5 Jan 2016

New Zealanders commemorate executed Nimr Al-Nimr

8:29 am on 5 January 2016

New Zealanders of different religions have come together to commemorate prominent Shia Muslim cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, who was executed during the weekend.

Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr

Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr Photo: AFP

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, an outspoken opponent of Saudi Arabia's sunni-led Government, was among 47 people executed.

More than 150 people gathered at the site of the Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand in Auckland last night to pay their respects for Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

They included not just Shia Muslims but also Sunni and Christians.

Foundation president Saeid Bassam said Nimr was brave enough to stand up and call for rights in a country where it was hard to do.

"We are gathered here to commemorate him and to let our community remember him, our youngsters to know him and so that it gives an example to our people of those who speak out against human suppression."

There was a sense of pride to have a leader but there was a deep sense of sadness at his loss.

Islamic Council of New Zealand president Abdul Monem Nasser told the congregation Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a man of peace who asked for justice for his people, who were deprived of many civil liberties and equal status.

"We are here to raise our voices in condemnation of that murder and remember this martyr, I shall call him - because of his bravery in expressing the wishes of his own people for justice and equality - and only because of that he was not spared. He was not given his life."

Christian Minister Keith Rowe compared the death to that of Martin Luther King.

He said it would not just be the Shia Muslim community feeling the loss.

"The death of Anatollah Nimr is a loss to us all. As a Christian minister and former leader let me say that I know there are many many Christians around the world who feel today as you feel."

Mr Rowe said the action would only make things worse in an already challenged region.

"It's as though petrol has been thrown onto an already burning fire. At the very least at a political level it must be regarded as a strange and inept thing to do."

Gul Zaman, the co-president of the Christian-Muslim Council and a Sunni Muslim, said religions needed to live together in harmony and not bring similar conflict to New Zealand.

"My humble plea is this. Let us all make a concerted effort individually, collectively, that we are going to be peaceful people, we are not going to reply and respond to these cruel acts by being cruel ourselves."

Carol Weston, a Shia attending the event, said Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr stood up for things such as women's rights, and that should make New Zealanders pay attention to his death.

She said in order for progress to be made in Saudi Arabia other countries would need to get involved.

"I wish our leaders, and the western leaders of the world would complain to the Saudi Kingdom about this reprehensible act."

A march from Auckland's Aotea Square to the Consulate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is being held at 4pm on Saturday in protest at Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's execution.