Why you cannot dismiss Islam as 'spawned in hell'
So what do you think of Pastor James McConnell's anti-Islam sermon in the Metropolitan Tabernacle last Sunday?
People who support the pastor will think that he is a hero for saying things which no other public figure would dare to say.
His critics will claim that his intemperate comments could amount to an incitement to racial hatred, and that no one, particularly a Christian pastor, should be allowed to say such things.
My own view is that he went too far, and that his arguments were often contradictory. However, he raised an important question which many people in the West have not dared to face – namely the severe threat from militant and extreme Islam.
I read a report of the pastor's comments, I listened to him on the Nolan radio show, and I think that overall he was out of order.
I know James McConnell, and last year I spent quite some time interviewing him, when I was writing his profile for this newspaper. He is essentially an ultra-conservative, whose main aim in life is to save souls for Christ, but on this occasion he lost the run of himself.
You cannot simply dismiss Islam as "spawned in hell", nor can you claim that all Muslims are not to be trusted. Such language is inflammatory, particularly in a province where there are at least two race-hate crimes a day.
These comments make the situation worse, and James McConnell needs to reflect deeply and privately at the implications of his words, particularly in Northern Ireland where there are more than enough racial bigots keen to attack innocent people.
He should not have said it. Full stop.
Yet, in his own provocative way he has made us think yet again about Islam, its place in the world, and how we should be reacting to it.
Setting aside the pastor's blunt views, there is a problem, not with peace-loving Islam and its millions of adherents, but with the forces of militant Islam which are bent on a world crusade, and with those Islamic countries where Christians are persecuted and murdered because of their faith.
You see it in places like Nigeria where the extremist group Boko Haram has carried out the most appalling attacks on innocent Christians.
You see it in Syria where the so-called rebels, which the West initially backed against President Assad, have carried out dreadful deeds, including the capture and beheading of a Roman Catholic priest.
The Christian community in Syria has been decimated, and only this week the remaining few Christians in Aleppo have said that they will remain there until they are killed.
In Sudan a young Christian woman is facing an Islamic court sentence of 100 lashes and possible execution, because she will not deny her faith.
These are atrocities which stretch Western 'liberalism' to the limit, and it was Britain who tolerated for far too long the dangerous rantings of the militant Islam cleric Abu Hamza.
Eventually, he was extradited to America where he is facing life imprisonment.
By all means let us protect and learn from the peaceful Muslims in our midst, by all means criticise Pastor McConnell for the way he made many of his points, but don't let's overlook the murderous intent of worldwide militant Islam.
We will be ignoring it at our peril.