msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/23/2010 1:13:18 PM ET 2010-09-23T17:13:18

Six men were arrested in the U.K. on suspicion of stirring racial hatred after they posted a video on the Internet in which they appear to burn two Qurans on Sept. 11, police said Thursday.

Northumbria police said the men posted bail and were released, but they will face further court hearings about their alleged actions in the town of Gateshead in northern England, police said in a statement.

Police said two men were arrested Sept. 15 and four on Sept. 22. Police would not say how much bail was required.

The arrests follow a controversy that started when Florida pastor Terry Jones said he would burn a Quran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"The kind of behavior displayed in this video is not at all representative of our community as a whole," a joint statement by Northumbria Police and Gateshead Council said.

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"Our community is one of mutual respect and we continue to work together with community leaders, residents and people of all faiths and beliefs to maintain good community relations," it added.

Jones's plan to burn Qurans was not illegal under U.S. law. His actions would have been protected by the First Amendment, which enables the Ku Klux Klan to burn crosses and for protesters to burn the U.S. flag .

In the U.K., the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 made "stirring up hatred against persons on religious grounds" an offence. However Northumbria Police said the men were arrested under the Public Order Act 1986, which includes stirring racial hatred as an offence.

In the video, which was still available on the YouTube website, the men are seen wearing scarves to hide their faces.

"This is the Quran right, it's full of (expletive). We're going to burn this (expletive) right now. This one is for the boys (British troops) in Afghanistan," one says as he holds up a book.

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He throws the book to the ground and then dances on it. What appears to be gas is then poured on and the book is set alight. "Burn a Quran day, right," the man says, in an apparent reference to Jones' event.

The pastor had called on people around the world to take part in an international day for burning the Quran, but decided not to go ahead with his protest after widespread condemnation.

President Barack Obama and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin were among those who called on him not to burn the Quran.

Jones told msnbc.com that the U.K. law against stirring racial hatred, under which the six men were arrested, "sounds like a very dangerous law because it's pretty wide and could be interpreted in many ways."

"I don't know if I would praise them (for burning the Quran), just like I'm not happy if people burn the Bible, but I think it's definitely, according to our thinking ... definitely in our opinion, it would be their right to do that," he said.

He said he would be willing to speak to the men, if they wanted to talk to him. "We would probably be willing to support them in some way, I don't know about financially or what way, but definitely we feel very strongly that Islam and radical Islam is a very, very great danger to the world," Jones said.

He added the church's current property in Gainesville was up for sale for $2.9 million and it was looking to move to Tampa, a larger population center.

Alleged fascist group
The person who posted the Gateshead video is known by the YouTube user name 1MillionUnited.

This person has uploaded three other videos to YouTube, all of which are about the English Defence League, a group which says it was set up to oppose the country's "capitulation to Muslim extremists."

In a statement about the arrests on its website, the EDL said "other religious books are burned around the world on a regular basis."

"Bibles, for instance, are burned or at least confiscated every day in the Islamic world," it claimed. "What's more, their owners are routinely discriminated against, arrested, and even tortured and imprisoned."

"Why are we so happy to condemn those who would burn a copy of the Quran, but appear less interested when a Bible or a Torah is burnt to ashes?"

It claimed that the Islamic world was "probably the worst offender when it comes to religious intolerance."

There was a mixed reaction to the burning and arrests in posts below the Quran-burning video, which has been viewed more than 500 times.

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"Carrying on like that in a public place is obviously not on. Nick (arrest) them for breach of the peace and minor fire raising. Unfortunately being thick isn't a crime," LEXTALIONIS222 wrote.

"What the hell are the police doing arresting these dumbasses on suspicion of encitement to racial hatred? They have a right to hate a religious idea and to express that nonviolently, even if they do it in this undignified, disrespectful and stupid way," gtb393 said.

Another poster, zazzleModel, who said he or she was not Muslim, said it was "not the right thing to do."

"There are moslims (sic) that are good. And as far as i know, there is nothing written in the koran that says that moslims should kill," the poster wrote.

"Fundamentalists make of it what they want ... in the koran are the same things written as in the bible ... so this action is hatred thing. This guys are seriously childish and stupid. You can make your point in many ways. it doesn't have to be so violent."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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