Lincoln Tan

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

Police on hand as mosque factions meet

Imam Abu Abdullah has been barred from the Avondale Islamic Centre, but a meeting today will try to resolve the dispute. Photo / Dean Purcell
Imam Abu Abdullah has been barred from the Avondale Islamic Centre, but a meeting today will try to resolve the dispute. Photo / Dean Purcell

Police will be involved in a meeting today between the board members of an Auckland Islamic centre and supporters of a Salafist imam whom they have banned from the mosque.

The NZ Muslim Association, which runs the Avondale Islamic Centre, has accused Sheikh Abu Abdullah and his supporters of trying to take over the mosque.

Mr Abdullah is facing two charges of wilful trespass after he allegedly breached a trespass notice by the association barring him from the centre, and is to appear in court next Friday.

"The meeting is to try to resolve the dispute, and the police will be there to make sure nothing gets out of hand," said Javed Khan, senior vice-president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.

In an effort to keep Mr Abdullah and his supporters out of the mosque, the association has handed out about 30 trespass notices, installed security gates on all doors at the mosque and hired 24-hour security guards.

Taxi driver Zul Rahman says the dispute has turned the mosque in Avondale into "a prison" and deterred many Muslims from praying there.

"It's a dispute between two parties, but the real people who suffer are the Muslims who pray at the mosque," said Mr Rahman.

He prays five times a day, and says he goes to the Avondale mosque whenever he is in its vicinity.

"A mosque is supposed to be warm and welcoming, but all the iron bars and gates makes Avondale feel more like a prison now than a place for prayer."

Mr Abdullah believes "profit" was the motive for the board wanting him out.

But those fighting to have the him reinstated believe a "clash of ideologies" caused the dispute.

The imam follows the Salafi strand of Islam, while many on the board and worshippers at the mosque follow the Hanafi or Shafi'i strand of the faith.

- NZ Herald

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