Northern Ireland

Belfast Muslim leader sorry for Mosul remark

Demonstrators carry Islamic State flags in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul Image copyright AP
Image caption IS took over the Iraqi city of Mosul last June

A Northern Ireland Muslim leader has apologised for saying an Iraqi city seized by Islamic State (IS) is "the most peaceful city in the world".

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 said he was withdrawing his remarks.

"I used the wrong words and I apologise for that," he said.

Dr Al-Wazzan had made his comments on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme on Friday.

However, he said on Monday's programme that he realised his comment had "offended many people", adding: "I condemn all kinds of violence."

Asked if he was giving an unconditional apology and was fully retracting his remarks, he said: "Definitely. If people are offended, I apologise to everyone - not only local people but even outside Northern Ireland. Yes I do regret my remarks."

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Media captionDr Raied Al-Wazzan said he had used the wrong words on Friday

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "I'm glad that the remarks have been withdrawn, but one has to ask, given how fundamental the difference is now between what was said today and what was said on Friday, what has caused this change of heart.

"Is it because there is a fear that funding may be withdrawn?"

A Christian pastor from Belfast, who was questioned last summer by police for calling Islam "satanic", accused Dr Al-Wazzan of "speaking with a forked tongue".

Pastor James McConnell from the Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle said: "He let himself go on Friday and he's sorry that he let himself go."

He added: "I did not deserve to be investigated because I believe I'm living in a land of free speech.

"If I was living in Mosul, I would be classed as an infidel - if you didn't accept the Islam faith, you'd be assassinated, crucified or your head would be cut off."

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