Peter Robinson is a disgrace and must resign

For those unacquainted, Pastor James McConnell described Islam as “heathen”, “satanic”, and a “doctrine spawned in hell.” Fro

For those unacquainted, Pastor James McConnell described Islam as “heathen”, “satanic”, and a “doctrine spawned in hell.” From a fundamentalist right wing Christian viewpoint, there is a technical accuracy in this statement.

‘Heathen’ is an archaic term meaning one who did not follow the God of Israel and due to the tendency in Christianity to see things as binary (either for God or not of God) the labelling as Satanic can be weakly considered true, but primarily through a literal reading of outdated texts and a healthy absence of common sense.  

There is no justification for the outright and derogatory condemnation of a religious practice which does not match your own in this day and age. In 2009, the global Muslim population stood at 1.57 billion, meaning that nearly one in four people in the world were actively practicing Islam.

Concern of relevance

Fiery intolerance can have no outcome other than a negative backlash.

In England, recent comments by the Prime Minister at Easter led to a real debate, and Britain was labelled a post-Christian country by the former Archbishop of Canterbury. The outcome of the debate itself proved only that mixing faith with politics is a dangerous thing.

In defence of Pastor McConnell, the ridiculous comments were said in the ‘safe space’ of his own church of fundamentalist Protestants but the commentary is specifically outside of what is relevant in Christianity.

He is reported to have said, “Enoch Powell was a prophet, he called it that blood would flow on the streets and it has happened…”

“Fifteen years ago Britain was concerned of IRA cells right throughout the nation. They done a deal with the IRA because they were frightened of being bombed. Today a new evil has arisen. There are cells of Muslims right throughout Britain, can I hear an Amen, right throughout Britain, and this nation is going to enter into a great tribulation, a great trial.”

A flawed apology

Pastor McConnell has fundamentally misunderstood the basis of Christianity, or the Christianity I was taught. As far as I am aware, it is not Christian to disrespect the faith of others and compare them to terrorists. Unless there has been a Bible 2.0 released that only McConnell has access to, I am quite confident in my assertion that labelling followers of Islam as ‘cells of muslims’ goes against the spirit of love that Jesus died for. 

The most interesting part of this case is not the condemnation of Pastor McConnell (which should go unsaid and unchallenged), but the fact that Peter Robinson did not have the common sense to avoid weighing in on this debate. He publicly lamented that people were attempting to ‘demonise’ McConnell, highlighted his right to denounce false doctrine and reiterated that McConnell’s remarks were never intended to suggest hatred towards any community.

The First Minister essentially said that comparing publicly Muslims to IRA cells IN BELFAST was not intended to cause hatred towards any community. This is a city that still has murals painted to honour the lives of those who died in the troubles as recently as the 1990’s.

The NI troubles still remain in living memory for many citizens. It is a highly emotive issue for many people. If Robinson cannot see how these comments do not equate to alienating citizens in their own homes then of course he should resign.

It’s time to resign. Now.

An apology does not equate understanding the effects of his words, especially as the apology was conditional and seemed to indicate that a ‘man-to-man’ apology was the same as restoring multiculturalism and peace in Northern Belfast.

There have been a number of racist attacks occurring since Pastor McConnell’s remarks, including the case of two men who were targeted by racists and hospitalised. Two attacks occurring within hours of each other.

In a statement released, Pastor McConnell has offered to help pay for the damage caused to the house. A very kind gesture, but given the circumstances one cannot help but think this is an admission of at least some liability, his remarks and the press attention given to them have contributed to racial hatred.

Anna Lo is was the UK’s first Chinese-born parliamentarian, and in the time since this storm she has stated she will not be seeking re-election to the Northern Ireland Assembly because she is disillusioned with politics. She has been a survivor of continual racist abuse (kindly handed over by loyalists), and has expressed her great and wholly justified anger towards the support given to Pastor McConnell.

Racial tensions have been rising in NI just like they have been in the UK, and as demonstrated by UKIP’s recent showing at the last elections. Hate crimes reported to the police showed a 30 per cent increase on last year, and only one in five hate crimes are solved in NI. In England, we solve over 50 per cent.

Racism is becoming tolerated, hidden in the guise of legitimate right-wing politics. This does not helpfully contribute to any debate but instead leaves people in the position of Anna Lo: “I do not feel safe here and I know many people who feel the same.”

Peter Robinson should resign. If you contribute to disharmony and create a culture where hate against a group of people is tolerated, defended and acceptable then how can you claim to work for the benefit of your constituents.

Racism has no place in modern society, and a distinct failure to recognise it means perhaps Robinson isn’t quite modern enough to be in a position of power here.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.