Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Anti-Islam sentiment surfaces in Remuera

The billboard was defaced and now reads "Islam hates us". Photo / Brett Phibbs
The billboard was defaced and now reads "Islam hates us". Photo / Brett Phibbs

A controversial billboard that has now been defaced twice lives on to tell a Remuera church's original message.

The second attack on the billboard was discovered early this morning. The words "Islam Hates Us" had been stuck over the original caption, "I don't like losers", which had been written in a speech bubble coming from the mouth of US presidential campaigner Donald Trump. Depicted in the background was the crucified Christ.

St Luke's Presbyterian parish council convenor David McNabb said members of the church were able to remove the paper that had been stuck over the sign by using just soap and water.

It was removed because the church did not want people to think it believed that Islam hated Christians.

"So it looks like the original one. Goodness knows if anyone is going to have another go at it or not."

Mr McNabb said St Luke's had for many years run a programme to encourage understanding between world faiths.

"Through this programme we have met a number of Muslim leaders and adherents and have been enriched by their understandings. We know, from personal experience, that Islam does not hate us.

"We find this defacing of our billboard very sobering. It seems in the wider Auckland community that there are Christians who believe Islam does hate Christianity. Further, they think this sentiment is shared by Donald Trump.

"We hope and pray that these detractors would be able to experience the same warm hospitality and wisdom we have received from our Muslim neighbours."

The poster was first put up by St Luke's at Easter to make a point about values espoused by Mr Trump. But that billboard was quickly stolen. It was replaced only last Tuesday.

The billboard shows Mr Trump slinging off at losers.

"Trump has become a huge global figure and a lot of people are following him," Mr McNabb said. "But some of the stuff he has said to us has been a bit mind-boggling, so creating a cartoon that satirises him, we thought, won the spot, so our minister took the lead in creating the billboard and it has created quite a lot of debate."

Providing there are no further attacks on the board, the sign will stay up until Mr Trump's candidacy is decided.

Local MP David Seymour says while it's not a surprise, it is disappointing.

He says the vandals have violated the Church's freedom of speech and private property, two things any Western society should stand for.

Head of the Islamic studies research unit at the University of Auckland, Zain Ali, said he thought the comments on the billboard were misinformed hate speech.

"It's not reflective of how New Zealand people think. There are questions, difficult questions, but there's no feeling that Islam hates us," Dr Ali said.

"Kiwi muslims don't see themselves as being separate from the rest of New Zealand."

He said it was unclear if the message was supposed to be about the western world, or Trump supporters, or New Zealanders.

- NZ Herald

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