A respected mosque leader in New Zealand is being condemned after he said Israel was behind the deadly Christchurch attack that left 50 people dead.
Ahmed Bhamji, chairman of the Mt Roskill Masjid E Umar, gave a speech Saturday at a rally hosted by a group called Love Aotearoa Hate Racism. The rally was intended to honor the victims of the mass shooting, but Bhami used it as an opportunity to point the blame at Jews.
"I really want to say one thing today. Do you think this guy was alone... I want to ask you - where did he get the funding from?" he can be heard saying in a video that has since gone viral.
"I stand here and I say I have a very very strong suspicion that there's some group behind him and I am not afraid to say I feel Mossad is behind this."'
Unbelievable that a community leader unashamedly blamed Israel for the Christchurch terror attack in front of 1k people, a crowd member loudly agreed, and there was no challenge to the conspiracy theory.
— David Cumin (@KiwiDaveC) March 25, 2019
One person in the crowd can be heard yelling: "It's the truth. Israel is behind this. That's right!"
Mossad is Israel's national intelligence agency and is responsible for counterterrorism, covert operations, and intelligence collection.
New Zealand Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses told Newshub Bhamji's anti-Semitism is dangerous.
"These conspiracy theories are dangerous lies. They put the Jewish community at risk, at a time of heightened security concerns," Moses said. "Conspiracy theories - particularly the idea that Jews (whether through the Jewish state or otherwise) are a malevolent controlling force in the world - are at the very core of anti-Semitism."
New Zealand's Human Rights Commission also condemned the rhetoric.
" Prejudice against Jewish people has no place in New Zealand. We must condemn racism, hate and anti-semitism whenever we see it. #GiveNothingToRacism," the group said.
— NZ Human Rights Commission (@NZHumanRights) March 27, 2019
Muslim leaders spoke out too.
"I am horrified and offended that the Chairman made these ridiculous and hurtful comments towards the Jewish community," said lawyer and activist Umar Abdul Kuddos in a Facebook post.
"I feel embarrassed that this individual is seen as a representative of my community when in fact he represents no one person of the Muslim community but for his own unacceptable views," he added.
Other Muslims commented on Kuddos' post to condemn Bhamji.
"He doesn't speak for me or my community either. This is hate speech and has no place in our society. This narrative must be condemned at all levels by our Islamic leaders," a user named Tabrez Ali said.
Bhamji accused Newshub of singling him when the organization asked him for a comment.
"I made a statement, a lot of other people made statements," he told Newshub.
He also doubled down on his position that Jews are responsible for the massacre.
"Mossad is up to all these things," he said. "When I talk about Mossad, why should the Jews be upset about it? Give me an answer?"