National | Christchurch

Call to hold state agencies to account for not protecting Muslim community

Islamic Women's Council of New Zealand spokesperson Anjum Rahman hopes the Royal Commission of inquiry into the Christchurch mosque attack will hold state agencies to account for failing to protect Muslims.

The royal commission's report is due at the end of this month and Rahman hopes it will take on board the women's council recommendations for public service reform and deal with hate speech issues.

The royal commission is investigating events relating to the attacks on March 15, 2019, including the performance of state sector agencies.

Rahman says government agencies failed to protect the Muslim community and, once the inquiry report is released, she expects agencies to respond with honesty, transparency and integrity.

“We hope they will seriously take on board our recommendations for public service reform and issues around hate speech we’ve bought up in our submission," she says.

“They also need to take into account any hate speech, in particular violent threats and threats of harm online, as part of the controls for guns because, if you’re making violent threats online, then you should not have a gun licence and that has not been considered in the current round of reform.”

Rahman says government agencies failed to protect the Muslim community before the attack.

She says a group of leaders from Muslim organisations met senior civil servants on March 23, 2017, two years before the mosque attacks. A governance group was formed after the meeting.

“What we found is that the prominence of our concerns [fell] as the meetings went on because there wasn’t anyone from our side in the room to speak to our actions and they failed to include the community in those meetings so we could ensure that the issue remained at the top priority and were addressed," Rahman says.

“That means that they hadn’t set up any kind of strategy or dealt with the security issues in the way that they should have been.”

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Operation 8 - Police raided the tiny settlement of Rūātoki as part of their highly publicised anti-terror operation / Native Affairs 2013

Rahman says solutions recommended by the women's council will benefit a lot of communities in Aotearoa.

"We know tāngata whenua have suffered through things like Operation Eight and other activities and I think that they should have a key interest in this  as well."

The report is due on July 31 and public submissions have closed.