“Since the Islamic State took over, Mosul has become the most peaceful city in the world”–says Muslim who praised IS drove case against ‘Satanic Islam’ sermon Belfast pastor McConnell
On Monday, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) blew up a church in Mosul that was thousands of years old. In the process of demolishing the historic church, known as the Mother of Aid, the terrorists also killed four children.
From the Belfast Telegraph thanks to Esmeralda
In legal documents seen exclusively by the Belfast Telegraph, Dr Raied Al-Wazzan of the Belfast Islamic Centre is named as the chief witness in the prosecution case against Pastor James McConnell.
The evangelical preacher faces up to six months in prison if convicted over a sermon last year in which he branded Islam as “heathen” and “Satanic”.
In his statement to the PSNI, Dr Al-Wazzan denounces the pastor’s “terrible comments” and describes his “general sweeping statements” as “offensive and disgusting”.
In January Dr Al-Wazzan himself was embroiled in controversy when he said that Islamic State, which has carried out mass executions and forced millions of people to flee their homes, had been a positive force in Mosul, his home city in Iraq. “Since the Islamic State took over, it has become the most peaceful city in the world,” he told BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback. Yes, there are other things going wrong there… they are murdering people, I agree, but you can go from east to west of the city without fear.”
In his statement to the PSNI about Pastor McConnell, Dr Al-Wazzan claims that many Muslims in Northern Ireland are professionals while the pastor’s congregation “may include impressionable, uneducated people”.
Last night Pastor McConnell told the Belfast Telegraph: “The PPS’s case against me is summed up by the fact that the chief witness the prosecution is calling is a man who made highly controversial comments about Isis (Islamic State in Syria and the Levant). A man who praised the rule in Iraq of Isis murderers will be giving evidence against me – it’s like a pantomime.
“I don’t know how he will have the nerve to stand in a court and testify against me, and I don’t know how the PPS has the nerve to think he is in a position morally to do that.”
Pastor McConnell’s solicitor Joe Rice said: “There are many bizarre features to this prosecution. We have now served our voluntary defence statement upon the court and the PPS. . .”
Pastor McConnell has been charged under the 2003 Communications Act with “sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive”.
The charges centre on a sermon he gave in May 2014 in which he said “Islam is heathen, Islam is Satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in Hell.” The sermon in the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle was streamed on the internet.
In his statement to the PSNI four days after Pastor McConnell’s sermon, Dr Al-Wazzan reveals he hadn’t actually heard the sermon but became aware of it two days later when the Belfast Telegraph telephoned the Belfast Islamic Centre asking for comment about the preacher’s remarks.
Dr Al-Wazzan, an executive committee member of the centre, said he was “very offended” about what the evangelical preacher had said.
He told police: “It makes me angry that this man is making general sweeping statements of this type, branding all Muslims like this. A lot of the Muslim community in Belfast are professionals such as doctors and to hear this man speak like this is disgraceful and disgusting.
“My concerns are then worsened by the fact this man is in a position of power, preaching to a large congregation which may include impressionable, uneducated people who may then start to listen and believe what this man is saying rather than form their own beliefs.” In his five-page statement, Dr Al-Wazzan said he had been contacted by many Muslims worried about their safety following Pastor McConnell’s sermon.
“I now have concerns for the Muslim community and feel that any attacks that may happen in the forthcoming weeks are a direct result of what this man said on Sunday,” he added.
When Pastor McConnell was questioned by police about his sermon in June last year, Dr Al-Wazzan’s complaint was the only one the PSNI had received. A week later three more Muslims contacted the police to make brief statements of complaint.
The Christian preacher is due to appear in court next month but the case is not likely to be heard until December. Mr Rice has said it will be a landmark trial with leading political, religious, and academic figures giving evidence in defence of freedom of speech and religion.