McConnell due to speak to police for third time

Pastor McConnell
Pastor McConnell

Pastor James McConnell said yesterday that he is due to speak to police again soon following his controversial anti-Muslim sermon.

The Whitewell preacher told the News Letter that officers had talked to him twice already and he is due to meet them again “shortly” – but would offer little further detail.

He said he had not been arrested, and asked what the nature of his conversations with police was, he said: “Oh, now now now. I’ll tell you that when it’s all over.”

The PSNI themselves said simply that its inquiries are continuing after his sermon last month, in which he described Islam as “satanic”.

Following Peter Robinson’s visit to the Belfast Islamic Centre, Pastor McConnell yesterday refused to back down from his fiery remarks about Islam, but added that his quarrel is not with local Muslims, and he would even visit the centre himself if he was invited.

He was particularly keen to stress that one of the key things he had been trying to highlight is being forgotten amid the media storm – namely, the plight of a woman who was sentenced to death for “apostasy” by a Sudanese court, following her decision to take a Christian husband.

Pastor McConnell said: “In the middle of all this we have forgotten about the young woman.

“We still do not know if she is going to be released.

“She’s still in prison and she’s under threat of death.”

A report circulating from Agence France Presse yesterday indicated that there was confusion and conflicting reports of her possible fate.

His remarks came as both the First and Deputy First Ministers visited Belfast Islamic Centre in a bid to forge better relations in the wake of controversy over religion and race in the past week.

One of the things which has resulted is a general consensus on the need for a new, improved Islamic centre, with both the two main unionist parties backing the idea.

The UUP – whose leader Mike Nesbitt visited earlier in the week – said that it was supportive of such a move since the Province’s thousands of Muslims do not have an adequate space for worshipping together at present, and DUP First Minister Peter Robinson had said he saw that there was an “express” need for one, having seen the current “cramped” venue for himself.

Pastor McConnell himself said he had no problem with the idea, and if public funds were used to help it, then “that’s OK with me”.