FIANZ did not say or do anything until Whaleoil shone sunlight on the anti-Semitic and misogynistic words of Auckland-based, Saudi-trained, Muslim religious leader Dr Mohammad Anwar Sahib, Imam of the At-Taqwa Mosque. This was not the first time that Shaykh Dr Mohammad Anwar Sahib has been brought to FIANZ’s attention.
In 2001, the Centre for Islamic Pluralism published an article that described Sheik Dr Anwar Sahib as a high-ranking Islamic cleric trained in and funded by Saudi Arabia. A Fiji Indian, he spent 15 years being trained as a cleric by the Saudis and was described as an ultra-conservative fundamentalist. The Wahhabi sect to which Sheik Dr Anwar Sahib belongs is described as adhering to the most extreme form of Islamic fundamentalism. The author of Intellectuals and Assassins, Stephen Schwartz, said of Wahhabism that “it is violent, it is intolerant and it is fanatical beyond belief.”
Sheik Dr Anwar Sahib came to New Zealand on a Saudi-funded scholarship and was exposed as having ties to Osama bin Ladin. The then president of FIANZ, Dr Anwar Ghani, dismissed the concerns, saying he knew of no terrorist fundraising or terrorism-linked activity among local Muslims.
In 2011, FIANZ president, Anwar Ghani, once again dismissed concerns when he met with officials of the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (SIS). The SIS was concerned about reports that at-Taqwa mosque youth were talking about preparing for jihad in New Zealand. Sheikh Dr Sahib continued during this time to be a senior member of FIANZ.
In 2013, there was a report that Sheikh Dr Sahib had been involved in an Islamic conference where other invited speakers also gave antisemitic, misogynistic, and homophobic sermons. And, more recently, in January 2016, the WhaleOil blog revealed that one of the congregants of At-Taqwa mosque, where Sheikh Dr Sahib preaches, has potentially been radicalised and is a known Islamic State supporter. One is left wondering whether radicalisation of Muslim youth is happening in New Zealand mosques.
When finally forced to react to our video and posts FIANZ’s first reaction was a Press release more notable for what it did not say.
Their release is here. It is notable for what it doesn’t say. They say FIANZ is against hate speech, they say hate speech is against Islam, they say they condemn all hate speech, they complain about the media, they talk about injustice in the Middle East, they talk about racism from far right groups, they say they respect the right of others to not be Muslim and they say they will continue to promote moderate Islam.
But what didn’t they say? They didn’t even mention Sahib by name. They didn’t say whether or not his comments are acceptable. They did not say whether such comments are compatible with his senior leadership positions.
Unlike FIANZ the Islamic Women’s Council did acknowledge Sahib’s comments and said that they are totally inappropriate and they explicitly condemned them. FIANZ has shown itself to be an ambiguous organisation by only condemning hate speech in general terms. I do not believe that they actually consider Sahib’s words to be hateful at all. Certainly, the Radio Live interview with the head of FIANZ gave that impression. While FIANZ did remove Sahib from his FIANZ position they have declined to publicly condemn both him and his words. I can only conclude that FIANZ took that action extremely reluctantly to stop the media coverage rather than because they strongly disagree with his words and think that he is no longer fit to hold the position.