New Zealand Prime Minister criticized for attending Hindu meet


Auckland : New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark has been criticized for attending a conference organised by the Hindu Council of New Zealand in Auckland last week. The group is alleged to have strong anti-Muslim views and links with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu radical outfit.

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Sapna Samant, a filmmaker who attended the conference, claimed Muslims were condemned during the event, which was opened by Prime Minister Helen Clark. She questioned how Clark could have been involved in such an event, reported.

The theme of the conference was 'contribution of Hindu community to the national life of New Zealand'. Guna Magesan, general secretary of the Hindu Council of New Zealand and a senior scientist with a New Zealand government research organisation, presented the keynote address.

In his presentation Magesan highlighted the fact that based on the New Zealand census 2006, the Hindu community is the second largest faith based community in New Zealand and it grew by 62 percent in the last 5 years.

Samant said she did not have an argument with Hindus but claimed that the tone and backing of the conference implied that other Indians were not Indians at all.

She said she missed the prime minister's speech but was told she had used the word Indian only once, calling the organisers and delegates Hindu rest of the time.

The projection of a single Hindu Indian identity in New Zealand was harmful to the community here, she said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the prime minister said she attended a number of ethnic and faith community functions weekly.

"She expresses no preference or endorsements of any faith, but always brings a message of the need for understanding, tolerance, and inclusion."

The spokesperson noted that Member of Parliament Ashraf Choudhary, who is a Muslim, accompanied the prime minister to the Hindu conference.

The Hindu Council of New Zealand denied that they were anti Muslims. "We are morally linked to the VHP but not physically linked," Hindu Council of New Zealand head Vinod Kumar said.

"My best friends are Muslims," he added.