Robinson and McGuinness clash over Pastor’s Muslims remarks

Islam ‘heathen’ and ’satanic’, says Belfast evangelical minister

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson (right) and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson (right) and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has been criticised for defending a Belfast Protestant evangelical pastor who said he did not trust Muslims and described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic” and “spawned in hell”.

The PSNI already is investigating a possible “hate crime” after Pastor James McConnell made his comments during a sermon at his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle Church on the Shore Road in north Belfast earlier this month.

Pastor McConnell said a “new evil had arisen” and that “there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain” similar to IRA cells of the past. He said some people had characterised Islam as “little more than a variation of Christianity and Judaism” but this was wrong.

“Islam’s ideas about God, about humanity, about salvation are vastly different from the teaching of the holy scripture. Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell,” he added.

Pastor McConnell, who has a large Protestant evangelical following, complained of Muslim persecution of Christians. There was “powerful evidence that more and more of Muslims are putting the Koran’s hatred of Christians and Jews alike into practice”, he said.

“Now people say there are good Muslims in Britain - that may be so - but I don’t trust them,” he said.

At the time Raied Al-Wazzan, from the Belfast Islamic Centre, said the remarks were irresponsible and that Pastor McConnell would have to answer for “any racial attacks on any Muslim in Northern Ireland”.

The three main Protestant churches also criticised the remarks while Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said “such inflammatory comments only serve to fuel hatred”.

The controversy reactivated yesterday when Mr Robinson told The Irish News he had known Pastor McConnell for 20 years, had attended his church and would do so again, and that there wasn’t “an ounce of hatred in his bones”.

Mr Robinson said it was a duty of any Christian preacher to “denounce false doctrine”. Saying you did not trust somebody was not a hate crime and to claim so was “bogus”.

The First Minister said he would not trust Muslims who had been involved in “terrorist activities” or those who fully subscribed to Sharia law. Neither would he trust a Muslim to provide spiritual guidance.

However, he added: “Would I trust them to go down to the shops for me? Of course I would. Would I trust them to do a number of other lifetime normal day-to-day issues? There is no reason why you wouldn’t.”

In a statement, Mr McGuinness called on Mr Robinson to “show leadership in promoting equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all”.

This prompted the First Minister to tweet, “I won’t take lectures from a self-confessed leader of a bloody terrorist organisation on equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all”.

Mr Robinson’s comments were also criticised by the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP and Alliance.

The PSNI said its possible hate crime investigation was continuing.