Bombing backlash hits NZ mosques

11 July 2005
By SOPHIE NEVILLE

http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3340903a10,00.html

New Zealand Muslims have become the victims of a London terrorist bombing backlash and fear attacks will become violent.

Six Auckland mosques were attacked at the weekend and a Wellington Muslim centre has faced abusive phone calls in the fallout from Thursday's deadly bombings.

Muslims arrived at their places of worship in Ponsonby, South Auckland, Mount Roskill, Blockhouse Bay and West Auckland yesterday morning to smashed windows and graffiti scrawled across buildings.

In each case, "RIP LONDON" was crudely spray-painted on the mosque and police believe the same people are responsible.

Mosques have been advised to step up security and police have promised frequent patrols in the wake of the bombings, which killed at least 50 people and injured hundreds more.

Auckland Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty said the retaliation attacks were appalling and a big investigation had been launched.

"Targeting law-abiding New Zealand citizens who have nothing to do with international terrorist events is quite abhorrent."

At all six mosques, windows and glass doors were smashed and outside walls graffitied. But police had no clues as to who was responsible.

Wellington police are also on heightened alert to possible revenge crimes and Sergeant Bruce Mackay said they would not be tolerated.

"We know that hate en masse exists out there and we will treat it very seriously."

Wellington Muslim Community religious adviser Mohammad Amir said abusive phone messages left at the Kilbirnie mosque just hours after the bombings had local members worried.

He said almost 20 "malicious and unfortunate" messages had been left during the night by different callers.

But there were also messages of support, he said.

Ponsonby mosque co-ordinator Ismail Ibrahim said yesterday he was shocked and saddened by the attacks.

"Even after September 11 nothing like this happened. We had letters but that is all. We are very surprised by this, it's very bad."

Prime Minister Helen Clark was quick to condemn the mosque attacks and said yesterday it was wrong to target New Zealand's Muslim community.

"Times like these call for cool heads and for tolerance. The evil acts of some should not lead to scapegoating of minorities in our communities."

National leader Don Brash also spoke out about the attacks, saying there was no place for revenge crime in New Zealand.

Green Party MP Keith Locke said both the bombers and the vandals had targeted innocents.

Misguided revenge attacks are nothing new for many Muslim groups. After the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, at least 50 anti-Muslim attacks were reported in New Zealand.

The Race Relations Office handled complaints of physical attacks, verbal abuse, graffiti, death threats and phone messages from victimised Muslims.

The Newtown Muslim centre had "DIE" painted across it and two Muslim women reported being nearly run down by a van.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said he was upset by the weekend's attacks, which showed more work needed to be done on becoming a more tolerant and respectful nation.

"This goes beyond ignorance. There is just no way you can see a connection between people in Auckland and extreme terrorist groups in London it's ridiculous."





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