Christchurch Muslim leader urges calm over video

MARC GREENHILL
Last updated 05:00 18/09/2012

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A Christchurch Muslim leader is calling for calm after he received a threat in the backlash over a controversial video mocking the prophet Mohammed.

The video, Innocence of Muslims, triggered a wave of protests and violence around the world for its portrayal of the prophet Mohammed as a womaniser and paedophile.

On Saturday, police in Sydney were forced to use tear gas to quell demonstrators, and made several arrests.

The reaction hit closer to home when Muslim Association of Canterbury chairman Imam Monir Elfarra received a call at the Christchurch mosque from a person threatening to burn Islam's holy book, the Koran.

Elfarra feared the situation could inflame both "ignorant" Muslims and non-Muslims in this country.

The reaction from Christchurch Muslims to the video was anger and disappointment. He condemned the United States-made production and urged the New Zealand Government to do the same.

"The Minister of Ethnic Affairs should say, ‘We condemn these things, they are wrong and should not be done', but at the same time we, as with any other faith, should support peace before we support violence."

It was unlikely practising Muslims in New Zealand would act out, Elfarra said.

However, the provocation could stir others to act.

"Anyone who practises, I would never be scared they would do something silly like that because they understand their religion.

"If we do our job, there will not be [protests]. If the Muslim community and government officials stand together, it will never happen."

He was not concerned about possible anti-Muslim reaction in Christchurch.

Police ethnic liaison officers had been made aware of the threat.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Anwar Ghani said there had been no reports of threats against other mosques or Muslims.

Calls of support from other faiths had been received, he said.

"If anything was to happen, it would be very unfortunate for our country because we've enjoyed nothing but peace and that has been the work of not only the Muslim community but all the inter-faith communities."

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