Belfast

Belfast pastor apologises for Islam comments

Fri 06 Jun 2014
By Steve Maltz

A pastor from Belfast who called Islam "heathen" and "satanic" has made a public apology.

Pastor James McConnell from the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle said it wasn't his intention to harm as he left a police station on Friday.

He was questioned by officers about the remarks after he voluntarily attended an interview.

Last month he caused controversy when he said during a sermon "a new evil had arisen" and "there are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain.

"Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell," he said.

As he left Newtownabbey police station his solicitor said he hadn't been arrested.

The 77-year-old pastor made a statement and said: "I wish to emphasise that I had no intention of causing any offence or insulting any member of the Muslim community or to arouse fear or stir up or incite hatred towards any member of the Muslim community.

"My sermon was drawing attention to how many followers of Islam have, regrettably, interpreted the doctrine of Islam as justification for violence.

"I abhor violence and condemn anyone, of any faith, who uses religion to justify it."

"I have worked tirelessly to promote my Christian doctrine. Many faiths and denominations have attended at the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle, including members of the Muslim faith" he said.

Earlier this week Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson was also forced to publicly apologise after he made comments in defence of the pastor.

Mr Robinson said he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance but would trust them to "go down to the shops" for him.

Spokesman for the Belfast Islamic Centre, Dr Raied Al Wazzan welcomed Mr McConnell's statement but said the whole incident had damaged race relations.

He said: "The current issue caused some race relation problems and we need to still work to heal that, so we still have to do some work, maybe we can come together and show solidarity with each other and support each other."

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokeswoman said: "Police have interviewed a 77-year-old man today and continue to investigate offences connected to a number of allegations of race related crimes. Upon completion of those investigations, police will submit a file to the Public Prosecution Service."

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