Northern Ireland

Leading Belfast Muslim wants to meet Pastor James McConnell

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Media captionDr Raied Al Wazzan said he had no regrets about complaining to the police about the pastor and that he wants to meet him

A leading Belfast Muslim who was at the centre of the court case against Pastor James McConnell has said he would like to meet the veteran preacher.

Dr Raied Al Wazzan complained to the police after a sermon by the pastor in which he called Islam "satanic" and said he did not trust Muslims.

The evidence was used in the trial against the 78-year-old preacher which ended earlier this week.

He was found not guilty of using grossly offensive remarks.

This was in a prosecution brought under the Communications Act.

Dr Al Wazzan was until recently the treasurer of the Belfast Islamic Centre. A small number of other people also complained about the sermon in May 2014.

Asked if he had any regrets about his involvement in the case, Dr Al Wazzan said: "Absolutely not. I would do it again if somebody was stereotyping the Muslim community or even another community, I would definitely protect them."

Dr Al Wazzan insisted he would have withdrawn his complaint if Pastor McConnell had agreed to withdraw what he said about not trusting Muslims.

"To say that you don't trust all Muslims, that was what was unacceptable for us," said Dr Al Wazzan.

"We have lots of doctors, teachers working in this country and if you don't trust them, that's going to create discrimination against them."

The Iraqi-born engineer said he hoped soon to talk to Pastor McConnell.

Judgement

"Yes, I am willing to meet him and discuss some of these issues in private... away from the media."

Would he shake his hand?

"If he trusts me, I will shake his hand," he said.

Earlier this week, after being cleared on all charges, Pastor McConnell said: "There was no way I was out to hurt them (the Muslim community) - I wouldn't hurt a hair on their head.

"But what I am against is their theology and what they believe in."

Delivering judgement after the three-day trial, district judge Liam McNally said: "The courts need to be very careful not to criminalise speech which, however contemptible, is no more than offensive.

"It is not the task of the criminal law to censor offensive utterances."

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