Afghanistan war veteran and organiser of the Titahi Bay RSA service, Simon Strombom, spoke with Brendan Telfer on Magic Afternoons on Monday that after proposing the idea to have a Muslim cleric pray at the 10am Anzac Day civic service, he received a number of threats and has decided scrap the idea due to security concerns.
Right away Brendan wanted to ask why had Simon made the decision to cancel the Muslim prayer reading following the backlash. Simon explained that the committee made a decision to first move the prayer to the civic service later in the morning which he agreed was more appropriate.
Although, after speaking with the authoriteis the decision was made to cancel it outright. "After the backlash we have had and having spoke with the authroities we have decided to cancel it" he said.
Simon also explained why he wanted to include the prayer to begin with and what it meant to him as an Afghanistan veteran that spent time defending Muslim communities. Simon went on to explain some of the threats he had received.
A lot of it was directed at myself and I don't have a problem with that because I am a returned servicemen and I stand by what I think
He went on to tell Brendan "I think a lot of these people making these comments have probably not ever been to a Muslim country or even spoken to the Muslim community." On why he wanted to include a Muslim prayer he told Brendan "I think our message was one of conciliation which is the theme of the day."
Part of the backlash Simon received he says was spurned by "the Australian Senator, who epitomises the middle aged bigoted male that perpetuates this stuff, his inflammatory post caused a lot of Australians to contact the RSA, so about 50 percent of the comments were from Australia."
Ultimately the decision to cancel the reading comes from having been "worried about the safety of people on the day." Threats made to Simon meant that the presence of armed guards would be necessary if they proceeded.
It's a sad day when you need armed police on Anzac Day
Speaking of the good work that the RSA is doing in remembrance Simon believes they are "leading the way with the war graves restoration project, restoring war graves around the country and at the RSA we got a good perception on what remembrance
Brendan then asked Simon if all the praise that New Zealand has received in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack has been deserved considering the backlash in trying to include a Muslim prayer.
I think there is a real element of New Zealand and Australian society that is filled with hate
Simon went on to say, "but there seems to be a divide; it was an us and them, and I struggle with that, those thems served with me; who is them? There is the risk that if you start drawing a line then we're on a very slippery slope."
Brendan agreed and drew upon his own past to ask of those that sent the threats "If you're gonna take selective texts you could do the same for our bible, having read it a few times being the product of a staunch Catholic family I seem to recall that not everything from the bible is all goodness and light either."
Selective morality is at work here and clearly what Simon Strombom was trying to achieve was to incorporate the Muslim community into this very special day in our nations history.