Dame Susan Devoy condemns alleged anti-Semitic comments by Muslim cleric

Dame Susan Devoy has slammed alleged anti-Semitic hate comments. Photo / File
Dame Susan Devoy has slammed alleged anti-Semitic hate comments. Photo / File

The Human Rights Commission says speeches allegedly given by an Auckland man condemning Jewish people are appalling and have no place in New Zealand.

"We live in one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth as well as one of the most peaceful: this is because we are a tolerant nation," said Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy in response to a video that emerged online of a Muslim cleric giving what has been labelled an anti-Semitic hate speech.

"This kind of intolerance is not welcome here in any form: Prejudice against Jewish people has no place in New Zealand," Devoy said.

Videos of speeches delivered by Shaykh Dr Mohammad Anwar Sahib at the Manukau mosque have been widely viewed online.

"We urge Kiwis to recognise that these are the views of a single person and are not held by every single Muslim New Zealander, however questions need to be answered," Devoy said.

"We've been in touch with the leaders of the NZ Jewish Council as well as the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), both of whom are deeply concerned about the speeches. We have asked for an urgent response from FIANZ."

But Sahib said he was taken out of context and preaches for peace and harmony in society.

The top cleric, who is also the secretary of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, has been shown in a series of lectures recorded at a Manukau mosque and posted on social media vilifying Jewish and Christian communities.

But Sahib says he has been misrepresented as a scholar of Islam and his lectures, if watched in their entirety, will show he was simply discussing history.

In a statement to the Herald Sahib said those who had watched the videos would find he had not incited any hatred towards others, nor asked anyone to attack or harm anyone.

"Sadly and falsely, I have been accused of giving hate speeches and being anti-Semitic," he said.

"I wish to make it absolutely clear to those who have watched the video and who have commented that I have given hate speech in regards of people of other faith that I do not hate any human being regardless of their faith, place of origin, race, colour and political affiliation."

The Administration Council of the Islamic Women's Council described Sahib's comments as "totally inappropriate".

"We unequivocally condemn any divisive comments of a similar nature. While we may disagree with aspects of Jewish theology, and may have political disagreements, we see the Jewish people as closely connected to us through the Abrahamic tradition," a spokesperson said.

"The Prophet Muhammad had good relationships with his Jewish neighbours and encouraged Muslims to do the same. We are permitted to eat their kosher food, and we offer them our respect. We regularly extend our hand in friendship to the Jewish community in New Zealand, and will continue to do so.

"The approach shown is a religious misinterpretation, in our opinion, and we are disappointed that certain religious leaders may encourage this damaging rhetoric. We would like to note that Muslim women are and have always been active inside and outside their households, contributing socially and financially to the community."

A press statement from Sahib is below.

"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah [God] is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah [God] is Knowing and Acquainted." (Quran 49:13)

"I wish to make it absolutely clear to those who have watched the video and who have commented that I have given hate speech in regards of people of other faith that I do not hate any human being regardless of their faith, place of origin, race, colour and political affiliation.

"As an individual and one of the FIANZ religious advisersI have always preached for peace and harmony in the society. The cut-and-paste version reported by the "Whaleoil" [blog] is the misrepresentation of my views as an Islamic scholar.

"I have been asked to formally respond to some of my lectures on YouTube which have gained negative attention.

"Sadly and falsely, I have been accused of giving hate speeches and being anti-Semitic. First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to inform everyone that all the programmes at our Masjid [Mosque] are open for all to attend at any time. All the programmes are advertised on our Facebook page. All the lectures are streamed live
and recorded for everyone to watch. In fact, our Masjid is the only one in New Zealand which always invites everyone to join our regular lectures and programmes. We have non-Muslim visitors who visit us on a regular basis.

"I was made aware of a post by Cameron Slater from "Whaleoil" on Saturday morning (19/11/2016) regarding my past lectures. In that post, he has unfairly cut and pasted various short sections of my lectures and presented them as complete. He has thus taken my lectures entirely out of context and completely misrepresented me.

"Furthermore, none of my complete lectures were referenced by Whaleoil or other sites for people to have an opportunity to view them and analyse them for themselves.

"Unfortunately, after this was published on the Whaleoil YouTube channel, it was later picked up by various other websites and none of them did any fact checking either or approached me.

"The first quoted video is available here, youtu.be/CusE_MuUzPk - the lecture starts from 1:16:00. If the video is watched in its entirety, viewers will clearly see that I was not attacking the Jewish people but rather I was explaining that the region of Shaam [Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon] will be the place where mankind will be resurrected
and judged by almighty God.

"The second quoted video is available here, youtu.be/Z8deDFsspKk - again if the video
is watched in its entirety, it is very much self-explanatory. I was simply discussing Islamic history.

"The rest of the quoted videos are available here, youtu.be/u36hX4c3rbc, youtu.be/i6SBFbj3cDQ, youtu.be/umjZ3bC2ljY.

"Those who have watched all the complete videos will find that I have not at all incited any
hatred towards others. Nowhere in these videos have I asked anyone to attack or harm anyone. In fact in Islam, inciting hatred and promoting violence is sinful.

"Everyone has freedom of choice to believe in what they want. I personally hold no hatred towards anyone.

"The press statement by Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga on 21st of November, available on beehive.govt.nz, implied that the president of FIANZ, Hazim Arafeh, and some other Muslims believe that I have given hate speech.

"I have spoken to Hazim Arafeh and he clarified that this is incorrect and that the minister has absolutely twisted his words. I will not write further with regards to this issue as I understand FIANZ will issue a formal response soon.

"This slander and attack is not just on me, but it is on all Muslims in New Zealand. Sadly, it is at a time when there is so much misrepresentation about Muslims in the media and this unfortunate attack is perpetuating this.

"Muslims have always lived peacefully in New Zealand and this kind of rhetoric promotes division in the community.

"I suggest that Hon Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy to view the whole video to get the complete story before reaching any decision as I have been accused of something of which I am not guilty.

"My intention was completely different from the reported distorted version conveyed by the bloggers by doing a "cut and paste". I sincerely deserve an apology. I would love to meet with the honourable minister and Race Relations Commissioner and anybody else to clarify the issue.

"I would like to invite everyone in New Zealand who reads this letter and [is]keen to know more about Islam to get in touch with us.

"We have extensive free resources and materials for everyone, God willing. If anyone would like to have further discussions regarding any issues, please do get in touch with me via formal means only.

"O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful." (Quran 49:6)"

- NZ Herald

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