Belfast pastor who described Islam as 'satanic' will be prosecuted

Rev James McConnell is facing prosecution for his comments about Islam.

A controversial Belfast preacher faces prosecution for describing Islam as "heathen" and "satanic".

Rev James McConnell made the comments in a sermon streamed live from his Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle church after he read of the imprisonment in Sudan of Meriam Ibrahim, who was forced to give birth in chains after being accused of apostasy from Islam.

He said then: "Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell."

The Public Prosecution Service said that he had been offered an "informed warning" of an offence under the Communications Act 2003. "That offence was one of sending, or causing to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that was grossly offensive," a spokesperson said.

An informed warning is not a conviction, but remains on a criminal record for 12 months. McConnell, 78, refused to accept the warning and will be prosecuted instead.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that the police were "trying to shut me up". "I'm not taking it lying down. I am not going to be gagged."

He added: "The police tried to shut me up and tell me what to preach. It's ridiculous. I believe in freedom of speech. I'm going to keep on preaching the Gospel.

"I have nothing against Muslims, I have never hated Muslims, I have never hated anyone. But I am against what Muslims believe. They have the right to say what they believe in and I have a right to say what I believe."

McConnell retired last year as the pastor of Whitewell, which he founded 57 years ago, citing health problems.