McGuinness hails Muslim contribution to society
Sinn Féin MLA Martin McGuinness tonight thanked the Muslim community in Belfast for their incredible contribution to the lives of the people of the city. The Deputy First Minister was speaking after visiting the city’s Islamic Centre with party colleagues DCAL minister Carál Ní Chuilín and local MLA Alex Maskey.
Martin McGuinness said:
“I felt very honoured to be with our Muslim brothers and sisters tonight.
“They make an incredible contribution to the lives of the people of this city and are trusted and valued members of our society. As a political leader I was dismayed to see them treated in the way they have been over the course of the last fortnight.
“I heard stories tonight of the fear felt by members of the community in the wake of the comments by Pastor James McConnell and the attack in North Belfast which left two people badly injured. Some people told me they had been afraid to go to work.
“I wanted to make it clear my abhorrence of the way they had been treated. There is a huge responsibility on us as political leaders to stand by them.
“I believe in the right to free speech but people, including church ministers, do not have the right to engage in hate-filled speech.”
Martin McGuinness said support and solidarity had been offered to the Muslim community from right across society.
“I was told tonight that a large number of people from both the Protestant and Catholic faiths have approached members of the Muslim community to offer their solidarity. I think this is testament to the wish of the overwhelming majority of people to ensure that diversity is not just protected but cherished.”
Martin McGuinness said it had been important to the Muslim community that Peter Robinson had come to the centre and apologised.
“Peter Robinson’s apology to the Muslim community was very important to them. That apology has been accepted and it is now time to look to the future. We need to see what more we can do to ensure the safety of our ethnic minorities. And as a priority I have pledged my support for the identification of a site where the Muslim community can have a purpose-built mosque for worship.”ENDS/CRÍOCH