Wellington, April 4, 2019
The Federation of Islamic Associations in New Zealand (FIANZ) will hold a global conference of leaders from the Muslim world in the wake of the Christchurch attacks.
It has released a status report, which examines the response to the March 15, 2019 terror attack, and lays out the Plan going forward.
The Plan includes holding an international conference, with officials and leaders from all Muslim countries.
New Plan, New Policy
FIANZ President Mustafa Farouk said he hoped to work with the Government to bring leaders together in August.
The Organisation believes that there should be a global policy, and response, to the issues facing faith-based communities.
New Zealand’s position of unity, the Prime Minister’s reaction, and the way all communities came together to work through the tragedy and promote communication and acceptance of other cultures and beliefs should be adopted as a global policy blueprint, Mr Farouk said.
The Conference would highlight how people from different cultures could come together to ensure common values prevailed.
FIANZ had already been in contact with global Islamic organisation, ‘Muslim World League,’ and other European organisations.
The Conference needed to be done the New Zealand way, where Tangata Whenua and the Government was also represented, he said.
FIANZ had begun planning a conference ahead of the Christchurch attacks, and March 15 made it more pertinent.
Winston Peters’ assurance
Foreign Minister Winston Peters attended the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Turkey last month, following the attacks.
“Today, tomorrow and into the future, let us continue to stand together in stamping out the hate-filled ideologies that led to last Friday’s terrible tragedy,” he said to the delegation, including Foreign Ministers from Islamic countries.
“Out of despair, let us work with a renewed vigour to spread tolerance, compassion and understanding.”
Security of delegates
FIANZ and the Government are yet to meet to discuss plans going forward. There would also need to be consideration regarding security and safety for those travelling to New Zealand, with the country expected to remain on high security alert for the near future.
Ardern said the community had her “moral support” in holding an event to work on global policies and best practices.
“If the community wishes to instigate and play a role and take some international leadership, they are free to do so, and they have my moral support.”
Protection of faith-based groups
Last week, Mr Farouk wrote to the Prime Minister thanking her for her “bold, resolute and compassionate leadership.”
The National Remembrance Services held on March 29, 2019 marked the end of public grieving “but will not erase the stain of the darkest day,” he said in the letter to Jacinda Ardern.
“No one would like to see a repeat of the events of March 15, 2019, and we all must do what is required to ensure that this is so…
“If we want to truly put such tragedies behind us, we need to begin a sustained and candid conversation across all levels and all strata, in private sector and in government on ways we clean this beautiful country of the attitudes and perceptions that lethally manifested itself on March 15, 2019.”
Law on hate speech
Mr Farouk that said FIANZ looked to Ardern for her leadership in initiating the conversation, and was ready to be part of discussions “and achieve this common objective.”
The next stage would be a revision of the laws governing hate speech and hate crime.
Crimes Act review
Justice Minister Andrew Little has said he is prioritising the review of the Crimes Act, the Human Rights Act, and the harmful Digital Communications Act as they related to hate speech and hate crimes.
Currently, there is offence in the Crimes Act specific to hate crime – a crime motivated by hate for a specific groups based on a unique characteristic is noted in a file and brought up as an aggravating factor.
Meanwhile, hate speech applies to inciting racial disharmony, but does not cover inciting discrimination on religious grounds.
The Human Rights Commission has called for a change to these laws for a long time, with new Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt picking up the mantle.
Mr Farouk said changing the law wasn’t about just protecting Muslims, it was about stopping discrimination of anyone from any faith-based group, who were often of different ethnicities.
“We don’t want to muzzle anybody from having their freedom of speech.”
People should be free to say whatever they want, as long as that did not result in someone being hurt, or their property being damaged or stolen, he said.
FIANZ had briefly raised the issue with government representatives, including Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa in the fortnight following Christchurch.
A good debate on the issue was important, but it did not need to be protracted.
Mr Farouk said he believed the solution was quite straightforward.
Laura Walters is a Senior Political Reporter at Newsroom based in Wellington. She covers Justice, Education And Immigration. The above Report and Pictures have been published under a Special Arrangement with Newsroom.