Q+A – free speech or hate speech?

Stephen Franks: New Zealanders don’t have to welcome, we didn’t have any desire to welcome, we just wanted people to be allowed to make up their own decision as to who heard, not have politicians make it for them. I think that countries where politicians decide who you can hear and who you can’t, who you can question and challenge…Phil Goff said repeatedly that he had the power to do it, and a whole lot of people jumped in behind him.

We’ve had holocaust deniers, we’ve had scientologists, we’ve had a lot of very very unpleasant people speaking, and we should be able to see them and decide yes that’s unpleasant.

Stacey Morrison: It’s not unpleasant speech, it’s hate speech. Do you not admit it’s hate speech?

Stephen Franks: there’s no difference. Hate speech is just a way for people to try and say ‘I don’t believe in free speech, but i can’t say that, so I’ll call something hate speech – and that’s not free. That’s all it is.

Anjum Rahman: That is absolute nonsense. there’s a lot of research that’s been done on hate speech, and what it does, hate speech, it silences it’s victims, it causes them to withdraw because of fear, it causes them to move from their jobs, leave neighbourhoods…

Corrin Dann: Let’s be clear about the bit that you’re arguing is hate speech, we’re talking about they argue on the IQ thing, on the racial superiority.

Anjum Rahman: It’s not just that. They argue that, for example, their comments around aboriginal culture and that white people have done more in two hundred and fifty six years than aborigines did in forty thousand years and therefore it was a good thing you took the land away.

Stacey Morrison: We need to look at that in the context of this country, and in terms of our bi-cultural framework for our country, and therefore if they’re talking about multiculturalism as a danger and trying to make people feel threatened so that they fight back, that’s when you incite hate.

So telling people that they are threatened is where it becomes dangerous, whereas it’s not true in terms of whether they face danger.

Stephen Franks: I am threatened, I am threatened when Amjun and the Islamic Federation says we don’t want someone coming here who doesn’t like Islam.

Anjum Rahman: I didn’t mention Islam, I’m talking about people, no I did not, I’m talking about the fact that what these people do…what I am saying to you, these acts of hate speech have an impact on people’s daily lives, and what I’m saying to you is whenwould you draw the line? When there are people with tiki torches on the street, and driving cars into people, and killing them, would you stop the line when we start wearing yellow stars, would you stop it when they’re on cattle trains…

Bryce Edwards: We can clearly see that we’ve got this looming culture war, and it’s happening on this panel…it’s actually happening throughout the globe at the moment…it’s an escalation of new debates, and we’re seeing over the last five years that there’s been this rise of radicalism, and we’re seeing it with these Canadian duo, it’s a reactionary version of it.

We’re seeing it on the left, we’re seeing it amongst gender politics, ethnicity politics, it’s happening everywhere.

Corrin Dann: Is New Zealand hostile to that free speech?

Bryce Edwards: I think everywhere’s having to deal with these radical views, especially when they’re pushing the boundaries, to find a way of dealing with it. At the moment the way of dealing with it is to try and ban it, and there will be consequences if we go down that route. I mean it is a logical way to do it, but it means that I think other groups, marginalised groups, suppressed groups will end uip being banned as well.

Stacey Morrison: You don’t need a stage to have a platform, and what they’ve done is performed an excellent PR opportunity. We’ve been talking about people that I didn’t know about a month ago, and therefore in terms of their free speech, that is welcomed on other platforms, you don’t need to be at a particularly privately owned venue like the Powerstation.

Stephen Franks: The question though about rights of assembly and association is that you actually do, because you’re getting a filtered message through almost all media. People actually want to go and say, can I look at, what sort of body language do I see, they want to hear other people’s questions in the meeting. I didn’t want to go and hear them because our researchers said some of it’s quite offensive, it’s set out to be agent provocateur,

Corrin Dann: They don’t have filters on a Youtube channel, you can go and watch half an hour lectures if you really really want…

Stephen Franks: It’s structured the way he wants it. The thing about meetings is that they’re not structured. They’ll get questions and challenges…

Anjum Rahman: Did you see the rules of those…

Stephen Franks: …at a meeting you actually get a chance to make up your mind directly, you see body language, but more importantly you see the other people at the meeting, and you make up your mind how are they feeling…

Corrin Dann: And you think the people going to that meeting were there to be open minded about what was going to be said?

Stephen Franks: As I said, we’re there for the right to do it. I don’t actually care about that meeting. It doesn’t worry me that it was stopped except that it’s a trend that changes our society dramatically. I didn’t like Phil Goff saying…

Anjum Rahman: I just want to go back to what Bryce was saying. This is not new. It happened in the 1930s and 1940s in Germany, it’d happening in Myanmar with that Royhingyas, it happened in Rawanda, it’s happened all around the world and it’s happening all the time. And what the research on hate speech shows is that acts of racist violence are preceded by vilification in speech.

That we create the atmosphere that makes violence acceptable, because victims of that speech are so vilified that people then act it out. And that’s what I’m saying, if you were living in the 1930s at what point would you have said ‘right we have to stop this’. We can’t have this language that’s going to end up at this place.

Bryce Edwards: There are all these offensive things that are being said, and I think you’re right, it’s increasing, but it’s a question of how do you deal with it. Do you suppress it? And does that work? I think we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks it doesn’t work. It’s had the counter effect, that we’ve had more…

Anjum Rahman: I disagree with you, I think it’s really worked. If there had been no protests…I’ve been to a speech like this that was real vilification, I’ve sat through it, there was ov er a hundred people in the room, there was no question and answer session, there were strict rules to their meeting, and there would not have been a debate…

Stacey Morrison: In terms of free speech, whose freedom of speech do we always protect, and in terms of say for instance Taika Waititi as a Maori man saying that New Zealand is racist, no one responded in terms of  that was his freedom of speech to express his opinion, it was more about how dare he say that.

So in these experiences it is important that we look at what we think about this, where we stand, and what we support and at what point we define this as hate speech.



Does NZ need better Muslim ‘assimilation’ processes?

A vocal critic of Islam has said that New Zealand needs Muslim assimilation centres, processes and policies.

Newstalk ZB: No need for ‘assimilation centres’, says Islamic Women’s Council

One of the world’s most prominent critics of Islam, Dutch-American activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, made the suggestion during an interview with Newstalk ZB yesterday.

“Before you get people in from Muslim countries, whether through the [refugee] resettlement process or through some other immigration process, you must have assimilation programmes in place,” she said.

“If free societies don’t do that, if they don’t have those assimilation policies in place, then they shouldn’t bring in people because they are only asking for instability.”

How much does she know about New Zealand? We don’t have instability here. We also don’t have assimilation processes for any other religious or ethnic groups.

However Islamic Women’s Council spokeswoman Anjum Rahman said migrants already fit on to New Zealand well.

She said New Zealand has good systems in place, and volunteers also work behind the scenes to help new migrants settle in.

“Perhaps you should visit the refugee centre in Mangere and see the programmes that are already in place in New Zealand.”

I don’t know if Ali has been to New Zealand. Stuff reports that she is due to visit next month: Controversial author Ayaan Hirsi Ali says New Zealand shouldn’t feel immune from the extremes of ‘radical Islam’

No country is immune from the extremes of radical anything.

Dr Zain Ali of Auckland University’s Islamic Studies Research Unit told the NZ Herald most NZ Muslims were either:

  • NZ-born (26 per cent)
  • or came from the Indian subcontinent (27 per cent)
  • or Fiji and other Pacific islands (21 per cent),

so they were already used to living in non-Muslim-majority countries and did not need “assimilation centres”.

That’s 74% either born here or from non-Muslim majority countries.

He suggested that schools should teach all students about “civics” including New Zealand history, culture and values.

Some Kiwi adults might also benefit from learning more about New Zealand history, culture and values.

New Zealand has a history of welcoming a diverse range of visitors and immigrants.

I wouldn’t like it for myself so I would baulk and trying to force ‘assimilation’ into Remuera culture, or Westie culture, or Otara culture, or East Coast culture, or any of the cultural variations we have here.

Anjum Rahman on ‘jihadi brides’

Anjum Rahman from the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand was interviewed on The Nation about the ‘Jihadi brides’ issue. She spoke very well and provides a worthwhile perspective.


(It’s worth noting that Anjum Rahman is dressed differently to how I’d ever dress. So is Lisa Owen. Both sounded much like many Kiwis.)

Lisa Owen: At the time that this story broke, what impact did it have on the Muslim community?

Anjum Rahman: Well, it put a spotlight on the community, and a negative spotlight. The way that this was reported – media reports – certainly I’ve seen one article from Radio New Zealand that specifically said ‘Minister Finlayson has said women leaving from New Zealand’.

So that was that assumption in the public arena, which immediately placed suspicion on the women in our community and our community in general.

It put the spotlight on our community, how this plays out in terms of talkback radio, social media as well as real –life experiences for kids at school, for women, you know, going out in public. It causes damage; it really does.

Lisa Owen: So what do you make of this new information that the Prime Minister knew six months prior to making these statements, that none of these women have left from New Zealand?

Anjum Rahman:: I think it’s upsetting to not have had that information in the public sphere because we work really hard with our community.

Our organisation has a lot of events, and we put effort, especially into our young people, to build up this Kiwi-Muslim identity. And we had a big national youth camp for young Muslim women in December last year, and we’re putting a lot of effort into this, and we need that effort to be recognised; we need some engagement to be happening.

We’re as concerned about security as anybody else. We’re also New Zealand citizens, and our Prime Minister is also responsible for us and our safety.

Lisa Owen: Why do you think he didn’t correct that misperception?

Anjum Rahman: I can’t read what was in the Prime Minister’s mind. All I can say is that we would really like him to recognise the impact that this has on us and to be careful that with the way that he’s presenting information, and that should any such thing happen in the future, that they provide the full, correct information and engage with the community beforehand to ensure that we have some level of protection.

I mean, in Australia, just three days ago, three Muslim women were attacked by a gang, had their hijabs ripped off, were punched, physically beaten. And that’s very close to here.

And for us, that’s a real fear. I mean, at this youth camp, we ensured that there were three police officers present because we don’t feel safe.

Lisa Owen: So was it irresponsible for the Prime Minister not to correct that information?

Anjum Rahman: I think that he should have corrected it, yes.

Lisa Owen: So what do you want from him now? Do you want an apology?

Anjum Rahman: I think we want to work with the Government. I think we’re looking at the bigger picture. I mean, this is a topic of the day, but we want to look at the bigger picture. We want to work towards security for all New Zealanders as well as security for our community, our women, our children. So we need proper engagement on that.

We’d like to work with the agencies involved as well. We’d like them to get to know us, and we know that Ms Kitteridge hasn’t met with our organisation at all. We got no briefings; we’ve had no information. And that makes it really difficult to deal with if she’s like this.

Lisa Owen: Metiria Turei has raised the fact that she’s heard the SIS is out knocking on doors. Do you know anything about that? Has this come as a surprise to you?

Rahman: I know that the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations was due to meet with her during this past week. That was at his request, and it took about two to three months to get that meeting scheduled. I’m not aware of what you’ve just said.

Lisa Owen: So you believe that there was a meeting this week between Rebecca Kitteridge and the president?

Anjum Rahman: I understand so, but she certainly hasn’t—or no one from the organisation has contacted our organisation. I spoke to him two weeks ago when this news first came out, and he said, ‘Oh, got a meeting scheduled.’

Lisa Owen: Right. What about the Prime Minister? Because, you see, when we spoke to him on The Nation, he said he’d met with Muslim leaders, he thought, and he’d probably been to a mosque in the last year, he thought, as well. So has he spoken to you in the last year?

Anjum Rahman: He hasn’t spoken with anyone from our organisation. Again, also, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations was elected as a new president around May or June last year and has never spoken to Mr Key.

If he has spoken to community leaders, I’m not sure who he has spoken to, whether they were localised in Auckland, but it doesn’t appear to be the national leadership. But we haven’t had any engagement either.

The Government has a duty to do what it reasonably can to protect New Zealand from international threats of terrorism, and specifically from threats from radical groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

The Government also has a duty to protect New Zealanders from persecution.

So does the media. While they put the spotlight on John Key and the Government they could do with carefully considering their own role in this.

Interview (video) at NewsHub: Turei: Key misled public over jihadi brides

Transcript from Scoop: Lisa Owen interviews Metiria Turei and Anjum Rahman

Website: Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand

Vision of IWCNZ:

Muslim women aspiring to achieve their full potential through participation and collaboration in community life in Aotearoa New Zealand with the guidance of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him).

Included in their Principles:

  • To promote their spiritual values through understanding, acceptance, education, interaction, respect, and cultural awareness – paving a pathway to a safe and respectful environment.

  • IWCNZ shall seek to avoid any practices that are contrary to Islam and thus will endeavor to promote a platform of unity, peace, love, respect, humanity, and kinship.