Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Mosque bans city imam after claims of takeover

Abu Abdullah has been barred from the Avondale Islamic Centre. Photo / Dean Purcell
Abu Abdullah has been barred from the Avondale Islamic Centre. Photo / Dean Purcell

A Muslim priest and his supporters have been barred from an Auckland mosque, and the priest was arrested last week after he was allegedly found praying there.

Sheikh Abu Abdullah, a Salafist imam, spent the night in a police cell last Thursday after he allegedly breached a trespass notice by the NZ Muslim Association barring him from entering the Avondale Islamic Centre.

Mr Abdullah is facing two charges of wilful trespass and is due to appear in court on March 30.

Police confirmed that a 48-year-old man from Mt Roskill was arrested for trespass on March 5, and was bailed to appear in the Auckland District Court with a condition that he did not attend or return to the mosque.

But he allegedly went back about 10pm the next day, breaching the trespass notice and his bail conditions.

About 30 of Mr Abdullah's supporters, including a second imam, have also been barred from the mosque.

Mr Abdullah follows the Salafi strand of Islam, while most on the association's board and many of the mosque's 400 members follow the more moderate Hanafi or Shafi'i strand of the faith.

A letter from the Muslim association's lawyers to the lawyers acting for Mr Abdullah's supporters said they had tried to take over the mosque.

Association president Haider Lone said that the board did not want Mr Abdullah as leader.

Mr Lone said security had been stepped up at the mosque with entrances being secured with metal gates after doors had been hacked and locks broken since Mr Abdullah's ban.

Yesterday, a letter from the lawyers for Mr Abdullah's supporters to the association's lawyers accused the centre of having "taken further steps to inflame the situation".

The alleged steps include placing security gates on all doors at the mosque, which was "potentially very dangerous", hiring security guards who have refused access to some members, and continuing to issue trespass notices.

The letter requested a meeting with the association to "finally resolve the dispute in an amicable fashion".

Originally from Egypt, Mr Abdullah had been an imam and a trustee at the Avondale mosque for nearly two years.

The father of seven says that he was a priest in Qatar for four years before he came to New Zealand 14 years ago.

Yesterday, five followers and two of Mr Abdullah's sons sat in when he spoke to the Herald at his Mt Roskill home.

Mr Abdullah said allegations made against him "are all lies" and denied he was extremist in his views.

"What I teach are the teachings from the Koran, and if these people want to consider the truths from Allah as extreme, then in that case I am extreme," he said earlier this week.

The imam's supporters have begun a petition to have him reinstated at the mosque.

In the interview earlier this week, Mr Abdullah said that he had clashed with the mosque management about its plans to start charging for madrassa, or religious classes.

He said he believed "wanting to make profit from religion" was why they wanted him out.

Association member, Iliyas Daud, who is fighting to get the deposed imam reinstated, said the ban was a result of a "clash of ideologies".

- NZ Herald

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