In a fallout between two Muslim factions, a mosque in Auckland is closed for prayers until further notice.
In an unusual sight for a religious place in New Zealand, the Avondale mosque is surrounded by temporary fence, private security guards and police staff.
The mosque in Blockhouse Bay has been part of a reported battle between two Muslim groups for control over the mosque.
Things turned ugly when Haider Lone, immediate past president of the NZ Muslim Association and administrator of the Avondale Islamic Centre, was attacked earlier this month and is in hospital in serious condition.
Haider says he fears for his life as he believes the attack was an assassination attempt, the New Zealand Herald reported.
The Association, which owns the mosque, has shut it down because of safety concerns.
One of the New Zealand reporters who was covering the mosque story has also received derogatory comments on social media.
Caught amid the cross fire, there’s been a declaration of jihad, or holy war, against private security staff hired to guard the premises, according to a media report.
Bill Frost, who manages the private security of the mosque, was assaulted twice on Sunday and said he feared for his life and the safety of his family after one person threatened him with jihad.
The dispute began soon after Sheikh Abu Abdulla, 50, the mosque’s imam, was banned from entering the centre for two years for allegedly teaching extreme Islam, says another media report.
His two sons, Abdulla Hamam, 22, and Abdelrahman Hamam, 16, were also banned for the next two years. The ban applies to all mosques in Auckland run by the Association. When the father and sons tried to enter the mosque, they were issued trespass notices.
Abdulla Hamam says his father was “just a normal person” but was being targeted by some leaders from the association who were “bullies”.
“I did nothing so it’s just totally unfair to ban us,” he says.
Javed Khan, the Acting President of the Federation of Islamic Association, told a television channel the community is shocked.
“It is very concerning, we don’t want these kind of things happening in our own religious institutions. We live in a country, in New Zealand, which has got law and order.”