A 44-year-old man from Whangarei has been served with a trespass notice by New Zealand Police for acting suspiciously at a mosque and an Islamic centre in central Auckland region.
This incident was in line with a few other suspicious activities noted at different Islamic centres in New Zealand in the previous months.
The incident is said to have occurred on Friday, October 2 under Covid Alert Level 2 restrictions when a man carrying a bag visited the Islamic centre complex and entered fake name, contact and incorrect time in the Covid tracer sheet of the centre.
He was attended by one of the mosque members who greeted and asked him how he could be helped when he presented a strange story to the centre attendee.
Suspicion arose when the mosque member noted the incorrect time of visit mentioned on the Covid tracer sheet.
“The individual presented a strange story, saying he was a convert and became aggressive and argumentative,” Abdul Latif, FIANZ Security Director told The Indian Weekender.
Later the same day, the man went to a mosque on the same road approximately half a kilometre away from where he was attended by a member of the Mosque and on being spoken to, presented another strange story.
The man visited in the afternoon time, just after the Friday mass congregational prayers were held.
“Again, at the mosque, the man speaking agitatedly, and became dismissive of any questions posed to him or being asked his purpose of visiting the mosque,” Mr Latif added.
Due to his suspicious behaviour at the mosque, he was asked what he was carrying in his bag, which he refused to answer or get checked by the mosque member.
The attendee was soon approached by two other members of the Mosque greeting him in Arabic ‘Assalam Alaikum’ that translates to ‘peace be upon you’ to which the visitor became further enraged and started arguing on the greeting saying the mosque members are trying to get rid of him.
The man hastily left the premises and the police were called to the mosque.
Upon narrating the whole incident to the police, both at the Islamic Centre and the Mosque- police were able to identify the man, questioned his purpose of visit at the mosque and served a trespass notice from visiting the premises in the future.
“Police has identified and located the man who visited the mosque. He has subsequently been trespassed from the premises.
“We thank the member of our community who brought this to police’s attention. We encourage anyone who witnesses suspicious activity to report this to police,” a police spokesperson investigating the incident told The Indian Weekender.
The Indian Weekender is aware of the place of incident and name of the person given trespass notice but chooses not to publish them due to privacy and security concerns.
FIANZ Security Director Abdul Lateef said it is important for members of the community to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activities around mosques or religious places.
“My advisory was designed to ensure vigilance on arrival and departing the Masjid, questioning anyone whom people are unfamiliar with (before they get inside the Masjid) and about calling 111 if there is a serious concern,” Abdul Lateef said.
Mr Lateef further added that two days prior to the Auckland incident, an individual was seen at the same mosque car park trying car windows and mosque authorities were alerted, but the person was able to evade before being apprehended.
He added that it is not sure if the two incidents were related, but the community members have to remain alert and report any suspicious activities in or around mosques.
Mr Lateef also said that there had been a few mental health-related incidents at some mosques around New Zealand.
A person was apprehended and handed over to the police from a mosque in Manawatu earlier last month as he visited the centre and created an aggravated situation amongst mosque members and visitors.
He was later found to have mental health issues and had checked himself out from a psychiatric ward of a hospital in the region. He was handed to the police for his and public safety.
Since this incident has happened, FIANZ through its Security Advisory wing has conveyed a message across all mosques and Islamic centres through different mediums to remain alert of any suspicious activities or visits by unknown persons at mosques or mosque premises in New Zealand.