Robinson Comments Over Muslims 'Misinterpreted'

First Minister Peter Robinson has said he would never "want to insult or cause distress" to Muslim communities in Northern Ireland after his comments supporting the remarks of Pastor James McConnell, who branded Islam "satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in hell".

Mr Robinson said: "Over the course of the last twenty-four hours my remarks in response to a newspaper reporter have been misinterpreted and given a meaning that was never intended.

"I would never seek to cause any insult to any section of our community. For the avoidance of any doubt I make it clear that I welcome the contribution made by all communities in Northern Ireland, and in the particular circumstances, the Muslim community. I very much value their contribution at every level to our society and I will take the opportunity to meet with local Muslim leaders to demonstrate my ongoing support for them as integral law abiding citizens in Northern Ireland.

"I strongly believe that Pastor James McConnell has the right to freedom of speech. I will defend his right just as I defend the right of others to express views with which I disagree. People have the right to express their differing views and indeed the essence of democracy is the ability to do so in a way that is free from fear and intimidation.

"No part of me would want to insult or cause distress to local Muslims. I can assure members of the Islamic community I respect their contribution to our society. I believe in building a peaceful and prosperous Northern Ireland and have always endeavored to work for the betterment of all the people of Northern Ireland."

His comments have been condemned by the Muslim community throughout the UK.


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