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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

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