Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson's remarks defending Pastor McConnell's sermon and by saying that he would not trust some Muslims is unhelpful

Editor's Viewpoint

This newspaper, which was the first outlet in mainstream media to break the news of Pastor James McConnell's intemperate comments on the Islam faith, took the view that while he could rightly condemn the acts of terrorism carried out in that religion's name or the extreme implementation of Sharia Law, he was wrong to make every follower of the faith a target of his remarks.

First Minister Peter Robinson has stirred up more controversy by defending Pastor McConnell's sermon and by saying that he would not trust some Muslims.

His remark that he would trust them to go down to the shops or to do everyday tasks could be seen as demeaning and patronising. A local Islamic spokesman described the comment as hurtful.

It is not the sort of language that one would expect to hear from the head of government in a modern democracy which is seeking to find a way of creating a shared future.

Even if one agreed with some of what Mr Robinson said, it was neither the time nor the place to make his remarks. What it also did was further underline the almost total breakdown in relations between Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who was quick to condemn the First Minister's comments, bringing a further frosty reply.

Christianity is a religion in which forgiveness and tolerance are key tenets. There was little of the spirit of Christianity, as most understand it, in Pastor McConnell's comments.

It is regrettable that these comments have been made at a time when racist attacks are increasing rapidly in Northern Ireland.

While Pastor McConnell made the original comments, many would have expected the much more politically astute First Minister to steer well clear of the controversy or, at the very least, choose his words much more carefully.

He must know how easily words and phrases can be distorted, taken out of context and quickly become inflammatory.

And, after all, as First Minister, his duty is to take account of the various shades of opinion within Northern Ireland and show that he is leader of all.

Belfast Telegraph


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