Understanding Islam

How we as a society respond to Islam highlights principles of religious freedom and respecting those of different beliefs, as we struggle with the issues of tolerating the intolerant and understanding extremism, be it religious, political or social.

Letter to Andrew Little, Minister of Justice

Auckland Unitarian Church
1a Ponsonby Road
Grey Lynn
AUCKLAND 1011
www.aucklandunitarian.org.nz

13 August 2019

The Rt Honourable Andrew Little
Minister of Justice
Freepost Parliament
Private Bag 18 888
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON 6160

Email copy sent to
a.little@ministers.govt.nz.

Email Copy sent to
The Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister
jacinda.ardern@parliament.govt.nz.

Dear Minister,

We are writing to express our deep concern after hearing of the distress experienced by many of the victims and their supporters at the first hearing of the alleged perpetrator of the March 15 2019 Mosque attacks.

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Revisiting Ramadan

with Rev. Clay Nelson

Revisiting Ramadan
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Clay Nelson © 5 May 2019

If you live in Aotearoa New Zealand there are a few positives that have resulted from the horror of March 15, which doesn’t mean the price wasn’t way too high. New gun laws passed nearly unanimously within a couple weeks that have banned automatic and semiautomatic weapons. National and international efforts are ongoing to reign in social media as platforms for hate speech. In depth debates to distinguish free speech from hate speech fill public discourse. And in my mind, a greater recognition by non-Muslims that Muslims are not the threat they have been painted to be since 9/11 and continue to be by Trump and other politicians. They are more often the victims of violence than its perpetrators. They need protection from every religion’s far right fundamentalists as much as anybody else. The outpouring of support for the victims and the Muslim community shown at vigils, burying the local mosques with flowers of condolence, the raising of money for the victims’ families, concerts in support of the Muslim community, the government’s paying for the funerals and fast-tracking visa applications, non-Muslim women wearing hijabs in solidarity with their sisters, and mosques opening their doors to their non-Muslim neighbours to share their faith to build bridges have been transforming acts. We are not who we used to be. From my perspective, we are better than we used to be before March 15.

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Liberal religion in the public square

with Rev. Clay Nelson

Liberal religion in the public square
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Clay Nelson © 24 March 2019

I see Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church is having a tantrum again about New Zealand being a Christian nation. He objected to Jacinda’s call to Muslim prayer before a two-minute silence to remember the victims of the massacre of worshipping Muslims in Christchurch. He called it an abuse of her Prime Ministerial powers.

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Doing the impossible: finding meaning in the senseless

Doing the impossible: finding meaning in the senseless
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Clay Nelson © 17 March 2019

Friday morning, I had today’s service and my talk all prepared. Friday evening, I had nothing to offer. The unthinkable, the unimaginable had happened. New Zealanders had been cast out of the Godzone with tears streaming down our face and our hearts broken. Our Muslim brothers and sisters lay dying and bloodied in a house of prayer. This couldn’t happen here, yet graphic news stories and social media told us otherwise. It has shaken us to our core even more than the earthquakes that had come from previously unknown fault lines in Christchurch. As traumatic as those were, they were natural acts. This act of hatred had not previously happened here. We didn’t think it could in spite of plenty of evidence that the deadly virus of white nationalism had become epidemic around the world. No house of prayer was safe if its worshippers were the marginalised or people of colour. Homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and racism has crawled out from the rocks they have been hiding under to be greeted as mainstream by right-wing political leaders and print and social media. But we thought we were better than that. We thought that was not who we are.

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