“If ‘Satanic Islam’ pastor James McConnell goes to jail I will go with him, insists Muslim cleric” is the headline in the Belfast Telegraph, as the Belfast Pastor faces prosecution for a sermon describing Islam as heathen and satanic.
The prosecution of Pastor McConnell, under the 2003 Communications Act, has been described as “absurd” by Dr Al-Hussaini, a Senior Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute and a member of the All Faiths Network. Dr. Al-Hussaini.
In comments to the Telegraph he said:”Against the flaming backdrop of torched Christian churches, bloody executions and massacres of faith minorities in the Middle East and elsewhere, it is therefore a matter of utmost concern that, in this country, we discharge our common duty steadfastly to defend the freedom of citizens to discuss, debate and critique religious ideas and beliefs – restricting only speech which incites to physical violence against others”.
Dr. Al-Hussaini continued: “All honest seekers of God’s truth are enjoined to inquire, question and challenge the teachings of religious authority, and to speak prophetically to establishment power even when it means overturning the tables in the Temple.
“Moreover, in a free and democratic society, we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.
“While those of us who hold clerical office as Christian pastors and priests, Jewish rabbis or Muslim imams, should rightly have due care and regard to the leadership role we exercise when we make public speeches, nevertheless our foremost duty remains to express theological ideas in good conscience before God.
“For these reasons, I strongly uphold the moral right of Pastor McConnell and myself, as Christian and Muslim, to disagree about matters of doctrine and belief, and further I express my deep dismay that my fellow citizen is being subject to criminal proceedings, when at no time have any of the statements he has made incited to physical harm or hatred against anyone.”
Read the Belfast Telegraph story here