Islamophobic incidents in city

Business owner Hasan Abdel Rahman says some Dunedin Muslims remain afraid to leave their homes after the Christchurch terror attack but many are feeling relatively safe following a reassuring talk from police. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Business owner Hasan Abdel Rahman says some Dunedin Muslims remain afraid to leave their homes after the Christchurch terror attack but many are feeling relatively safe following a reassuring talk from police. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Islamophobic incidents in Dunedin dating from before the Christchurch terror attacks on Friday have come to light.

A Muslim head teacher in Dunedin says one of her staff has been subjected to repeated harassment, including an attempt by an assailant to tear off her hijab.

Police have also appealed for more information about a similar report in the city earlier this year, when skinheads allegedly tried to remove the headscarves of three Muslim women.

An-Nur Early Childhood Education and Care Centre head teacher Rosy Jaforullah said the Dunedin centre opened on Monday, but very few children attended.

As a result, staff had decided to keep the centre closed for the rest of the week.

The decision, made with the support of the Ministry of Education, was aimed at giving people the chance to grieve or travel to Christchurch to support their Islamic brothers and sisters.

Asked if she or her staff had experienced Islamophobic behaviour in Dunedin, Ms Jaforullah said a woman who worked at the centre had been repeatedly accosted.

In at least one instance, an assailant had attempted to tear off her hijab, the headscarf worn by some women of the Islamic faith.

''She was too scared to report it to police.''

She remembered another incident where a person had prevented a female staff member entering the gate of the South Dunedin facility, while pointing and asking questions about the garment she was wearing.

Ms Jaforullah's husband, who declined to be named, said in his nearly 30 years in New Zealand he had found many residents warm and accepting.

''Our neighbours next door were very beautiful people - they gave us a lot of support.''

However, at the time of the death of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed more than two decades ago, he remembered people repeatedly throwing eggs at his car.

In February, the Otago Daily Times reported on the case of a woman who said she stepped in to stop skinheads tearing the hijabs off three Muslim women in central Dunedin.

Speaking on condition of anonymity at the time, the woman said she was in the central city when she saw two male skinheads and their female accomplice approach three Muslim women waiting in the lane.

The group attacked the women, attempting unsuccessfully to tear off their hijabs while subjecting them to a torrent of racist abuse, she claimed.

Police launched a proactive investigation at the time but were unable to identify the alleged victims, and the woman who spoke to the ODT about the attack did not report it to police, fearing the possible repercussions.

Former Otago Muslim Association chairman Steve Johnston said police had again appealed to the city's Islamic community to find the victims at a meeting following the atrocity in Christchurch.

The ODT understands police will this week make further inquiries into the alleged incident.

Brockville pharmacy owner Hasan Abdel Rahman, who also owns the nearby Mecca International food store, said some of his customers and their children were fearful to leave their homes.

''I had some people coming in and they told me they usually send their kids, but their kids are too frightened to come to pick their medications up.

''A lady yesterday asked me to deliver her medication because she was too scared to come in.''

However, many were feeling relatively safe, the result of a reassuring talk from Dunedin police at the city's mosque on Sunday, he said.

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