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Letters: Pastor's words could hurt Christians across globe

I am astounded by the reckless comments of Pastor James McConnell (DebateNI, May 23). This man had an opportunity to retract his inflammatory comments, but instead he decided to add fuel to the fire.

His statements have serious implications for Northern Ireland's tiny Muslim community. At no more than 4,000-strong, these people are vulnerable to harassment and physical attack as a result of the pastor's incitement.

Portraying Islam as monolithic, using the most extreme examples of atrocious acts carried out, deliberately ignoring these are carried out by extremists, as opposed to the majority of the population – all this coagulates together into a concoction of prejudice, intolerance and sheer hatred.

Something I must highlight that I know will be less of a discussion topic (and also, perhaps, what could be the most revealing thing in terms of the level of total ignorance here) is the impact such racism and Islamophobia has on the ground in the Middle East.

Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa are already under intense persecution. When militant Islamists and radical extremists hear about a pastor safely in the West, giving off about Islam, they take it out on the local Christian communities.

This is why the pastor's comments are even more despicable, because a man in his position surely must know that what he says has an impact on the safety of Middle Eastern Christians.

GARY SPEDDING

Belfast

 

We outsourced free speech to the wrong guys

According to Fionola Meredith (DebateNI, May 23), the words of Pastor James McConnell are dangerous, as they could be used to justify further hatred and attacks.

A Belfast Islamic Centre representative said he would be holding the pastor “responsible for any racial attacks on any Muslim in Northern Ireland”.

It's good to know that mainstream media outlets are at the forefront not of freedom of speech (no matter how blunt and crude), but of the Orwellian concept of ‘hate crime' and ‘hate speech’.

These are the new Puritans, who are more comfortable inviting the police and politicians to regulate opinion than to support the free market of ideas and expression.

TOM RAKEWELL

Newtownards, Co Down

 

DUP had chance to support a different vote

It is distressing to hear the DUP talking about electoral pacts for Westminster in light of their talk, last week, of a “split unionist vote”.

Especially when, not that long ago, they could have backed a system that would have allowed that vote to be transferred.

But while I was leading the campaign for the Alternative Vote referendum here in Northern Ireland, they were saying “AV does not treat all votes equally”.

I have to ask the DUP: how does slicing up the Westminster seats between it and UUP not disempower voters? Voters will prefer one of those parties over the other and some who vote for one may not want the other. It is a pity the DUP has realised the error in its ways — three years too late.

STEPHEN GLENN

Bangor, Co Down

 

Ukip threat must be taken seriously

At a time of economic uncertainty in the early 1930s, the German Right negotiated with, and shared power with, a populist rabble-rouser and his party, in the belief it could be tamed and controlled. They were wrong, as Europe and the world discovered to their cost.

We face a similar problem today and siren voices in the Conservative Party are even talking of electoral deals with Ukip. The threat Ukip poses to our liberal society needs to be exposed. Nigel Farage’s aim is to dismantle the project that has fostered peace and harmony in Europe for 60 years. He must not be allowed to succeed.

It is past time that major party leaders took Ukip seriously (as only Clegg has so far), rather than ignoring it in the belief that if they continue with business as usual it will just fade away.

They think that Farage is eccentric and a bit of a joke. That is what the German intelligentsia thought about Adolf Hitler.

NIGEL SCOTT

By email

 

Girls in Nigeria need education

While a co-ordinated response to Boko Haram extremists is imperative (DebateNI, May 26), more must be done inside Nigeria to address poverty and inequality. That includes the undervaluation of education — particularly for girls.

Some 800 classrooms and 200 schools in Borno and Yobe states, in the north of the country, have been destroyed by Boko Haram since 2013; and, since February last year, more than 15,000 children have stopped attending class in Borno state alone.

It is dispiriting that the government's response to these horrendous attacks on schools has been to allow them to stay closed.

Nigeria is home to more than 10 million of the 57 million children out of school globally and this number is rising. The majority of these children are girls and most are in northern Nigeria.

Of those who do enrol, fewer than two-thirds complete primary school and even fewer begin, let alone complete, secondary school.

ActionAid has seen successes in our work in the region to make the case for girls' education. But what is needed is investment.

The Nigerian government invests less in education than almost any other country in Africa. We must not only bring the abducted girls home. We must invest in and keep their schools open.

DR HUSSAINI ADBU

ActionAid Nigeria country director

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