Paisley apology for retweet of Hopkins comments welcomed by Muslim community

Islamic representatives in Northern Ireland have welcomed Ian Paisley’s apology for retweeting a controversial remark on Ramadan by right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins.

Members of the Belfast Islamic Centre said they have contacted the North Antrim MP to seek clarity on his position on Ms Hopkins’ comment.

They also welcomed a DUP statement condemning Ms Hopkins’ tweet.

Mr Paisley apologised on Monday for retweeting her tweet, which read: “March 2018. London has a higher murder rate than New York… And Ramadan’s not yet begun.”

The DUP representative subsequently apologised to his Twitter followers.

He said: “Mea culpa earlier today I glanced at a tweet & rt about # of murders in London. Didn’t take cognisance of Ramadan ref. Once brought to my attention immediately deleted. Apologise profusely for offence caused.”

The Belfast Islamic Centre said the timing of Mr Paisley’s retweet was “unfortunate”, given anxiety within the community over an unrelated race hate campaign in England urging people to target Muslims.

“We have contacted Ian Paisley MP directly to clarify his position on the controversial tweet and to ask him to confirm his commitment to equality for all citizens, regardless of faith, and his abhorrence of bigotry,” the centre added in a statement.

“We welcome his Twitter apology and the DUP statement condemning it. We extend an invitation to him to come and visit us and meet some of the local Muslim community.”

The DUP is to consider whether to take action against Mr Paisley at its next internal meeting.

“Ian Paisley retweeted a comment originally posted on Twitter by Katie Hopkins from his personal Twitter account,” said a party statement.

“He has subsequently removed it. The original tweet was totally inappropriate and the DUP deplores its sentiments. The party officers will consider this matter at their next meeting.”

Mr Paisley later reiterated his apology in an email message to the centre.

He wrote: “Dear friends, thank you for taking the time to email me regarding my retweet of a twitter message yesterday. I have apologised for any offence caused, it was certainly not intentional on my part.

“Let me set out the circumstances that arose. Yesterday morning I retweeted a number of issues that appeared on my news feed. The tweet in question caught my attention because of the crime rates mentioned in London and is something I’ve been following.

“I did not take cognisance of the Ramadan comment and once it was brought to my attention I immediately removed it.

“I don’t carry hatred in my heart for anyone. As a Christian that would be wrong. My words, and more importantly my actions, have been those of stretching out the hand of friendship to my neighbour no matter whom he or she is.

“I have many friend and associates from all different traditions and beliefs and neither racism or a phobia towards your beliefs is in my character.

“I hope that you accept my good intentions and my apology in the spirit in which it has been offered.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Paul Faith / PA Wire.