Pastor James McConnell’s language when he described Islam as “satanic” was hard hitting.
Christianity has many wings, and some believers will feel that Pastor McConnell’s comments were entirely justified on biblical grounds, while others will feel that they were lacking in Christian understanding and love.
A prominent Northern Ireland humanist, Terry Moseley, yesterday defended Pastor McConnell’s right to say what he did, while disagreeing with what he said.
We need much more of this response in Northern Ireland and indeed the west: disagreeing with what people say, while defending their right to say it.
This is a society in which the Provisional IRA (whose apologists Sinn Fein now have the nerve to rake over the past as if they were shrinking violets) murdered people such as the young academic Edgar Graham because they didn’t like what he said.
That is, ultimately, what can happen when groups of people fail to bite their lip when they hear things that they despise.
It is not wrong to despise something that is said. But it would be wrong if Pastor McConnell is charged with ‘hate crimes’.
Muslims who live in the UK have to accept that we treasure freedom of speech. Christians need to accept that also, and generally do (those politicians who tried to ban the satire ‘The Bible: The Complete Word of God -Abridged’ in Newtownabbey were on the wrong side of the freedom-of-expression debate).
While it is plainly true that hundreds of millions of Muslims are moderate and peaceful, it is also true that Islamic extremism is much more common now than its Christian equivalent (try to think of a Christian state that has recently sentenced a woman to death for apostasy).
A person should be free to make this observation about the prevalence of extreme Islam, even if the person making the observation is himself a hardline Christian.