A Muslim prayer too far?

My first reaction to this was ‘too far’ for sure, but as I thought it through doubts arose.

I think that Muslim prayers were entirely appropriate after the Christchurch mosque massacres. They were often alongside Christian prayers and prayers from other religions in a coming together in common purposes of grief and condemnation.

But is including a Muslim prayer at Anzac Day taking it too far?

Possibly – but it should be remembered that the British attack at Gallipoli that New Zealand took part in was against Muslims and a Muslim country.

New Zealanders are allowed to go and commemorate Anzac Day in Turkey at events organised by Turkey, a largely Muslim country, alongside New Zealanders and Australians.

If Turkish representatives came to Anzac services in New Zealand would they be banned from any Muslim prayers?

NZ Herald:  Muslim prayer at Anzac Day service upsets RSA veterans

That headline is misleading – there have been mixed reactions from RSA veterans.

A decision to invite a Muslim cleric to say a prayer at an Anzac Day service has sparked an anguished backlash from veterans.

The Returned and Services Association (RSA) branch at Titahi Bay near Wellington has moved the Muslim prayer from its 6am dawn service to its 10am civic ceremony after some veterans said the dawn service should remember only NZ and Australian soldiers who have died in wars.

The backlash has exposed sensitive emotions around a sacred day in the New Zealand calendar as the nation struggles to become more “inclusive” after 50 Muslims were shot dead in the Christchurch mosque massacre.

Vietnam veteran Dave Brown, a former manager of the nearby Porirua RSA, emailed the Titahi Bay branch protesting against its initial decision to invite Newlands Mosque imam Mohamed Zewada to say a prayer at its dawn service on Titahi Bay Beach.

“What took place in Christchurch was shocking and we all agree that it was completely out of order in every way,” Brown said.

“I believe that the appropriate measures have been taken to recognise that and to show the Muslim community that they are part of us and we are part of them.

“Anzac Day came about to recognise all those who went overseas and served their country and returned, and those who never returned. That is the significance and the only justification for Anzac Day, and I feel it should stay that way.”

Anzac Day in New Zealand has certainly focussed on New Zealanders who served in the word wars, and especially those who died serving their country.

But there is also significant New Zealand participation in commemorations in Gallipoli. Are Muslim prayers allowed there? Are Christian prayers allowed?

This event at Gallipoli is organised jointly by the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish governments

Simon Strombom, a veteran of the more recent Afghanistan war and organiser of the Titahi Bay service, said he was shocked at some comments on the club’s Facebook page after he announced that the Muslim community “will conclude the ceremony this year with a prayer from the Koran”.

Anzac Day has widened to include more recent New Zealand military involvement in wars, like Vietnam and Afghanistan (another Muslim country).

Brendon Walton from New Plymouth posted: “The Titahi Bay Club, well, you’re completely disrespecting New Zealand culture on a day that is uniquely shared between us and Australia.”

Peter Downie, a veteran of the Malaya war who now lives in Cambridge, posted to another RSA site saying: “Dawn service is to honour the Anzacs. Anything else can be done at civic services.”

Malaysia is another Muslim country.

Strombom said he deleted some other comments.

“I did get some quite aggressive hate mail and emails to the website,” he said.

“That disappointed me because I think NZ soldiers, particularly in operations, have always been very adaptive and very culturally sensitive.”

As a major in Afghanistan, Strombom was in command of several Muslim soldiers and he noted that more people died in a few minutes in Christchurch than all 37 Kiwis who died in the Vietnam War.

“What is the difference between that and an IRA bomb that kills a soldier?” he asked.

“The world has changed, but when you start drawing lines and saying these are the good guys and these are the bad guys, we get the problems we had in Christchurch.”

Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson…

…said a Navy padre would say a prayer at the dawn service in front of the War Memorial Museum which is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. He said Anzac Day was separate from remembering the Christchurch mosque victims.

“We shouldn’t mix the two events,” he said.

“We have traditionally been a Christian country in terms of our services and that type of thing. Obviously we are a multicultural country now so it’s up to individual RSAs, but they are two separate events.”

Wellington RSA president Theo Kuper…

…said the NZ Defence Force traditionally provided a military chaplain for the Wellington dawn service which Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy is expected to attend.

“I don’t think the NZ Defence Force has a Muslim imam,” he said.

RSA national president B J Clark…

…said in a message to his national executive that there had been many events to remember the mosque victims and “there should be no intention or need to make our Anzac services another one of these”.

“However, given the proximity of these events to Anzac Day 2019 and the significant impact this has had throughout our country, it may seem appropriate to local organisers to acknowledge these during this years Anzac Day ceremonies,” he said.

“Our communities are diverse and Anzac Day organisers have always tailored ceremonies to match their community and their local history. This year is no different.

“In your town and city, you are the stewards of Anzac remembrance, we trust you to make this call and as always, believe you will do so in the respect and spirit of our Anzac tradition.”

New Zealand casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 2,779 died
  • 5,212 wounded

Australian casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 8,709 died
  • 19,441 wounded

Ottoman casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 86,692 died
  • 164,617 wounded

Many Anzac soldiers at Gallipoli will have been Christian.

Many Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli will have been Muslim.

Aren’t prayers appropriate for all of them?

The Anzac tradition has changed over the years. Is including a Muslim prayer at one event a change to far?

Leave a comment

28 Comments

  1. David

     /  4th April 2019

    I dont think a Muslim prayer should be used because of Christchurch but given the combatants in this war a Muslim prayer is totally appropriate at this event.
    More realistically NO prayers at all because I doubt any benevolent deity you may believe in would endorse the wasteful loss of life. It wasnt a religious war.

    Reply
  2. Ray

     /  4th April 2019

    I don’t have any feelings either way on a Muslim prayer at the Dawn service, though I note a lot of Muslims were to die at Gallipoli, what pisses me off is that for some reason at our local service we end by singing “God save the Queen”.
    Ok it is one of our national anthem but seeing as the whole WW1 was triggered by squabbling by various of members of the Queen’s family, not appropriate.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th April 2019

      Various members of the Queens family ?
      Where do you learn your history. Germany had long had military conflicts with France (had no monarchy then ) and Russia .
      and it wasnt a family squabble between the Windsors ( as they quickly became) Romanovs and Hohenzollerns. Britain only joined because of invasion of Belgium ( related family royals) as a causus belli – but couldnt let Germany prevail over France either.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th April 2019

        Britain was committed to protecting Belgium, but not because of a not very close relationship with the Belgian royal family. It was far more complex than that.

        Reply
  3. FarmerPete

     /  4th April 2019

    Virtue signalling taken too far. Why don’t we invite representatives of other previously hostile nations as well. This is about Aust/NZ soldiers who fell and those who returned. Not about anything else.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  4th April 2019

      No, it’s about commemorating our soldiers – mostly conscripts but some volunteers I imagine – who died, for sure, but I always think of the other side’s soldiers as well. Who were fighting the invaders on their home soil. And whose descendants & leaders have been generous in their forgiveness & respect for our war dead.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th April 2019

      “Why don’t we invite representatives of other previously hostile nations as well. ”

      They do . Anzac day here includes representatives of Turkey and the military commemorations at say Crete, North Africa, Casino etc wouldn’t hesitate to include Germany and Italy.
      Major commemorations for WW1 in Europe usually included Germany, as of course its to remember the loss of life, not the political motives of the time – although glossing over Germanys WW1 culpability in TV etc is now common.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th April 2019

        Buggered if I’d include Germans who deserved all they got, but one Turkish politician said something about the ANZACs and Turks being brothers (or something like that)

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  4th April 2019

          Its not about you Kitty .
          Its the veterans themselves at those commemorations who welcome their former enemies.
          You would never understand that

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  4th April 2019

            Please don’t tell me what I understand and don’t understand. You don’t know me. You and Corky both have the extremely arrogant habit of putting words into people’s mouths.

            Have you any idea what the Germans did in both wars and the Holocaust ?

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  4th April 2019

              Crete. Alamein Cassino Gallipoli Western Front

              If you don’t like the heat stay out of the kitchen

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  4th April 2019

              Please don’t take it upon yourself to tell me what to do. This is not your blog.

              I have no idea why you find it necessary to be a troll, but it’s very tiresome and rude on your part.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  4th April 2019

            Where were these former enemies welcomed ? Name five places.

            Reply
            • Kitty Catkin

               /  4th April 2019

              I doubt if the RSA or British Legion hold ceremonies on the Western Front, in Crete, Alamein or Cassino. I may be wrong, but it seems unlikely.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  4th April 2019

              They certainly seem unaware of this. I don’t know what you’re thinking of.

              I asked where the Germans were welcomed at commemoration ceremonies, not where fighting took place.

  4. Corky

     /  4th April 2019

    No. It’s about setting boundaries. Somethings should just be for us..likewise for Muslims.

    Having said that – have we apologised for waging war in their country?

    Less grovelling and something more substantial may be the order of the day?

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th April 2019

      They forgave us !

      Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” Ataturk 1934

      Although there is some doubt it was a ‘speech’ but its on the memorials the Turks built

      https://www.theguardian.com/news/2015/apr/20/ataturks-johnnies-and-mehmets-words-about-the-anzacs-are-shrouded-in-doubt

      Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  4th April 2019

    Not for us non-members to comment but a good thing for members to discuss.

    Reply
  6. The Consultant

     /  4th April 2019

    More grovelling, guilt and shaming. You want a “prayer” from the Turkish side? Something that will bring people together? Something that I’ve often observed brings up great emotions on ANZAC day?

    Then pick this, from one we fought against and who then spent decades trying to make Turkey as secular a nation as he could, something betrayed by Erdogan’s Islamist approach in recent years:

    “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

    Kemal Ataturk, 1934.

    Reply
  7. Patzcuaro

     /  4th April 2019

    I think it would be a good idea to involve Muslims in our ANZAC commendations as our dead lie in their soil and they graciously allow us to hold services at Gallipoli each year. I assume that the Turkish ambassador attends the main ANZAC service in Wellington.

    Reply
  8. harryk

     /  4th April 2019

    ‘it should be remembered that the British attack at Gallipoli that New Zealand took part in was against Muslims and a Muslim country’

    Wrong there mod. In 1915 we’re still talking about the Ottoman empire not the modern nation state of Turkey. There were significant non Muslim minorities in both the empire and Ottoman Turkey. Turkey 2019 has a large Muslim majority – in 1914 the Muslim population was around 60% with Greek and Armenian Christians accounting for most of the rest. Christians also fought in the Ottoman army at Gallipoli. Then came the genocides.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottoman_casualties_of_World_War_I

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  4th April 2019

      That’s hair splitting. Ottoman Empire was commonly called Turkish Empire. In Turkey and other countries it’s usually referred to Ottoman Empire now to differentiate the larger empire from the Modern Turkish state.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  4th April 2019

        It doesn’t seem to been called the Turkish Empire by anyone but you.

        Reply
      • harryk

         /  4th April 2019

        ‘That’s hair splitting’

        Ain’t. Details are important for historians.

        ‘when the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, they were part of an Anglo-French invasion of the Ottoman Empire, not Turkey. The republic of Turkey was not established until 1923. Like the British and French imperial forces, the Ottoman Army reflected the multi-ethnic make up of the Ottoman Empire. While most of the officers were ethnic Turks, the army included large numbers of Arabs, Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, Circassians and Jews.’ [Vicken Babkenian. Gallipoli’s inconvenient ‘other side’]

        The mod also labels Malaysia a ‘Muslim country.’ It is not. The Constitution is contradictory on the one hand declaring Malaysia to be a secular state with freedom of religion, on the other declaring Islam the National religion. The status quo is being challenged and the outcome undecided, the basis of contemporary tensions. Should Islamists win, secession movements would revive. Likewise Indonesia is often mistakenly labelled a Muslim nation. Muslim majority yes, but a secular State.

        Reply
  9. sarineal

     /  4th April 2019

    No to the prayer. ANZAC commemorations are not about the terrorist attack and every one I’ve been too acknowledges the Turks (or Ottoman empire as it was then) and their sacrifices as well as part of ceremonies. It commemorates a defeat and the waste of lives involved in that which is unusual, usually it’s victories that are celebrated.

    It does not need to be converted to a religious ceremony nor include any or all groups that have suffered. Many of victims of these attacks were Bangladeshi or from Indonesia, Malaysia and other areas, yes, they were all Muslim but comprise a range of nationalities beyond that and more respect would be given to them by having ceremonies or events which directly address the loss of their lives, ruthlessly by a criminal terrorist.

    I am very dubious about the claims of abuse as these would be known people merely objecting to making the ceremony about other events and don’t think ANZAC day should be co-opted to make a political point, by nature it is exclusively for memorialising our fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made.

    Reply
  10. Alison Cleverly

     /  5th April 2019

    Let Muslims pray at Muslim events not our events

    Reply
  1. A Muslim prayer too far? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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