Not many years ago, Dr Mohammad Anwar Sahib, an Imam at the At-Taqwa Mosque in South Auckland was the centre of media attention for preaching that: “No woman can dare step out of her house without permission of her husband,” and, “The Christians are using the Jews, and the Jews are using everybody because their protocol is to rule the entire world”.
Unsurprisingly, his statements evoked strong condemnation from The NZ Jewish Council, several Muslim groups, and political leaders such as the Hon. Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga (National Party), David Seymour (ACT Party leader), and Winston Peters (NZ First leader).
Conspicuously absent, however, was condemnation by the Labour Party and the Greens. Their difficulties can be illustrated by the following imaginary conversation:
Dave: “I don’t think women should have the same rights as men, and LGBTs should be executed.”
Charlotte: “Wow! What a primitive right-wing bigot you are!”
Dave: “No, actually, I’m a Muslim, and those are my religious beliefs.”
Charlotte “Oh, I’m so sorry! I apologise! I hope you don’t think I’m Islamophobic!”
Unlike “Charlotte”, our Muslim community made no excuses and acted decisively: Dr Sahib was permanently stood down as secretary for the Ulama Board of the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ.
While it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of New Zealand Muslims would unreservedly reject the stoning of adulterers, Dr Sahib is not alone in his hardline Islamism in New Zealand.
Until his retirement in 2011, Labour MP Ashraf Choudhary would not condemn the traditional Koran punishment of stoning to death people who have extra-marital affairs (New Zealand Herald, July 5, 2005).
But he is not advocating the practice here. On TV3’s 60 Minutes, Dr Choudhary was asked: “Are you saying the Koran is wrong to recommend that gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death?”
He answered: “No, no. Certainly what the Koran says is correct . . . . In those societies, not here in New Zealand,” he added.
Between a rock and a hard place, he would say that, wouldn’t he?
The kindest thing that can be said of people like Choudhary and Sahib is that they are the product of the cultural norms in their countries of origin (Pakistan and Fiji respectively). But though a child born in Pakistan can’t help being indoctrinated in Sharia law, as refugees they are obligated to leave behind these particular aspects of their cultural baggage in order to integrate with their host society.
Apart from Choudhary and the Auckland Imam, the great majority do.
What is baffling is that we have our own “Charlottes” among our non-Muslim politicians.
When, in October 2013, the Sultan of Brunei announced his intention to introduce strict Sharia into Brunei’s penal code, the decision evoked a wave of criticism, in New Zealand and around the world.
In 2019 when the code was enacted, New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters said “it is seriously regrettable that Brunei’s decision contravenes a number of international norms on human rights”.
Helen Clark joined in the condemnation:
The introduction of the new penal code is “shocking news” and “provides for death by stoning as punishment for gay sex”.
But then she ruined it by tweeting:
“Hard to comprehend what could be driving such a barbaric move which stands in stark opposition to fundamental human rights principles.”
No, Helen, it’s not hard to comprehend. All you need is enough spine to use the S-word, putting it in the context of Sharia.
A few days after Peters’ condemnation, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, a refugee from Iran, was asked on Twitter if she would also condemn these laws. She side-stepped the question by tweeting (March 30, 2019):
“You realise white supremacists are historically big into mass murder of the Rainbow community right? If you want to associate an entire race or religion with the way extremists treat minorities you would have to start with people of Western European descent. Wonder why you aren’t.”
As an atheist, she should have had no problem with condemning Sharia law, but it seems that radical Islamists are culturally exempt.
? Martin is retired science teacher who lives in Nelson.