In Europe, where free speech is banned, some people still fight for their lost rights:
A Muslim imam has vowed to go to jail with the pastor if he is convicted, while a Catholic priest branded the court case “absurd”.
Pastor McConnell (78), who retired from Whitewell Tabernacle last year, is preparing to answer charges in court under the 2003 Communications Act on August 6.
The charges centre on a sermon he gave at the north Belfast Tabernacle in which he said: “Islam is heathen, Islam is satanic, Islam is a doctrine spawned in hell”. It was streamed on the internet.
Dr Al-Hussaini, a Senior Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute, said he has “grave concerns” about the prosecution of Pastor McConnell, adding he “strongly upholds the moral right” for people of all faiths to debate.
“All honest seekers of God’s truth are enjoined to inquire, question and challenge the teachings of religious authority, and to speak prophetically to establishment power even when it means overturning the tables in the Temple.
“Moreover, in a free and democratic society, we enter into severe peril when we start to confuse what we perhaps ought or ought not to say, with what in law we are allowed to, or not allowed to say.
“I therefore wish to place on the record my deep concern and opposition to the criminalising of theological disagreement, at a time when our society should in fact be fostering better quality disagreement and, in that spirit, I further undertake that if Pastor McConnell is convicted and sent to prison, I shall go to prison with him.”