A Muslim prayer too far?

My first reaction to this was ‘too far’ for sure, but as I thought it through doubts arose.

I think that Muslim prayers were entirely appropriate after the Christchurch mosque massacres. They were often alongside Christian prayers and prayers from other religions in a coming together in common purposes of grief and condemnation.

But is including a Muslim prayer at Anzac Day taking it too far?

Possibly – but it should be remembered that the British attack at Gallipoli that New Zealand took part in was against Muslims and a Muslim country.

New Zealanders are allowed to go and commemorate Anzac Day in Turkey at events organised by Turkey, a largely Muslim country, alongside New Zealanders and Australians.

If Turkish representatives came to Anzac services in New Zealand would they be banned from any Muslim prayers?

NZ Herald:  Muslim prayer at Anzac Day service upsets RSA veterans

That headline is misleading – there have been mixed reactions from RSA veterans.

A decision to invite a Muslim cleric to say a prayer at an Anzac Day service has sparked an anguished backlash from veterans.

The Returned and Services Association (RSA) branch at Titahi Bay near Wellington has moved the Muslim prayer from its 6am dawn service to its 10am civic ceremony after some veterans said the dawn service should remember only NZ and Australian soldiers who have died in wars.

The backlash has exposed sensitive emotions around a sacred day in the New Zealand calendar as the nation struggles to become more “inclusive” after 50 Muslims were shot dead in the Christchurch mosque massacre.

Vietnam veteran Dave Brown, a former manager of the nearby Porirua RSA, emailed the Titahi Bay branch protesting against its initial decision to invite Newlands Mosque imam Mohamed Zewada to say a prayer at its dawn service on Titahi Bay Beach.

“What took place in Christchurch was shocking and we all agree that it was completely out of order in every way,” Brown said.

“I believe that the appropriate measures have been taken to recognise that and to show the Muslim community that they are part of us and we are part of them.

“Anzac Day came about to recognise all those who went overseas and served their country and returned, and those who never returned. That is the significance and the only justification for Anzac Day, and I feel it should stay that way.”

Anzac Day in New Zealand has certainly focussed on New Zealanders who served in the word wars, and especially those who died serving their country.

But there is also significant New Zealand participation in commemorations in Gallipoli. Are Muslim prayers allowed there? Are Christian prayers allowed?

This event at Gallipoli is organised jointly by the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish governments

Simon Strombom, a veteran of the more recent Afghanistan war and organiser of the Titahi Bay service, said he was shocked at some comments on the club’s Facebook page after he announced that the Muslim community “will conclude the ceremony this year with a prayer from the Koran”.

Anzac Day has widened to include more recent New Zealand military involvement in wars, like Vietnam and Afghanistan (another Muslim country).

Brendon Walton from New Plymouth posted: “The Titahi Bay Club, well, you’re completely disrespecting New Zealand culture on a day that is uniquely shared between us and Australia.”

Peter Downie, a veteran of the Malaya war who now lives in Cambridge, posted to another RSA site saying: “Dawn service is to honour the Anzacs. Anything else can be done at civic services.”

Malaysia is another Muslim country.

Strombom said he deleted some other comments.

“I did get some quite aggressive hate mail and emails to the website,” he said.

“That disappointed me because I think NZ soldiers, particularly in operations, have always been very adaptive and very culturally sensitive.”

As a major in Afghanistan, Strombom was in command of several Muslim soldiers and he noted that more people died in a few minutes in Christchurch than all 37 Kiwis who died in the Vietnam War.

“What is the difference between that and an IRA bomb that kills a soldier?” he asked.

“The world has changed, but when you start drawing lines and saying these are the good guys and these are the bad guys, we get the problems we had in Christchurch.”

Auckland RSA president Graham Gibson…

…said a Navy padre would say a prayer at the dawn service in front of the War Memorial Museum which is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. He said Anzac Day was separate from remembering the Christchurch mosque victims.

“We shouldn’t mix the two events,” he said.

“We have traditionally been a Christian country in terms of our services and that type of thing. Obviously we are a multicultural country now so it’s up to individual RSAs, but they are two separate events.”

Wellington RSA president Theo Kuper…

…said the NZ Defence Force traditionally provided a military chaplain for the Wellington dawn service which Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy is expected to attend.

“I don’t think the NZ Defence Force has a Muslim imam,” he said.

RSA national president B J Clark…

…said in a message to his national executive that there had been many events to remember the mosque victims and “there should be no intention or need to make our Anzac services another one of these”.

“However, given the proximity of these events to Anzac Day 2019 and the significant impact this has had throughout our country, it may seem appropriate to local organisers to acknowledge these during this years Anzac Day ceremonies,” he said.

“Our communities are diverse and Anzac Day organisers have always tailored ceremonies to match their community and their local history. This year is no different.

“In your town and city, you are the stewards of Anzac remembrance, we trust you to make this call and as always, believe you will do so in the respect and spirit of our Anzac tradition.”

New Zealand casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 2,779 died
  • 5,212 wounded

Australian casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 8,709 died
  • 19,441 wounded

Ottoman casualties at Gallipoli:

  • 86,692 died
  • 164,617 wounded

Many Anzac soldiers at Gallipoli will have been Christian.

Many Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli will have been Muslim.

Aren’t prayers appropriate for all of them?

The Anzac tradition has changed over the years. Is including a Muslim prayer at one event a change to far?

Active Service Veteran support

Comment from bjmarsh1 from here posted.


I have previously resisted going Public on this state of affairs because of my personal involvement, however, the case of Lt Col Bill Blaikie, an Afghanistan veteran, father of 3, battling with the effects of PTSD and needing treatment that is not available here, but is available in Australia.

This soldier is reduced to having to make a Public Appeal to raise the $40,000 needed for his treatment. He has been rejected by Veterans Affairs for support because they do not fund overseas treatment. The President of the RSA was sympathetic but no funds were forthcoming.

Now isn’t it time that you and I start asking the hard questions of why not Veterans Affairs? And to the RSA, what happened to the thousands of dollars collected on each annual poppy day especially for the welfare of our Veterans?

I have a personal problem with Veterans Affairs relating to their demand that I use the Health Insurance whichI have paid thousand of dollars over the years to ensure the health of my family, to pay for a mandatory procedure required to decide whether or not I could survive the treatment I required for an agreed attributable condition.

When I attended the Hospital to go through the procedure, I found I was sitting next to another officer who was undergoing the identical procedure. I asked him if he had Health Insurance and he confirmed he had the same insurance as I did. He then said that Veterans Affairs had approved payment for his procedure but he did not have to use his Health Insurance.

Now, I ask you is that fair, and was I receiving the same support for the same attributable condition?

I wrote to Veterans Affairs and pointed out that their policy of requiring veterans to use their personal health insurance for the treatment of attributable conditions was “Ultra Vires” i.e. Beyond their right to make such a decision and in support quoted Sect 10 of the Veterans Support Act 201 which says :

“(Section) 10 Functions to be performed and powers to be exercised in accordance with certain principles

Every person who performs any function or exercises any power under this Act must do so—

(a) in acknowledgement, on behalf of the community, of the responsibility for the injury, illness, or death of veterans as a result of them being placed in harm’s way in the service of New Zealand; and

(b) in accordance with the following principles:
(i) the principle of providing veterans, their spouses and partners, their children, and their dependants with fair entitlements:
(ii) the principle of promoting equal treatment of equal claims:
(iii) the principle of taking a benevolent approach to claims:
(iv) the principle of determining claims—
(A) in accordance with substantial justice and the merits of the claim; and
(B) not in accordance with any technicalities, legal forms, or legal rules of evidence.”

As this is a statement of mandatory guiding principles, I believe the principles of equal treatment of equal claims, the principle of taking a benevolent approach to claims, and the principle of determining claims with regard to the substantial justice and the merits of the complaint and not in accordance with any technicalities, legal forms, or legal rules of evidence far outweighs Veterans Affairs justification that they have the right to determine what and where treatment is to occur.

It is my considered view that Veterans Affairs are wrong both in law as well as in terms of natural justice. By their decision they have created separate classes of Veterans, those who have Health Insurance and those who do not!

What do you think?

Comments already on this topic here.

The Lt Coll Bill Blaikie Givealittle page for those interested.

Poppy Day

ANZAC Day on 25 April is ten days away but today is Poppy Day, when RSA fundraising takes to the streets and to the Internet.


The annual Poppy Appeal is the primary source of funds for the RSA’s extensive provision of support services to war veterans and the ex-service community.

You don’t have to be a member of an RSA to benefit from the Poppy Appeal assistance. Donations are used to support veterans as well as ex-servicemen and women, and their dependents, living in the community where the funds are raised.

The poppy reminds us of sacrifices made – both past and present. Poppies were the first flowers that grew in the battlefields of Flanders in Belgium during World War One and are a symbol of remembrance and hope.

The Poppy Day street collection is held each year on the Friday before Anzac Day. RSA volunteers exchange distinctive red poppies for a donation to the Poppy Appeal.

So please make whatever donation you can afford on Poppy Day. Your generosity enables us to continue our vital support work.

Thanks Petals!

Flag irony

The Press/Stuff has a detailed and mainly anti-change article on the proposed referendums on whether New Zealand changes out flag or not, in Flags of political convenience.

The RSA CEO David Moger is quoted, he is campaigning against a change. The usual arguments are raised. Including the insensitivity of timing, with significant steps in the process coinciding with the ANZAC Day period this year and next year.

A point is made with a degree of irony:

White crosses in Cranmer Square, Christchurch, represent men who died in World War I. Is it “insensitive” to talk about changing the flag now?

Each of those crosses would appear to have a fern on them. No sign of a union jack flag.

Like on the headstones of my Grandfather’s and my uncle’s war graves.

ewgrave2Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch

Faenza War CemeteryFaenza War Cemetery (WW2), Italy

See Silver fern is NZ history.

We can’t ignore the significant connection between the fern and our military – see Silver fern emblem used in Boer War  – and non-military past.

RSA reponse to criticism of their flag campaign

The RSA are confident they have ” the NZ public behind us” in their campaign to retain the current New Zealand flag – but not confident enough to risk the people actually deciding via a sound democratic process. After posting RSA opposes flag change, opposes democratic process I tweeted:

Sad to see @RSA_National actively campaigning against democratic process.

The RSA responded:

We’re all for democratic discussion. We think Govt should hold 1 referendum to ask NZ if they want a change.

They want one referendum because they think that will get them the result they want. Fair enough. But why do they not want to explore possible alternatives to the flag and give people a choice between the best of the rest and the current flag? Presumably because they don’t want change. They want to minimise choice to improve the chances of retaining what they want. I also tweeted:

And unless it can be substantiated claiming just “one or two” in the @RSA_National support flag change insults members.

@RSA_National responded:

Sorry – not our intent. But we are confident we have the support of our membership and the NZ public behind us.

Being ‘confident’ is not any sort of measure. They haven’t offered any substantiation. I replied:

I don’t know how you can claim the support of the public. By what measure?

They haven’t responded. But someone else did. @SarahRoseNZ:

Poll ’14 72%!= No @Yahoo 10,000 voted last month 77% = No! Any ?’s Pete #NZFlag

When I asked how current the Colmar Brunton poll was she said:

Jan last year= no. Don’t shoot messenger. MOST NZ’rs say NO FLAG CHANGE! #NZFlag

That’s over a year ago. I’m sure there will be more polls. And there should be a couple of referendums. I also asked if the Yahoo poll was scientific. No response to that. Some questions for those who don’t want a flag change and who claim that there is strong public support to retain the current flag.

  • What do you fear from exploring possible flag alternatives?
  • What do you fear from having a referendum to let people choose between the current flag and the best of the rest?

If you support the democratic process and you’re confident your choice has overwhelming public support you should be happy with the two referendum process. If you are right that will prove public support is on your side and it is likely to lock in the current flag for the foreseeable future. That would be a win-win for you.

What’s the problem?

Deciding whether to change the flag without knowing what the alternative is would be like deciding to get married without knowing who to.

RSA opposes flag change, opposes democratic process

The chief executive of the RSA, David Moger, appears to be leading a campaign against changing the New Zealand flag, and also against the referendum process being used to see if the New Zealand people want a flag change or not.

And he has made some very dubious claims. 3 News reports Flag change opposed by RSA.

The Royal New Zealand RSA says it will fervently oppose changing the New Zealand flag when it appears before a parliamentary committee considering the issue.

RSA chief executive David Moger says the debate is insensitive as it coincides with commemorations of the centenary of the nation’s involvement in World War I.

The timing was dumb.

The RSA would prefer the centenary of Anzac Day be commemorated this month without the distraction of the flag issue.

But Moger is choosing to promte the distraction now.

“For many who’ve served, our current flag is symbolic of the sacred oath they made to protect the peace and security of New Zealand.

“Our men and women made terrible personal sacrifices and we honour their courage and commitment every time our current flag is flown.”

That’s laying on thick with emphasis on the importance of the flag, with no substantiation, and he has excluded any mention of the silver fern. And it’s the fern that is on my Grandfather’s grave, and on my uncle’s grace in Italy – see Silver fern is NZ history.

The RSA has previously expressed its concern about changing the New Zealand flag.

It’s now calling on others to join it in expressing support for the current flag in representation to the committee and local MPs.

In a hard fought for democracy they are free to campaign however they like.

Mr Moger says two referendums are unnecessary and it’s the RSA’s responsibility to lead the charge on behalf of its members and the hundreds of Kiwis who’ve contacted RSAs around the country saying they don’t want the flag to be changed and don’t understand why it’s become such a priority.

Yesterday on TV3 Moger was interviewed by Paul Henry who also strongly opposes a flag change. So Henry didn’t challenge some very dubious claims and exaggerations.

Henry: When we talked about your members, do you have consensus among your members with regard to the flag?

Moger: Oh a very very strong one. Of course with an organisation like ours with over a hundred thousand members there will be one or two who want to see a change and that’s fine, but the vast vast majority, not only of our members but also people who have written to us and contacted us over the recent weeks and months have said “what’s the point of this, why are we doing it, keep the flag” and encouraging us to get into the fight and make sure that we retain the current flag.

I suggested via Twitter that unless it can be substantiated claiming just “one or two” in the @RSA_National support flag change insults members.

Sorry – not our intent. But we are confident we have the support of our membership and the NZ public behind us.

They sound confident. But they don’t provide numbers for their support levels and they are opposing the best way of determining what the public want, a referendum process.

They sound like they oppose democratic process when they don’t want a possible outcome.

Henry: What is it you’re calling for in your submission?

Moger: So we’re asking for people to write to their MPs, and to say please don’t vote for this bill. We have a chance to change it, we have chance to get some common sense into the process, let’s make that change now so we’re asking New Zealanders to write their MP and go to our website and there’s al the process there and some sample letters people can use.

So the RSA is campaigning for MPs to vote against the most democratic process New Zealand people have available, two referendums.

Henry supported this – because he opposes a flag change. And the online item included a link to “the RSA website for more information” – promoting an anti-democratic campaign. This is headlined Fight For Our Flag and states:

We see it as our responsibility, on behalf of all like-minded New Zealanders, to champion our current flag and challenge the costly referendum process established to select an alternative.

They seem to oppose the democratic process. But further down the page they have a bit of a different angle.

Our position on the referendum is clear. If we are to have a referendum at all it should be a simple yes or no to our existing flag.

That still suggests they prefer no referendum (no democratic vote) but if there is to be any vote the process should favour an outcome they want.

Also via Twitter is a dubious claim of support.

Various polls show overwhelming support for flag, incl @CampbellLiveNZ poll where 84% say we don’t need new flag

A self selecting media driven poll is just about the worst sort of support to be promoting. And they oppose the most definitive sort of poll, two referendums.

It’s understandable that a majority in the RSA would oppose a flag change.

It’s concerning that the RSA is actively campaigning against democracy in action.

An awkward aspect of the RSA anti-change campaign – David Moger sounds like he wasn’t born in New Zealand. I wouldn’t normally question this, and (presumably) as a New Zealander he has as much right voice his opinion as anyone on the flag, but on something as fundamental as the flag his non-New Zealand heritage could be flavouring his staunch opposition.