Robinson in public apology to Muslims

Robinson in public apology to Muslims

First Minister Peter Robinson has publicly apologised for his comments about Muslims.

The DUP leader said he is sorry for any offence caused by his defence of pastor James McConnell, who gave a sermon in which he branded Islam as "satanic".Mr Robinson visited the Islamic Centre in Belfast on Tuesday evening and met with representatives of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland.Speaking to the media afterwards he said: "I apologise if anything I said has caused them hurt and I can see that in many cases it has."I apologised to them face to face, personally, man to man the way it should be done."The very last thing that I would have ever have in my mind would be to cause anyone hurt or distress or to insult them and I make that publicly clear as well in the clearest possible terms."I cannot spend the rest of my life apologising but what I can do is spend the rest of my life building the united community that I believe we want in Northern Ireland."Peter Robinson had already made a private apology for his comments, in which he had said he would not trust Muslims involved in violence, but would trust them "to go to the shops" for him.Earlier on Tuesday morning he met Islamic leaders from across Ireland at Stormont and gave them a tour of Northern Ireland's parliament building.Ibrahim Noonan, Imam of the Galway Mosque, said that he was 110% reassured by what he had heard and that he totally understood Mr Robinson's comment had been misinterpreted.He said: "There's obviously two sides to a story and we saw the real side I think."Obviously he has explained his position being a minister and sometimes things are taken out of context and exaggerated even, but I find him to be very warm and very friendly."That is enough for me to say that he is genuine."The visit and apology has been welcomed by deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who said it was "the right thing to do".The Sinn Féin politician added: "I would now urge Pastor McConnell to take a lead from the First Minister on this and publicly withdraw his damaging and insulting comments."Our society has been enriched by the significant contributions made by the social, cultural and religious diversity of all the communities who have made their home here. As a society we need to face down racism and ensure racial equality, tolerance and respect for all."Anna Lo of the Alliance Party, who has been a victim of racist abuse and recently announced she would be leaving local politics, has also welcomed the apology.She said: "I welcome today's public apology from First Minister Peter Robinson."It offers us the opportunity to move forward, from words of reassurance to actions that will make a real difference to the lives of people from minority communities."Irish Imam tells press he is 110 per cent reassured by what he has heard from Peter Robinson pic.twitter.com/lTTQbH4xM6— Tracey Magee (@Tracey_utv) June 3, 2014

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