One of Australia’s most senior Muslim clerics, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman, was refused entry to New Zealand following the Christchurch massacre – but the ban was overturned following a complaint to the Australian government.
The revelation will raise questions about why the Sheikh was on a New Zealand no-fly list, particularly in light of accusations that Australian security agencies and their international partners are too focused on Islamic extremism compared to right-wing terrorism.
As president of the Australian National Imams Council, Sheikh Shady advises governments on key Islamic issues. He has been placed on an Islamic State hit list calling for his murder.
“I was shocked”: Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman was refused entry into New Zealand.
He was due to fly to Christchurch on Monday to assist Islamic communities as they prepare for the grim task of burying the 50 victims of Friday’s mass shooting.
However, Sheikh Shady said he was instructed by New Zealand authorities not to go to the airport as he would not be permitted to travel without a special visa.
“I was shocked. It’s sad to see something like this happen, especially during this time of challenges and difficulties,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Sheikh Shady said he raised the issue with Australian government officials within the Home Affairs department, and was granted a special visa within 24 hours on Tuesday.
In 2016, Sheikh Shady was widely condemned for his views on homosexuality after video surfaced in which he said homosexuality was responsible for “spreading all these diseases”.
It was in the immediate aftermath of the sheikh attending an Iftar dinner with at Kirribilli House as a guest of then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull denounced the views as “unacceptable”.
A law introduced by Denmark in April last year banned certain preachers, including Sheikh Shady, from entering the country. Denmark also banned women wearing the burqa in public.
Immigration New Zealand confirmed Sheikh Shady was refused entry to the country due to a ban placed on him by Denmark last year.
“[INZ] can confirm that Mr Alsuleiman was advised that he was unable to travel to New Zealand visa free as a result of being excluded from Denmark,” said national border manager Stephanie Greathead.
“Because of the exclusion he required what’s known as a special direction enabling a visa to be granted. Taking into account all the circumstances Mr Alsuleiman has now been granted the special direction and a one month visitor visa.”
Greathead said she was unable to comment further for legal and privacy reasons.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to comment. Imams Council spokesman Bilal Rauf said any pressure on New Zealand from Australian officials came through the department and not Morrison or Immigration Minister David Coleman.
“We don’t understand the reasons why he has been placed on the list,” he said. “That’s something that Sheikh Shady will inquire into and seek to address.”
The sheikh now plans to travel to New Zealand on Wednesday. He said he was “not going to make any assumptions” about why he had been placed on the no-fly list.
“It’s unfortunate to see that sometimes … screening matters are not getting correctly done,” he said.