McConnell visits race attack victims

McConnell visits race attack victims

The pastor who described Islam as "satanic" and "heathen" has visited the two victims of a racist assault who have since been forced from their north Belfast home over concerns for their safety.

Pastor James McConnell visited with the Pakstani men after they were assaulted and had their house attacked on two separate occasions on Sunday.He said he was "sorry" for what had happened and apologised for those responsible for the attacks.He told UTV he was "totally against" what had happened and said it was a shame and a disgrace.He said those that did it were "thugs" and asked the men if he could help in any way.He also gave the householders a donation toward paying for the broken window.Muhammad Asif Khattak, one of the victims, accepted the minister's support.The men were clearing up the damage on Sunday afternoon from an attack on their home earlier when they were set upon by two men who had been racially abusing them moments before.One of the victims was taken to hospital for treatment to their injuries and was released later that night.Police are treating both incidents as hate crimes.A woman has been charged with disorderly behaviour in connection with the second incident and is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court on 27 June.A 57-year-old man, who was also arrested by detectives investigating the assaults, was released on police bail pending further enquiries.Muhammad has called for First Minister Peter Robinson to publicly apologise about remarks he made about Islam last week to "settle down the fire" he believes they sparked."It's only because I am a foreigner, I have no place in this country," he said in an emotional interview with UTV."So I would just request the First Minister to come forward, to stand and show solidarity."Last week Mr Robinson said his comments in defence of Pastor McConnell's right to freedom of speech had been misinterpreted and he apologised to local Muslim leaders for any upset caused.He added that he valued the contribution of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland.The apology came after Pastor McConnell likened "cells" of Muslims in Britain to the IRA as he addressed a congregation at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in north Belfast last month.Victim Support NI has urged people to play their role in stamping out racist hate crime across Northern Ireland.Executive Director, Dr Eugene McGuckin, said: "Diversity should be celebrated and everyone has a role to play in promoting respect for diversity in our communities by helping stamp out hate crime."At Victim Support NI, we support victims and witnesses of hate crime and have a team of dedicated professionals and volunteers working with hate crime advocates to support those affected by the trauma and distress of this crime and the courts process."Police have appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

© UTV

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