The head of the Australian National Imams Council, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, was refused entry to New Zealand following a terrorist attack on two Mosque in Christchurch that left 50 dead.
Rabat – The senior Muslim cleric, who advises the Australian government on Islamic issues, was planning to fly to Christchurch to support the Muslim community as they bury the victims of the terror attack before he was told by New Zealand authorities not show up to the airport as he did not have a special visa.
“I was shocked. It’s sad to see something like this happen, especially during this time of challenges and difficulties,” Alsuleiman told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Denmark also barred Alsuleiman from entering the country in April 2018, after Denmark introduced a law barring certain preachers from entry, including Alsuleiman. The Danish law imposes a ban on those that “display behavior that gives reason to believe the foreign national could pose a threat to the public order.”
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Denmark’s sited Denmark’s decision as the reason why Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman was refused entry to the country. “[INZ] can confirm that Mr. Alsuleiman was advised that he was unable to travel to New Zealand visa-free as a result of being excluded from Denmark,” said national border manager Stephanie Greathead.
However, the decision was soon overturned after Shady contacted Australia’s Department of Homeland Affairs who put pressure on New Zealand to grand the Muslim cleric a special visa, which they did so less than 24 hours after the complaint was made.
Greathead followed up her statement by saying “Because of the exclusion he required what’s known as a special direction enabling a visa to be granted. Taking into account all the circumstances Mr. Alsuleiman has now been granted the special direction and a one-month visitor visa.”
Alsuleiman previously came under fire from the Australian government after a video emerged of the cleric saying homosexuality spreads diseases. The prime minister at the time, Malcolm Turnbull, who had an Iftar dinner with the cleric just a week before, denounced the statements as “unacceptable.”
Alsuleiman released a statement in response, saying “I have previously noted passages in the holy Quran which do not support homosexuality, however, I always follow such statements with a personal commitment to tolerance and encouragement that all Muslims and all people approach all individuals, no matter their faith, race or sexuality, in a considerate and respectful way.”
Alsuleiman is also notably on the ISIS’ hit list, after a terrorist propaganda video called for his murder because he advocates against violence in the name of Islam, and encourages Muslims to “follow the laws of the land.”
Australian Imams Council spokesman Bilal Rauf commented on New Zealand’s original decision to bar Alsuleiman, telling the Sydney Morning Herald “We don’t understand the reasons why he has been placed on the list,” he said. “That’s something that Sheikh Shady will inquire into and seek to address.”
“It’s unfortunate to see that sometimes screening matters are not getting correctly done,” he added.
The Sheikh will now fly to New Zealand on Wednesday, and he said was “not going to make any assumptions” regarding why he was denied entry to the country initially.