Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

'Insensitive and disturbing': Backlash at competition to visit grieving Christchurch families

Khaled Beydoun posted the chance to win a trip to the New Zealand town reeling from the March 15 massacre

The post was the subject of dozens of negative comments.
The post was the subject of dozens of negative comments.

An academic has withdrawn an online competition to win a free trip to Christchurch after the terrorist mosque shootings, following an overwhelming backlash.

In the 10 hours the competition was live, it attracted a deluge of negative comments, calling it offensive and disgusting.

The daughter of a man who died in the attacks railed against the competition, saying it was akin to observing "animals in a zoo".

Fifty people were killed when a terrorist opened fire in two mosques in New Zealand's Christchurch on March 15.

The man charged with the attacks will face 50 murder charges when he appears for the second time in court on Friday.

Lawyer and public speaker Khaled Beydoun posted the competition on his personal Instagram page.

It offered a free trip to New Zealand with Mr Beydoun as one of 10 giveaways to celebrate the popular Muslims of the World Instagram page reaching 300,000 followers.

The page has been praised as being a voice for the international Muslim community.

Mr Beydoun wrote that the trip was "from my family", and that the winner would be accompanied by him and two others.

They were Prof Suhaib Webb of New York University, and Sajjad Shah, founder of the Muslims of the World Instagram page and author of a book of the same name.

Mr Beydoun wrote in the comments: "We'll be doing work with the community inshallah", and "Check out the @muslimsoftheworld1 page for more info".

Khaled Beydoun describes himself as an academic and author on his personal website. Submitted photo to Rice University
Khaled Beydoun describes himself as an academic and author on his personal website. Submitted photo to Rice University

'This is disgusting... my Dad died in that mosque'

Maha Elmadani, daughter of Ali Mah'd Elmadani, 66, who was originally from the UAE, voiced her outrage early.

Ms Elmadani wrote on Muslims of the World's original post that they were "not welcome to come and look at us like some animals in a zoo".

"This is actually disgusting," she wrote. "You guys are turning this horrific massacre into some excuse to vacation in NZ and you're doing it on the backs of the victims that died.

"My Dad died in that mosque and so did 49 of the most beautiful souls that walked this Earth.

"You've constantly provided false information on the victims and despite numerous requests for you to correct or remove that info, you continue to make this about yourself while disregarding the families and victims."

Comments online condemn the post as 'a selfish voyeuristic tour of Christchurch'

Mr Beydoun, who lives in the US city of Detroit, has been vocal in the weeks since the massacre.

He shared dozens of photos and stories of the victims across his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles, and encouraged others to do the same, to preserve their legacy.

Mr Beydoun has 113,000 followers on Instagram and 108,000 on Twitter.

Screenshots circulating show that the competition was also posted on the Muslims of the World page, but has since been taken down.

More than 150 people condemned the post before it disappeared from Mr Beydoun's page.

"Do people not see how insensitive this is? A free trip to NZ?" one user wrote. "To gawk at the survivors and the families of the victims for our own pleasure and experiences?

"How can you be so tone deaf unless your entire activism is centred on feeding your own ego?"

Another said: "This is so disturbing I actually thought this was a joke.

"I really rate the good work you do with your platforms and the integrity you've demonstrated in the past. However, you've made a huge error in judgment with this post.

"The prize is literally a selfish, voyeuristic tour of Christchurch, the crime scene and an intrusion of disconnected people attempting to engage victim's families without invitation."

While the competition was live, The National contacted Mr Beydoun for comment, but it was taken down shortly after. He has not yet responded.

Mr Beydoun has been in hot water over Christchurch before

It's not the first time Mr Beydoun has courted controversy over the Christchurch terrorist attacks.

In the days immediately after March 15, Mr Beydoun tweeted snippets of stories of the victims.

But members of the New Zealand media accused him of lifting content and pictures they had written without attribution.

He did not respond to the claims.

Not all have been critical. One user said he had "made sure the world doesn't forget the names and the stories of the martyrs from NZ".

Who is Khaled Beydoun?

Mr Beydoun's website describes him as a "leading scholar on Islamophobia, national security and anti-terrorism law, and civil liberties".

He is an associate professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy, and is also involved with the University of California-Berkeley's Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project.

Mr Beydoun says he is also an active public intellectual and speaker, lecturing across the country and being "featured on top media outlets".

Updated: April 5, 2019 01:02 AM

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