A conference of Christian church leaders on the “threat” of Islam to New Zealand is being condemned as a “conference of bigots” by senior New Zealand Muslims.
The organiser of the Mosque and Miracles conferences, national director of Middle East Christian Outreach Murray Dillner, said the conference would address the threat posed by Islam to New Zealand society – a threat he likened to the terrorist attacks in the United States of September 11, 2001.
“It’s an underlying threat, but it’s like the twin towers – they imploded. Islam does the same thing to a society – it makes it implode,” he said. “The mindset of Islam is to take over the world. They will do that by any means they can. The church in England ignored Islam. If the church in New Zealand doesn’t rise up, we will be in the same situation.”
Federation of Islamic Associations president Javed Khan said it was a “conference of bigots”. “It’s fearmongering; Islamophobia. The organisers are prejudiced, biased bigots,” he said. “For heaven’s sake, we are less than 1 per cent of the population. Muslims have been in New Zealand for a century. No Muslim has ever done anything like what they are afraid of.”
The conference, scheduled for the Spreydon Baptist Church on July 23 and 24, will feature three Australian speakers.
Pastor Stuart Robinson, the author of the book Mosques and Miracles, lived among Muslims in Southeast Asia and has spoken at conferences in Australia and South Africa.
One of the speakers at the Australian conferences, Pastor Daniel Scot, was tried under Australian religious vilification laws in 2004.
Dillner said another speaker on the New Zealand tour, Daniel Sheyesteh, knew the militant side of Islam from his early years as a trainer for Hezbollah and from his involvement in the Iranian Islamic revolution.
Sheyesteh fell foul of the Iranian authorities and escaped execution by fleeing to Turkey, where he converted to Christianity, Dillner said. “He speaks out very clearly about what Islam really is. Muslims don’t have the freedom to change religion. If you do, they’ll do their best to eradicate you,” Dillner said.
A fellow organiser, Open Doors New Zealand director Bruce Quedley, said Islam was often portrayed as a religion of peace, but “realistically that’s not what happens”. He said the conference was important as “we have adjusted to accommodate parts of society at the expense of Christianity”. Quedley said the conferences were restricted to church leaders to prevent those who may seek to “disrupt” the proceedings.
Acting Christchurch imam (religious leader) Mohammad Alayan said: “What do you make of it other than blind hatred? “If they are going to criticise Islam, they should invite us to come and discuss it with them. There are many good Christians out there and I hope … they will not go along with this.”
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said freedom of speech meant viewpoints could not be suppressed “unless they lead to hostility”.