Red flags raised about Muslim Association of Canterbury rule changes

Let’s not forget the background to the Canterbury Muslims Association which contributed to the 2019 Christchurch shooting.

Members of the association in charge of Masjid An Nur, or Al Noor mosque, feel they have not been consulted over major changes like severing ties with national body Fianz.

The charity behind Christchurch’s Masjid An Nur (or Al Noor mosque) has severed ties with a national Muslim body and made “unconstitutional” changes to how it runs, members say.

They feel the Muslim Association of Canterbury’s (MAC) annual general meeting (AGM) on January 24 was not widely publicised and resulted in those attending being put under duress to vote on a controversial rewrite of the organisation’s rules. Some are seeking legal advice.

Concerns include the association withdrawing its affiliation from the national body – Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (Fianz) – and that the new rules give too much control over finances to individual leaders.

Muslim Association of Canterbury president Mohamed Jama .

A Mac spokesman said it had “not formally received any legal opinions from any of its respected members highlighting how the newly adopted constitution by over two thirds of the General Assembly of MAC’s AGM was unconstitutional”.

All other questions Stuff asked – including about the rushed, surprise vote, and concerns over financial control – were ignored.

Charities Services has confirmed it received a complaint about the association, which is an incorporated society charity.

Charities expert Michael Gousmett said the changes raised major red flags, particularly the “inappropriate” practice of giving all financial control to the president rather than the treasurer, and that members were not given time to fairly consider and vote on big decisions.

Friday prayers at Christchurch’s An-Nur Masjid (Al Noor Mosque).

A former board member said due process was not followed, and there were now no checks and balances on the organisation.

At the meeting, president Mohamed Jama refused to allow questions to be asked, private security staff were present, and one member was warned they would be trespassed if they did not stop asking questions, they said.

Jama told Stuff plenty of warning was given about the meeting, constitutional review, and vote, and the new rules giving him power to issue $2000 payments without authorisation was “in case of emergencies” like broken windows.

From about 70 people present, 37 voted yes, seven voted no, and five were neutral.

“We are now all supportive of the constitution,” he said.

Mac member Shadia Amin, whose husband was killed in the March 15 terror attack at the An-Nur Masjid, said some leaders were dividing the community.

“They want to have control over everything. They consider the Al Noor mosque as their own property.”

Some were told about the AGM over one Whatsapp group, but there was no official written notification sent out to all 800 members. Stuff has seen a basic agenda that was put up on the mosque noticeboard about a constitution “review” and “Fianz structure proposal of operations”.

Amin said members were surprised when a completely new constitution was read out to them, and they were told to vote on the spot.

She said she told the leaders as she left the meeting that they were dividing the community, what they had done was illegal, and they did not deserve to run the mosque.

Fianz president Ibrar Sheikh, pictured middle, has not been told of Mac withdrawing from the national body.

“It’s not fair for the good people of the Muslim community.”

Stuff understands even some board members were not aware of the drastic changes in advance.

Gousmett said in an incorporated society – as Muslims Ass Canterbury is – the board had responsibilities to its membership. Revealing a new constitution at a spontaneous AGM and asking them to vote on the spot was “very inappropriate”.

“I would be very surprised if they could unilaterally go ahead and change the rules.”

If members not present at the meeting were not given the chance to contribute then it “sounds like a bit of a stitch-up”.

Incorporated societies were meant to be democratic, he said.

Having a president controlling finances – especially up to as high as $2000 – was also inappropriate, especially without strict spending rules being monitored by a treasurer, he said.

“That’s what causes divisions and is not good practice. This is going to cause problems for the future, no doubt about it.”

Fianz president Ibrar Sheikh says the organisation aims to be a united platform for Muslim people in New Zealand.

Fianz president Ibrar Sheikh said the federation had not yet been notified that Muslim Ass Canterbury was severing ties with the national body, and he did not know why.

“The primary objective of Fianz is to provide a united platform for New Zealand Muslims.”

The Department of Internal Affairs (Charities Services) confirmed it had received a complaint concerning Muslim Ass Canterbury but as it was now subject to its regulatory processes, it could not comment further.

Charities were independent, self-governing entities, and were only investigated if their information indicated possible serious wrongdoing under the Charities Act.



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