Tom Goodenough Tom Goodenough

Bible bashers

Why was Oluwole Ilesanmi carted off the streets of London in handcuffs?

Being a street preacher can be a thankless business. Since moving to Britain from Nigeria nine years ago, 64-year-old Oluwole Ilesanmi has toured the country reading aloud from the Bible, spending hours outside train stations, urging people to see the light. Sometimes he makes a convert; most of the time his preaching falls on deaf ears. Last month, it resulted in him being arrested. Saturday 23 February began like a typical day for Ilesanmi. He went to Southgate tube station in north London and preached for a few hours. His spiel included a disobliging reference to Islam, which seemed to rile a passer-by. To Ilesanmi’s surprise he was then accosted by the man. A woman who filmed the incident says she feared Ilesanmi was about to be attacked: ‘The man had his forehead to the preacher’s forehead. He looked like he was about to knock him out.’ It seemed that Ilesanmi was the victim. But he was accused of Islamophobia, and then the police arrived. The video — since viewed millions of times online — shows what happened next. Ilesanmi was arrested, handcuffed and one of the officers snatched his Bible away. When Ilesanmi objected, the policeman responded by saying: ‘You should have thought about that before being racist.’ ‘When they took the Bible off me I felt so enraged,’ Ilesanmi tells me. ‘They couldn’t do that to the Koran. They dare not do that to the Koran. The policeman wanted to even throw the Bible on the floor.’
That was just the beginning of his humiliation.

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