Muslim in Northern Ireland speaks out: 'I tell the people back in Egypt of the kindness here. Now I’m not sure what I will tell them'
Published 03/06/2014 | 10:47
A Muslim man living in Northern Ireland for the past six years has said he doesn't know what to tell people back home in Egypt in the wake of Peter Robinson's remarks on the Islamic faith.
Anwar Mady said the First Minister's comments were at odds with the welcome and hospitality he had received in Northern Ireland.
Mr Mady also added his voice to the growing calls for the DUP leader to issue a public apology.
"It was very disappointing for me," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"When I go back to Egypt I always tell people about the hospitality and the welcoming, friendly atmosphere of where I live, and the behaviour of nice, kind people – I tell my story all the time about Northern Ireland.
"I used to live in London, which is a cosmopolitan city; however, you feel like you live there individually.
"There is no welcoming atmosphere, no smiling faces – something which I like in Northern Ireland.
"So when I heard these type of remarks I was really astonished, I was very surprised.
"What shall I say to my people when I go back to Egypt?
"Will I say the same or shall I change my words?
"I don't know.
"These remarks do not reflect my experience in Northern Ireland."
The First Minister claimed he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or devotees of Sharia law, but he would trust them to go to the shops for him and with other day-to-day activities.
He made the comments in support of Belfast pastor James McConnell, who had branded Islam as "heathen" and "Satanic", and said he did not trust Muslims.
Mr Robinson and his wife Iris have attended Mr McConnell's Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church in the past, as have other senior DUP figures.
Mr Mady described the First Minister's choice of words as "very odd".
"He is trying to justify Pastor McConnell and he has fallen into trouble," he added.
"When he said he didn't trust Muslims who turn to violence, I understand, but why did he have to mention Muslims?
"He should have said 'I don't trust people who resort to violence'. Irrespective of their religion or their race or their personal convictions, violence is not acceptable by anyone.
"Muslims have been mentioned here for no reason."
Last Thursday Mr Robinson attempted to defuse the row by saying he did not intend to cause any offence, hours before he met representatives from the Belfast Islamic Centre.
The DUP later issued a statement via a party spokesman which said Mr Robinson had outlined his views and made it clear that there was never any intention on his part to offend or cause distress to anyone.
Leaders at the Islamic Centre said after the meeting that Mr Robinson had apologised to them in private for any offence caused to Muslims.
However, Mr Mady believes a public apology is needed.
"I think people require further clarification from the First Minister on his remarks, and I am one of these people," he added.
"However, I do not want the issue to keep growing bigger and bigger because I am very concerned about our Muslim community living here."
Mr Mady said recent events had helped to unite the Muslim family across Northern Ireland.