Cambridgeshire

Louis Smith given freedom of Peterborough, weeks after Islam mockery row

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Media captionLouis Smith given Freedom of Peterborough

Olympian Louis Smith has been granted the freedom of his home city, just weeks after a film in which he mocked Islam was posted online.

Smith, from Peterborough, was banned for two months by British Gymnastics after the video emerged on 7 October.

The 27-year-old apologised over the clip, in which he was seen laughing and imitating Islamic prayers.

But city councillor Mohammed Jamil said Smith's apology meant he had "done enough" to earn his forgiveness.

Mr Jamil, who is a Muslim, said he had wondered if it were appropriate that Smith should "represent such a diverse city of Peterborough" while considering the honour.

He said he also had several people contacting him who asked: "Are you really sure about this?"

But he said his view changed after Smith instantly apologised, missed the Olympic celebrations in order to visit mosques and spoke on Islam Radio in Peterborough.

Labour councillor Mr Jamil said: "Part of our religion is to forgive. He had done enough to earn my forgiveness."

Image copyright Press Association
Image caption Smith won BBC's Strictly Come Dancing in 2012

A panel of Peterborough leaders unanimously voted to give Smith and two Paralympians, James Fox and wheelchair basketball star Lee Manning, the honour.

In a Tweet, Smith said he was "humbled and honoured".

A city council spokeswoman said: "Each of the nominations were unanimously approved by councillors, and each will now be officially awarded in a ceremony in the new year."

In October, Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, praised British Gymnastics for taking action against Smith, and fellow gymnast Luke Carson, who was also featured in the leaked film.

He said: "We hope they reflect upon their actions and realise the need for people to follow their faith with dignity."

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