Ian Paisley’s son has laid into Peter Robinson over his comments about Muslims, accusing the First Minister of being “a condescending ignoramus”.
The Rev Kyle Paisley, who is a Free Presbyterian minister in England, condemned Mr Robinson’s support for Pastor James McConnell, who said that he didn’t trust Muslims, and then the DUP leader’s own attempt to clarify his views by saying that he would trust a Muslim to go to the shop for him.
The Rev Paisley’s comments on Friday night re-opened the row over Mr Robinson’s remarks, just hours after the furore seemed to be subsiding following Belfast’s Muslim leaders’ acceptance of a private apology from the DUP leader.
However, in a letter in Saturday’s News Letter, the Rev Paisley’s own denomination expresses support for the Rev McConnell’s sentiments about Muslims and criticises those who it said had been guilty of “taking these comments and making them into a rod to batter Christian teaching”.
The letter added: “As Christians we have a duty to tell others of the true way of salvation and to reach out to them in love. This means warning them of the danger of sin and false teaching, but this is not to be construed as hatred.”
But the Rev Paisley — who is the twin brother of North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr — described Mr Robinson’s remarks as “deeply insulting”.
However, he welcomed Mr Robinson’s “humbling of himself” in apologising and “acknowledging where he had gone wrong”.
Writing on the website of the veteran journalist Eamonn Mallie, the Rev Paisley said: “While there are irreconcilable differences between the theology of Biblical Protestantism and the theology of traditional Islam, this is no reason for any man to go out of his way in order to insult another.”
He went on to say that although Jesus Christ had been “outspoken on religious and spiritual matters” but that he was “above the charge of a calculating abrasiveness”.
He added: “Christ did not seek publicity for publicity’s sake. It is incumbent on all Christian ministers to take their motive as well as their view of things from Him”.
Then, referring to Mr Robinson’s comment about being prepared to trust a Muslim to go to the shop, he said: “It shows just what a condescending ignoramus he is!
“His remark leaves a deep stain on his own reputation, the reputation of his party and the reputation of the religion he professes to believe in.”
Then, accusing DUP member of cowardice, he said: “It beggars belief that thus far not one within his party has the nerve to publicly challenge him. Sometimes silence is golden. In this case it is plain yellow!”
In an interview with BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme last night, the Rev Paisley expanded on his views and accused Mr Robinson of having been “deeply insulting”.
He said that if Mr Robinson’s words had been used to refer to Protestants he would have felt that “people had been looking down their nose at me”.
He added that it was “not the remark of someone who’s enlightened”.
However, he said that the fact Mr Robinson had privately apologised to local Muslim leaders was “a good thing” and “an unusual thing for politicians to do these days”.
But he said “it’s just a pity that the apology wasn’t public because the offence was public”.
The Rev Paisley denied that he was speaking out against Mr Robinson because of the feud which now appears to exist between the Paisley and Robinson families.
“I wasn’t motivated by any anti-Robinson feeling and in fact I made it clear that had I not cared for the man himself I would not have made a remark about how he’d left a stain on his own reputation.
“If I didn’t care for the man’s reputation, I wouldn’t have said anything about it, so this idea that it would be anti-Robinson solely because of Paisley vs Robinson is out of the question. That was not my motive at all.”
Away from the political debate over the wisdom of Mr Robinson’s intervention in the row over Pastor McConnell’s comments, there were signs that a substantial section of evangelical Protestantism is at least uncomfortable with Pastor McConnell’s comments.
The Evangelical Alliance yesterday released a statement which implicitly criticised the recent comments about Muslims.
The body, which represents many tens of thousands of evangelicals in Northern Ireland, said: “We are to welcome the stranger and foreigner; loving our neighbour and enemy has always been part of the call of Christ.
“This is not in contradiction to the call to preach Christ or His truth. This is the very space for transformation, life and freedom. It is the role of Christians to hold these things in tension with the love that drives out fear and the truth that sets free.
“We now have the very unfortunate situation that some minority groups in Northern Ireland feel less safe and less welcome.
“This is at odds with the Christian responsibility to ‘seek the peace and prosperity of the city’.”
The Evangelical Alliance said there was “wisdom in the biblical call to, ‘be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger’” and “a time to keep silence and a time to speak”.
It went on: “Muslims and Christians have fundamentally different beliefs - most significantly about the deity of Christ and the salvation that comes through His death and resurrection, which distinguishes Christianity from all religions.
“We do not compromise the truth or deity of Christ by loving our neighbour, it is the very reason we do it.”
It added: “We encourage Christians to counter the current negative narrative through prayer, action and humble words.
“Let’s go out of our way to extend the truth, love and life of Christ to all who dwell here.”