis Smith to receive freedom of Peterborough after '˜mocking Islam'
A Muslim councillor who sits on the honours panel in Peterborough says he can no longer support gymnast Louis Smith receiving the Freedom of the City after he appeared to mock Islam on a video.
Councillor Mohammed Jamil, Labour group leader on Peterborough City Council, has written to the panel saying he has withdrawn his backing for the Olympic silver medallist to be made a freeman because the Muslim community is offended by his actions.
Video footage appeared to show Mr Smith, with fellow gymnast Luke Carson, laughing while pretending to pray and shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
The Islamic phrase means “God is the greatest” in Arabic.
Cllr Jamil said: “I’ve had people over the weekend saying they do not want someone who says things like that to have the freedom of Peterborough.
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“There is anger. He is a role model to a lot of people.
“It’s stuff like that which gives the misconception of what Islam is.
“I just do not think someone like that is someone I can support to have the freedom of the city in a city as diverse as ours.
“We probably have 15,000 to 20,000 Muslims in Peterborough.”
Cllr Jamil, who previously supported Mr Smith receiving Freedom of the City, said before this incident there was support for his nomination.
Mr Smith has already apologised for the video.
He said: “I recognise the severity of my mistake and hope it can be an example of how important it is to respect others at all times.
“I have learnt a valuable lesson and I wholeheartedly apologise.”
Mr Smith won silver in the pommel horse at the recent Rio Games, taking his Olympic medal count to two silvers and two bronzes.
The Mayor of Peterborough, Councillor David Sanders, then recommended that he be made a freeman of Peterborough, with the city council’s honours panel currently discussing the matter.
In an interview with the Peterborough Telegraph in August, Mr Smith was delighted to hear he had been nominated to receive the Freedom of the City.
He said: “That’s awesome, I would gladly accept it.
“Peterborough, you guys have been fantastic. It’s been an absolute pleasure to say I’m from here and to represent Peterborough in and out of the gym.”
British Gymnastics has announced it will be investigating the incident.
The Peterborough Telegraph asked to speak to Mr Smith but was told he would not do an interview.