Justin Welby defends free speech after terrorist attacks

Armed police stand guard outside the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, scene of a deadly terror attack(Photo: Reuters)

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that people must be free to criticise God and religion after a string of terrorist attacks in France and Austria. 

Appearing on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Justin Welby said God was "big enough" to take insults. 

He said that religious leaders "need to take responsibility for their own communities", but that society should also realise that Islamist terrorism "is a sort of spin-off" and a "very small, tiny minority from Islam".

"Thirdly, we need to stand for freedom of speech. And I think that is one of the key things. I'm glad the Church of England was one of those organisations that supported the abolition of the blasphemy laws," he said. 

He added that the Church would continue its work of praying, loving and serving people irrespective of what people think of it as an institution. 

Justin Welby said people should be free to say what they want to say

"[I]f people insult God, God's big enough to deal with that," he said, adding that it was essential to "allow freedom of speech, allow criticism, allow people to say what they want to say".

"I'm not frightened of freedom of speech," the Archbishop said.

France is still reeling from terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists. Last month, 47-year-old teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in a Paris suburb after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to students. 

Last week, three people were killed in a terrorist attack on a church in Nice, days before a shooting rampage in Vienna in which four people died. 

Elsewhere in the interview, the Archbishop said he prayed "every day" for Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The Archbishop has been among the vocal critics of the Prime Minister's decision to suspend public worship during England's second national lockdown, which started on Thursday.