Muslim convert rejects radical label

By Angela Gregory

A man described by some Australian media as one of Britain's most radical Muslim converts starts a speaking tour today for New Zealand Islamic Awareness Week.

Abdur Raheem Green, who rejects the radical label, had been due to speak at the Auckland University of Technology on Monday but the public lecture was cancelled because he had to change his flight plans when he was refused entry to Brisbane for a one-hour stopover.

Mr Green said he was told when checking in at Sri Lanka about three days ago that he could not land in Brisbane but was given no reason by the Australian High Commission.

"They said sorry there was a problem ... it would probably take a while to sort out." He instead booked a direct flight to New Zealand.

Mr Green had not been told he was banned from Australia, where he was due next week, but understood his entry was under review.

He said he could understand concern after being called a radical Muslim by Australian media, a label which had shocked and upset him.

"It's the first time I've been called a radical ever. They [radicals] call me a moderate."

Bearded, barefoot and dressed in a white cotton shirt and trousers, Mr Green told the Herald he believed some Muslims were jealous of his profile and making trouble.

"Some people feel I am encroaching on their territory ... People are using this whole extremist terrorist thing for their own political ends."

Mr Green works fulltime for the London Central Mosque Islamic Cultural Centre where he hosts school visits and educates people. "It is the most well known mosque in the UK ... We have very good relations with police and the Government."

Mr Green has appeared on the BBC condemning terrorists and composed an online mosque statement after the London bombings.

"Terrorism is wrong - that's it, plain and simple." He said, however, he had publicly commented on the reasons behind terrorism.

"But people don't want to hear ... We're not trying to justify terrorism but help people understand why this is happening."

Mr Green either denied quotes attributed to him in the Australian press or said they were taken out of context, twisted, or over-simplified.

He said his personal views had changed over the years since he converted in 1988 and the reports failed to acknowledge that he had often said the opposite of what was claimed.

He could not imagine ever saying Muslims and non-Muslims could not live together peacefully. "That's the one that upset me the most ... I absolutely do not believe that."

Mr Green was also reported to have said: "The truth is that Islam teaches its followers to seek death on the battlefield, that dying while fighting jihad is one of the surest ways to paradise and Allah's good pleasure."

He said that had been taken from a letter he wrote to his father more than 10 years ago.

Jihad was a loaded term which had been linked with terrorism. "It is not about fighting for money or revenge but much more complex."

It could include physically defending one's land, family and country, which Westerners also supported, he said. "That is totally different from terrorism."

Mr Green could not recall saying that conflict between Islam and the West was "not only sanctioned but ordered in the Koran", although he admitted he might have once said something like that.

He pointed out the conflict of ideas between Western materialism and Islam and in that sense Muslims were always going to feel "a little uncomfortable" with non-Muslims.

Mr Green hoped New Zealanders would come to his lectures to better understand what Islam was about.

"I've certainly not come here to recruit people for terrorism."

Javed Khan, president of the Federation of Islamic Associations, which invited Mr Green to NZ, said the Australian allegations were false and things were taken out of context.

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