Islamic community leaders have written to Prime Minister John Key demanding Building Minister Maurice Williamson apologise for jokes he made about Muslims.
The Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand sent the letter more than a week ago but has yet to receive a response. At the time Mr Key played down the jokes, saying Mr Williamson was known for his humour.
President Anwar Ghani said New Zealand Muslims were “very upset” about the intolerant remarks and were happy the federation was raising it officially.
“We brought it to the notice of the PM saying that what was said was highly inappropriate and the minister should be reprimanded and apologise.
“It was a bit of a concern for the community. Even if [an apology] came to FIANZ then at least we can issue it to our membership. It’s one of those unfortunate incidents.”
He did not think comments centred on religious intolerance were commonplace.
But it was “a big problem because it was uttered by someone who is regarded as being responsible and a public figure”.
The federation had written to Mr Key on the advice of the Human Rights Commission and would wait for his response before deciding to take further action, he said.
Mr Williamson cracked jokes about Muslims and the practice of stoning while giving a speech at a building industry awards ceremony in Auckland last month.
He also asked MC Oscar Kightley, Samoan star of Sione’s Wedding, if his papers were in order.
At the time, the federation said the jokes were “totally inappropriate and offensive”.
A spokeswoman for Mr Williamson said he had not seen the letter. She would not say if he would apologise.
Mr Key’s spokesman said the letter had been received by Mr Key’s office.
Asked if Mr Williamson would be made to apologise, he said: “Our correspondence process involves considering, and then drafting a response, and then replying to the author of the letter.
“That is what will occur in this instance.”
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