Mosul most peaceful city in world, claims Belfast Muslim
An Iraqi city seized by Islamic State (IS) is "the most peaceful city in the world", one of Northern Ireland's most senior Muslims has claimed.
IS, a radical Islamist group whose tactics include mass killings and abductions of minorities, overran the northern city of Mosul last June.
Dr Raied Al-Wazzan of Belfast Islamic Centre said relatives living there had told him life was better now.
"These people are less evil than the Iraqi government," he said.
Dr Al-Wazzan said Western governments had created the conditions for the growth of IS by "establishing a failed state in Iraq, run by militias".
"Islamic State came to protect a section of society that had been marginalised, and foreign policy had pushed part of society to reach this point," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme on Friday.
IS took control of Mosul in June, introducing a strict regime in line with its radical interpretation of Islamic law.
Dr Al-Wazzan said that while mainstream Islam "never supports radicalisation", it was "important to look at the facts".
"Look at what's happened in Mosul now - it was attacked for the last 11 years, people were murdered just because they had the wrong name and were persecuted for a long time," he said.
"Since the Islamic State took over, it has become the most peaceful city in the world.
"Yes there are other things going wrong there... they are murdering people, I agree, but you can go from east to west of the city without fear.
"My family is living there at the moment and that's what they are telling me."
Clarification: Dr Al-Wazzan subsequently contacted the BBC to say that he wishes to emphasise that he does not support Islamic State and condemns all forms of violence.