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ireland, irish, ulster, ireland, irish, ulster, Sinn Féin, Irish America

Islamic fund a mental scheme: One faith can't be singled out

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

All hail Saint Marty for saying public dosh could be used to build a Belfast mosque for Muslims!

Memo to every Christian cleric and nun in the North – get your spoke in for tax-payers money to get your chapel or church spruced up or even rebuilt.

Okay, the Dupes have chucked cold water on the plan, but if the Stormont Executive doesn't agree to use public funds for your church, just scream racism to high heaven.

Martin McGuiness was quoted as saying: "… if necessary, public funds could be used to provide assistance with regard to the construction of a mosque in Belfast."

Irish Muslims must be on the verge of making outspoken fundamentalist Pastor Jimmy McConnell an honorary Islamic prophet given the cleric's outburst – and grovelling apology – about Islam.

But what's sauce for the goose, must also be sauce for the gander. Saint Marty can't single out Islam to benefit from public cash – the Christian majority also need millions of pounds to keep their places of worship in good order.

Many a time as a religious affairs reporter, I sat in draft-ridden churches on bum-crunching ancient seats thinking, if only this parish had a few more quid, it could fix these problems and we could worship the Good Lord in comfort!

And how many of these rapidly emerging Pentecostal congregations must be thinking the same thing as they sit crammed into halls across Ireland?

However, the real problem is that the Irish Islamic community has found itself slap bang in the middle of a campaign to see who will be the next 'hotter than hell' firebrand Christian fundamentalist tub-thumper.

For the guts of half a century, that esteemed mantle was firmly held by Ian Paisley senior.

But as Big Ian bade farewell to his public career, the starting gun has been firmly fired on the race to become Ireland's new Hell fire cleric.

Other clerics have bashed the pope, Rome, abortion, divorce, witchcraft, homosexuality, gay marriage and adoption, so any potential Top Tub-Thumper will have to come up with a new act.

Pastor Jimmy's rant should be viewed in this light. He wasn't trying to ignite a modern Crusade. He was merely trying to establish himself as the front runner to take over from Big Ian.

But his bid backfired, resulting in a humiliating apology from both himself and one of his top fans, First Minister Peter Robinson.

With the favourite falling at the first hurdle, the crown of 'Hell Fire Hottie' is well and truly up for grabs.

The real worry about the Pastor Jimmy saga is that some crazy fundamentalist crackpot will seize the opportunity to preach an equally provocative sermon in the hope of getting themselves gaoled.

Remember, Paisley senior's career did not really shift into top gear until he had been jailed.

How many hardliners must be pacing their pulpits wondering what they could say that would land them in the clink, thereby ensuring they became modern day 'martyrs'?

How will Irish society react when the next one issues a rant?

In the meantime, all churches should go banging on Saint Marty door for that much-needed public cash. God bless you, Marty!

June 17, 2014
________________

This article appeared in the June 16, 2014 edition of the Irish Daily Star.

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