Northern Ireland's Peter Robinson caught in religious row after defending preacher's 'evil Islam' sermon
Northern Ireland's first minister, Peter Robinson, has come under intense scrutiny for defending a pastor who described Islam as "satanic" and "heathen"
Pastor James McConnell, an evangelical Protestant preacher, delivered an incendiary sermon earlier this month where he claimed "Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell" and compared Muslims to the IRA.
Asked about the sermon, Mr Robinson, who has attended the same church in the past, insisted the pastor does not have "an ounce of hatred in his bones" and claimed it is the "duty of any Christian preacher to denounce a false doctrine".
Mr Robinson, of the Democratic Unionist Party, went on to say he wouldn't trust Muslims who were involved in "terrorist activities" or those "fully devoted to Sharia law" for spiritual advice either, but would trust them to "go down the shops for me" and "give me the right change".
The preacher's sermon is now the focus of a police investigation that could determine whether his remarks constituted a hate crime. So far, Pastor McConnell has refused to apologise and stands by his comments.
Today, Mr Robinson insisted claiming not to trust a section of society does not amount to hate crime, adding: "Can you then understand that you are promoting hatred against politicians by saying that you don't trust politicians?"
Reacting to his remarks in support of Pastor McConnell, Sinn Fein deputy first minister and former IRA commander, Martin McGuinness, called on the first minister to stand up and promote mutual respect and tolerance.
Mr Robinson hit back on Twitter, saying: "I won't take lectures from a self-confessed leader of a bloody terrorist organisation on equality, tolerance and mutual respect for all."
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