Christchurch Mosque attack response in New Zealand needs to be more inclusive

Preventing racial bullying of ethnic primary and secondary school pupils by their Pākehā peers could be one of the outcomes of a New Zealand Government campaign to better connect with the country’s multicultural community. But while reaching out to Muslim and other minority groups is welcomed, one Hamilton cultural leader has warned it does little to combat racism where it most needs to be addressed: in households everywhere.

Leaders from Hamilton’s ethnic and multi-faith community met on Saturday with Justice Minister Andrew Little, who has been tasked with leading the response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry Into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques. The invitation-only meeting – from which media were excluded – had been organised to hear views and answer questions on the findings of the commission’s report; the work the Government was undertaking to address those findings; and how Hamilton’s ethnic communities could be involved in that response.

It was one of four such gatherings hosted by Little at FMG Stadium Waikato, and was part of a wider, ongoing tour of the country by Little, discussing the report with ethnic leaders and others. The Government recently announced a slate of initiatives including the creation of a new counter-terrorism agency, beefing up anti-terrorism and hate speech laws, setting up a new Ministry of Ethnic Communities, and instructing police to establish new programmes to respond to hate crimes and stop radicalisation.

These initiatives were all in response to 44 specific recommendations from the mammoth report on the March 15, 2019, terror attack in Christchurch, when a gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two Mosques. Speaking after Saturday’s meeting had concluded, Little said he was heartened by the representation from those who attended, and the constructive feedback they had offered had been encouraging. One of the main concerns of those he had spoken to was to get better support for school pupils from ethnic and religious minorities at the country’s primary and secondary schools, he said.

Too few teachers or principals were versed in how to deal with racial bullying. “If a Hijab is pulled, or a comment made, [teachers] don’t understand the sensitivity of it.” Jannat Maqbool, who chairs the recently formed Waikato Intercultural Fund, said while it was good Little had met with the community leaders, those who most needed to hear his message had not been invited. Those people were the ones who daily suffered from abuse and other forms of racial discrimination – and those who were perpetuating that discrimination.

“It is the awareness, understanding and respect of all peoples that the Government and community leaders need to focus on,” Maqbool said. “That is only going to happen if we cast the net wider and consider true diversity, stop involving the same pretty much self-appointed leaders, and engage with real people. “The answer isn’t new ministries and recruiting more diversity into government services roles. It is the ministries, services and people being more inclusive that is needed.

“We need the majority culture to enable integration, rather than force assimilation.” The Waikato Intercultural Fund, previously known as the Waikato Cultural Inclusion Fund, was established by Momentum Waikato following discussions with local ethnic and migrant support services in March 2019, soon after the Christchurch attack.

“The region is home to so many vibrant communities and this fund will work for the good of all of us, supporting initiatives that foster and celebrate diversity for the well-being of everyone.” Maqbool is already well known as a trustee of the Hamilton Multicultural Services Trust, and she is also the New Zealand director for the Smart Cities Council, which works globally to help cities and regions be more liveable and sustainable.


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