Racism shocks, disappoints

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By MATTHEW MCKEW

Hate-filled posters plastered on and around Queenstown’s new Islamic centre have shocked and disappointed staff from neighbouring businesses.

Mountain Scene discovered the posters dotted around the Gorge Road Retail Centre yesterday morning — Queenstown police were on site making inquiries.

The posters contained images of the prophet Mohammed, in the style of French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and were stuck to the windows of the centre, also known as Queenstown Masjid, which opened about 10 days ago.

It’s an offence in the Muslim religion to depict the prophet.

Opposite the masjid, on the Southern Hospitality building, a poster saying ‘‘Islam is right about women’’ was displayed.

Others with anti-Islam slogans were dotted around the carpark on lamp posts and elsewhere.

Philippe Saint-Pere, who runs the Islamic Education Centre at the Sofitel Hotel, says the posters are shocking.

‘‘It shows how bad people need to understand what Islam is really about.’’

Saint-Pere is French, moving to Queenstown two-and-a-half years ago, and says he understands the importance of freedom of expression, but that doesn’t mean freedom to slander.

‘Disgusting’: Some of the posters, stuck to a lamp post

He says reproducing the satirical news paper Charlie Hebdo’s pictures is like
putting up horrible posters of somebody’s mother.

Ben Bootsma, who works at Southern Hospitality, says it was horrible to be confronted with the posters.

‘‘It was stuff we don’t want to see in this country, things I didn’t think I would ever see in person, but it’s happened and we need to stop it.’’

He says those using the Islamic centre have every right to do so and they’ve been awesome since moving in, even popping over with a feed for the staff.

‘‘It’s a real shame that people hold these feelings … how far has this person’s feelings gone?

‘‘It’s hard to measure hate.’’

Bootsma says the person responsible needs to be caught.

Jo Emanuel, who works at nearby business Bradley and Cook Electrical, says the posters are ridiculous and disappointing.

‘‘Everyone should be welcome and it’s good they have somewhere to worship.’’

A copy of the sexist anti-Islam poster was also seen on a lamp post on Stanley Street last week.

Southern district commander superintendent Paul Basham says police are working with the centre.

“Police are taking this matter seriously, as we do all reports of hate speech or behaviour that causes concern to our communities.”

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz