Sonny Bill Williams is listed as one of the Muslim Top 500 for 2017, along with Dr Anwar Ghani, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ). FIANZ control much of the Halal finances from the NZ meat industry, which goes to the promotion of Islam around the world, and provides much of the free materials and free Quran to attract converts like SBW, Mark Taylor, Te Amorangi Kireka-Whaanga, Jono Blake, Daryl Jones, and other supporters of the Arab Spring and Islamic State in New Zealand.
Williams would have had no reason to question his relationship with Menk or Bham as their teachings are simply ordinary Islamic teachings similar to those of any New Zealand mosque that Williams is familiar with.
BMW is “re-looking” at its ambassador deal with Sonny Bill Williams after complaints about the rugby star’s association with controversial Muslim clerics.
Williams’ appointment as one of BMW New Zealand’s brand ambassadors was highly publicised in October, but soon after drew an influx of complaints from BMW customers and the LGBT and Jewish communities about Williams’ association with two Muslim clerics and a photo in which he is using a salute associated with Isis.
Articles appeared on Gay Express, on the Whale Oil blog and in motoring publications about the Williams’ links to Mufti Ismail Menk and Erbrahim Bham, but it can now be reported that BMW is taking action over the men’s links.
It is understood that a senior BMW manager travelled from Australia to New Zealand to address the issue, and that customers who have complained were told a decision would be reached by the end of January.
BMW New Zealand’s head of corporate communications, Paul Sherley, told Newsroom that Williams’ original contract remained unchanged. However, he said the luxury vehicle brand was taking the complaints seriously and “re-looking” at Williams’ role.
Despite widespread publicity from BMW when Williams was appointed as ambassador, there is no mention of him on the company’s website alongside other brand ambassadors, shoe designer Kathryn Wilson and chef Josh Emmet. Critical comments about Williams have also been removed from BMW New Zealand’s Facebook page, while those comments supporting him remain.
The controversy stems from Williams’ support of Zimbabwe-born Menk who was banned from six UK universities in 2013 for his extreme anti-homosexual views. He described same-sex acts as, “filthy”, “wrong” and “acts of immorality”.
Menk was recorded as saying: “With all due respect to the animals, [homosexuals] are worse than those animals”.
While he lives in South Africa, Menk travels the world teaching his religious views and his visits to countries, especially those in the West, are often met with controversy.
Supporting Menk by re-tweeting and praising his comments saw Australian navy Captain Mona Shindy last year forced to shut down the social media account she ran to promote Islam in the navy.
The friendship between Williams and Menk has been well documented on social media. The closeness of this relationship has caused complainants to questions whether Williams endorses Menk’s homophobic beliefs.
In a now deleted comment on the BMW New Zealand Facebook page, Greg Woolley said:
“Seriously guys?! Why would you have SBW as an ambassador?”
In 2007, Williams was dropped by the brand for off-field behaviour in a bar. Woolley, in his comment, described that behaviour as being “a lot less offensive to the vast majority of mainstream New Zealand than endorsing people…who say gay people are worse than animals. Is your marketing department really that stupid?”
Another comment on the same page, that has also been deleted, said Williams was making a one fingered “Isis salute” in a photo. The symbol is a long-standing Muslim gesture, but has been widely adopted by Isis soldiers.
Always a good night out in Sydney with my brother. pic.twitter.com/rmml2GRbaC
— Sonny Bill Williams (@SonnyBWilliams) October 14, 2016
When contacted by Newsroom, Sherley said the company was “re-looking” at its agreement with Williams as a result of the complaints.
“We are certainly very mindful of the complaints around him and we are just re-looking at how we can integrate him.
“We take all of the complaints very seriously and if there is public opinion that suggests we need to re-look at, or how we are using someone, we will do it.”
Sherley said there had not been a change to the original agreement, and could not confirm when a decision on any changes would be made.
According to BMW’s publicity when it announced Williams’ new role with the brand, he was given a $160,000 BMW X5 xDrive 50i in exchange for appearing at sports and social events to promote the BMW lifestyle brand. It is understood that even though the arrangement has been diluted, Williams can continue to use the car.
Sherley said Williams’ absence from BMW’s website was because the site had not been updated yet and that he did not attend the ASB Classic, of which BMW is a key sponsor, because none of the brand’s ambassadors did.
He said he did not know why the Facebook comments have been deleted.
When asked if taking action over the complaints could be seen as anti-Muslim, Sherley said:
“If there is criticism or complaints made against [any ambassador] we will obviously look to work in a way where we minimise any problems, that goes for our brand and our ambassadors themselves.”
In response to further questions, Sherley said: “The utilisation of representatives in this programme is subject to availability and affinity and is a matter of internal management.”
Williams’ manager Khoder Nasser was also contacted by Newsroom. He told a reporter he had a “big fight coming up in Australia and that’s what I am concentrating on,” before hanging up his phone.
Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand (FIANZ) president Haizan Arafeh said there was “no way on earth” that Williams would support hate speech. He said he did not know enough about Menk and Bham to comment on their ideologies, and it would be premature to comment on BMW’s stance as no action had been confirmed by the company.
The one finger salute was a universal Islamic gesture and should not be associated with Isis, he said.
“Everybody is entitled to their sexual orientation and religious beliefs and I don’t see that having Sonny Bill Williams as a BMW ambassador could drive people away from driving BMWs.”
Williams could not be reached for comment.