National | Christchurch

Muslim walkout - and return - at hui on countering terrorism

A government hui promoted as the first of many annual conferences aimed at countering terrorism following the mosques' massacre two years ago saw a group of Christchurch Muslims walk out after comments about Israel and Palestine conflict.

That came after the New Zealand Jewish Council’s Juliet Moses spoke about the conflict in Israel in which TV1 said she labelled the military wings of Hezbollah and Hamas as “proscribed terror organisations in New Zealand”. She was making a reference to a rally in Auckland in 2018 “in support of Hezbollah”.

She was met with shouts of “free Palestine” from the audience.

One of a group of local Muslims, some of whom had been victims of the March 2019 attack said a speaker had also suggested New Zealand Muslims support terrorism.

Later the group returned and discussions included a variety of opinions from both sides, TV1 reported.

Other attacks planned

During the hui, it was revealed that New Zealand security agencies had foiled two potential mass shootings near the time of the Christchurch massacre.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier opened the country's first hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism in Christchurch, saying the two-day event was the first in what would be annual hui.

Titled He Whenua Taurikura, 'a country at peace', the event delivers on one of the recommendations from the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain in March 2019.

"He Whenua Taurikura aims to look at how it can contribute to making Aotearoa more inclusive and safe," Ardern said.

“This inaugural hui brings together community, civil society, academia, the private sector and government to listen, share and learn - both knowledge and experiences.

“I am heartened by the number of people who have given their time to contribute to the event, and share their experiences and expertise.”

Countering violent extremism

The annual hui would promote public conversation, understanding, and research on radicalisation, Ardern said.

Terrorism Response Minister Andrew Little said the hui would help develop options for the National Centre of Excellence, which will focus on generating research and public discussion to prevent and counter violent extremism, understand diversity and promote social cohesion.

“Our goal is for New Zealand to be a safe country where everyone feels they belong, where all cultures and human rights are valued and celebrated, and where everyone can participate and contribute," he said.

“This hui builds on the progress we have made since the March 15 attack and will be an important annual event to help counter terrorism and violent extremism,” Little said.