Police to probe pastor's Islam outburst

Evening News 24/August 5, 2004

Police today launched an investigation into comments by a Norwich religious leader branding Islam "an evil religion".

The Rev Dr Alan Clifford, pastor of Norwich Reformed Church, yesterday told the Evening News he backed the views of BNP leader Nick Griffin, who was shown in a TV documentary telling party members Islam was a "vicious, wicked faith."

His comments sparked outrage among fellow religious leaders and anti-racist groups.

The Evening News was today contacted by the Race Crime Unit of Norfolk police to provide further information about Dr Clifford's comments, after saying they were concerned his remarks could damage "community cohesiveness".

Abraham Eshetu, diversity officer at Norfolk police, said: "We will be investigating the comments made by Mr Clifford."

Dr Clifford had told the Evening News: "The views about Islam made by Nick Griffin gained widespread publicity and I happen to believe what he said in this case was correct.

"The only antidote to this evil religion is the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ."

The pastor, whose church meets at Eaton Park Community Centre and is an associate member of Affinity, formerly the British Evangelical Council, was today unrepentant but insisted he was not racist.

"I believe in free speech and free association of religion," he said. "I have no objections to Muslims worshipping and associating but I think a point does come when it's very difficult to tolerate people whose religious motivation in its pure form leads to your annihilation."

He said he felt "terribly sorry" for Muslims "because they have been brainwashed."

"I can honestly say I love them and pray for them to become Christians.

"If the police wish to follow this up I am perfectly happy to speak to them and explain."

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