Published Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Pastor McConnell defended the comments in an interview with UTV. (© Pacemaker)
Pastor James McConnell likened "cells" of Muslims in Britain to the IRA as he addressed a congregation at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast on Sunday.
He branded Islam a "heathen" doctrine and said it was "satanic" and "spawned in hell".
The remarks have been condemned by Stormont's deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and described as "irresponsible" by representatives of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland.
Police said they are aware of an "incident" at the Shore Road church and are "investigating a hate crime motive" at this stage. A spokesman for the PSNI added: "Enquiries are continuing".
Pastor James McConnell told churchgoers that "a new evil has arisen" as he compared Muslims to the military cell structures adopted by the IRA's 'active service units' during the Troubles.
He said: "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."
He has since stood over the remarks in an interview with UTV.
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness described the senior pastor's comments as "hate mongering" and said police should investigate them thoroughly.
He added that the issue will be raised at the Policing Board.
Mr McGuinness said: "Coming in the wake of recent spate of disgraceful racist attacks against families in parts of Belfast and elsewhere, such inflammatory comments only serve to fuel hatred.
"This type of hate mongering must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."
Earlier this month, police pledged to increase patrols in areas where hate attacks had taken place following a recent upsurge in such incidents across Belfast.
Graffiti was sprayed over two houses in the south of the city over the weekend, while in previous incidents the home of a Jamaican woman was targeted and faeces was thrown at a Romanian cyclist.
Officers said: "Police are aware of an incident at premises at the Shore Road on Sunday 18 May. Enquiries are continuing and at this stage, police are investigating a hate crime motive."
© UTV News