Belfast pastor James McConnell denounces Islam as the devil’s doctrine at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church sermon.
Controversial clergyman tells audience “people say there are good Muslims in Britain — that may be so — but I don’t trust them”
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Pastor James McConnell is beyond any doubt a devout Christian ,although outspoken and perhaps, as some might perceive ,controversial,he should be allowed his opinion and the right to freedom of speech and freedom of belief.
To pursue this Godly man through the courts, or to vilify him in any way through the media, is an infringement of his basic human rights.
Hate preachers from the Muslim faith have said far worse and have spewed vitriol in public places with speeches that have been tantamount to incitement to violence and have enjoyed the protection of law enforcers.
This man deserves nothing short of the same!
Pastor James McConnell accused of hate crimes. Pray for this pastor.
The message entitled: “The sermon ministers will not be allowed to preach” has the nation talking; nevertheless the pastor has branded suggestions that he is “a racist” as “utter nonsense” after being besieged by the media about his remarks that the Islamic faith is “Satanic” and a “doctrine spawned in hell”. He also said that he didn’t trust Muslims – a statement he has refused to withdraw.
Already t the pastor has been interviewed by BBC Newsline, UTV Live and by both the Stephen Nolan Radio and Television Shows. There’s also been considerable interest in the story from local national newspapers like the Belfast Telegraph and the Newsletter.
Despite being criticised by the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuiness and by Raied-Al Wazzan of the Belfast Islamic Centre Pastor McConnell maintains: “I want to put it on record that I would never wish to hurt anyone or to incite any form of violence. I deplore violence no matter where it comes from.
“I hate no-one and I think I have proved this. People of all denominations and backgrounds are made welcome at our church and my record proves that for 60 years I have reached out to every community”.
Pastor McConnell’s remarks were prompted after he learned that a pregnant woman Meriam Yehia Ibrahim (27) was sentenced to death in Sudan after refusing to recant her Christian beliefs. A Sudanese doctor, she has been condemned to death by hanging and is to be given 100 lashes for alleged ‘adultery’.
Although the pastor has been asked to retract his comments he says “I will not apologise because I believe I am right in what I am saying. The whole point has been missed which is that a young girl is going to die a horrific death just because she aspires to be a Christian. What are people doing about this? What is the western world doing about it? What is Muslim community doing about it?”
Pastor McConnell has received hundreds of letters and emails backing his views about the Islamic faith including a supportive letter sent to the Newsletter by MLA Sammy Wilson and from evangelical minister Paul Burns of Adullam Christian Fellowship Church in Sandy Row who voiced his support for the pastor in the Belfast Telegraph.
Despite calls this week by the Deputy First Minister for a full police investigation into Pastor McConnell’s remarks the 77 year-old evangelist insists he’d rather go to prison than retract his comments.
THE FULL SERMON Y PASTOR McCONNELL
Pastor McConnell (78), who retired from Whitewell Tabernacle last year, is preparing to answer charges in court under the 2003 Communications Act on August 7.
The charges centre on a sermon he gave at the north Belfast Tabernacle in which he said: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell”. It was streamed on the internet.
The pastor says despite his advanced years and his ill health, he is prepared to go to jail rather than withdraw his remarks.
“I have no regrets about what I said. I do not hate Muslims but I denounce Islam as a doctrine and I make no apologies for that. I will be pleading ‘not guilty’ when I stand in the dock in August.”
The 78-year-old faces up to six months behind bars if convicted.
Now a prominent London Muslim academic and clergyman has vowed to go to jail with the pastor.
Dr Al-Hussaini, a Senior Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute, said he has “grave concerns” about the prosecution of Pastor McConnell, adding he “strongly upholds the moral right” for people of all faiths to debate.
He said: “Against the flaming backdrop of torched Christian churches, bloody executions and massacres of faith minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is therefore a matter of utmost concern that, in this country, we discharge our common duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others,” he said.
“All honest seekers of God’s truth are enjoined to inquire, question and challenge the teachings of religious authority, and to speak prophetically to establishment power even when it means overturning the tables in the Temple.
“Moreover, in a free and democratic society, we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.
“While those of us who hold clerical office as Christian pastors and priests, Jewish rabbis or Muslim imams, should rightly have due care and regard to the leadership role we exercise when we make public speeches, nevertheless our foremost duty remains to express theological ideas in good conscience before God.
“For these reasons, I strongly uphold the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to disagree about matters of doctrine and belief, and further I express my deep dismay that my fellow citizen is being subject to criminal proceedings, when at no time have any of the statements he has made incited to physical harm or hatred against anyone.
“I therefore wish to place on the record my deep concern and opposition to the criminalising of theological disagreement, at a time when our society should in fact be fostering better quality disagreement and, in that spirit, I further undertake that if Pastor McConnell is convicted and sent to prison, I shall go to prison with him.”