New Zealand Muslims press for apology from minister

September 25, 2010

Islamic community leaders in New Zealand have written to Prime Minister John Key demanding that Maurice Williamson, the Building Minister, apologise for jokes he made about Muslims, a local paper reported on Saturday.

The Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand sent the letter more than a week ago on advice from the Human Rights Commission, but has yet to receive a response. At the time, Key played down the jokes, saying Williamson was known for his humour, the Dominion Post said.

Anwar Ghani, the federation leader, said New Zealand Muslims were “very upset” about the intolerant remarks and were happy the federation was raising it officially.

“We brought it to the notice of the PM saying that what was said was highly inappropriate and the minister should be reprimanded and apologise,” Ghani told the paper. “It was a bit of a concern for the community. If [an apology] came to FIANZ then at least we can issue it to our membership. It’s one of those unfortunate incidents.”

Ghani said that he did not think comments centred on religious intolerance were commonplace. However, he said that it was “a big problem because it was uttered by someone who is regarded as being responsible and a public figure”.

Williamson cracked jokes about Muslims and the practice of stoning during a speech at a building industry awards ceremony in Auckland in August.

The federation said that the jokes were “totally inappropriate and offensive”.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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