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Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2004

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New Zealand, Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Adam AwadRACE HATE: Somali community representative
Adam Awad (right) says someone is
trying to create tension between Muslim
and Jewish communities by posting Muslims envelopes containing pork. Photo by Kent Blechynden/Dominion Post

Letters stuffed with pork sent to Muslims

By Fran Tyler

RACIST hate letters, some stuffed with pieces of pork, are being sent to Wellington [New Zealand] Muslims. Community leaders say the campaign may be designed to fuel racial tensions between Jews and Muslims. Police are investigating the letters, which follow two recent anti-Semitic attacks in the city.

The letters have been sent mainly to Somali families in Miramar. One contained a cartoon showing pigs carrying a coffin saying: "Muhammad the Pig's Funeral." Next to the word funeral is scrawled in Arabic the word "Amen". Another contained a score card of conflicts between Israel and Islam since 1948 -- and the message: "Get out of Israel Islamic pigs."

Wellington Somali Council vice-chairman Adam Awad said though the letters, which started arriving late last month, appeared to be the work of Jews, he suspected they were from someone trying to create tensions between the two groups. "I believe these haven't come from the Jewish community in Wellington. We know the Jewish community in Wellington, we are friends."

The letters could be the work of the people responsible for smashing 16 Jewish gravestones in the Bolton St Cemetery in July, and 92 headstones and the arson of a chapel at Makara Cemetery last month, he said. "But nobody knows really where they have come from."

The Muslim community was "really very, very worried". Most Muslims had viewed Wellington as a safe place, especially when many were refugees who had escaped violence and persecution, he said. "Our community are really worried about how long it will take before something more serious, more violent, happens." Some of the victims were not known to each other so the names could have been selected from the phone book. He did not know how many letters had been received because some families were too frightened to come forward.

David ZwartzNew Zealand Jewish Council president David Zwartz said he could not believe the letters were the work of any Jewish groups or individuals. To describe someone as a pig was so offensive to Jews. "It is a line no one would sink under," he said. "I think it is extremely unlikely that it would come from anybody Jewish.

"The images and language are repulsive, and we can understand the reaction of those who received the letters, because the same associations are made when people insult Jews." He thought it likely that the letters were being used "as a deliberate provocation" to drive a wedge between the two groups.

It was more likely to be the work of a group that hated Muslims and Jews, such as a white supremacist-type group, he said. Constable Jeff Attwood, of Kilbirnie police, said he received a complaint from a Somali woman in Miramar who had a third version of the letter. It contained a variety of anti-Muslim statements and abuse.

Hers was the only formal complaint he had received so far, but he knew of several other people who had received letters. He would be contacting them. He wanted to hear from others who had received the letters. "Clearly it's a purely racist thing and at the moment we haven't really got any idea where it's come from." It was too early to say whether they could be linked to the attacks on the Jewish graves, he said.



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