How bad is radicalisation and jihadism in NZ mosques?

The NZ Herald has a report about Egyptian imams being sent to take control of NZ Mosques.

Egypt’s Government is sending Cairo-educated imams to “take control” of New Zealand mosques and Islamic centres in a new drive to reduce radicalisation and counter jihadism.

The imams – trained at the ancient Al-Azhar University, regarded as the foremost institution in the Islamic world for the study of Sunni theology and sharia law – will spend up to three years working alongside local mosque leaders promoting moderate Islam and tolerance.

One imam is already working at a Wellington mosque and three more are applying for work visas, according to Egypt’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Tarek al-Wasimy.

Explaining true Islam and promoting its peaceful message was an important first, proactive step in protecting the world from militant Islam and terrorism, he said.

“We are all combating terrorism. It has no borders and nobody is immune,” he told the Herald yesterday.

“We don’t want anything to happen here like what has happened in Belgium, Paris, Madrid or London so we are sending imams to explain Islam and to take control of Islamic centres and mosques here.”

Mr al-Wasimy said the imams were funded by the Egyptian Government and Al-Azhar, which dates back to 970 and in recent years has embarked on a global initiative to improve the image of Islam, promote tolerance, and battle radicalisation and recruitment of young Muslims by extremist groups.

I see that the Herald has bought the spin.  

Let’s look at a few revealing details though from that short excerpt.

How bad is the radicalisation and jihadism in NZ mosques?

If imams are being sent to take control “in a new drive to reduce radicalisation and counter jihadism”, how bad is the radicalisation and jihadism in NZ mosques? It must be pretty bad if they need to take control.

Why only a reduction and not elimination?

The Egyptians want to take control to “reduce” radicalisation and jihadism. Does this mean that there is an acceptable level of radicalisation but NZ mosques have breached that threshold and so must now be controlled.

What are the KPIs?

If you are going to “reduce” something then you have to know how bad the problem is so that you can know that you are reducing it…but what is the acceptable level of radicalisation and jihadism in NZ mosques?

But there are also other important issues that aren’t raised by this article.

Are we seeing the start of a sectarian war to control mosques in New Zealand. The Egyptian Imams are Sunni, so they are obviously going to go head to head with Shiite imams…that hasn’t worked so well in the rest of the world. More importantly the Saudis have been funding mosques in New Zealand. They are Sunni, but Wahhabi Sunni, yet another sect of Islam. The Egyptians are clearly here to take control, are they going to oust Wahhabism from NZ mosques? I can’t imagine the Saudis will be happy about that development.

And a quick look at the Al-Azhar University should send shivers down anyone’s spine.

Al-Azhar has had an antagonistic relationship with Wahhabism and Salafism.

So they will go head to head with the Wahhabi influenced mosques. Then there is this:

Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy noted that among the priorities of Muslims are “to master all knowledge of the world and the hereafter, not least the technology of modern weapons to strengthen and defend the community and faith”. He added that “mastery over modern weaponry is important to prepare for any eventuality or prejudices of the others, although Islam is a religion of peace”.

Sheikh Tantawy also reasserted that his is the best faith to follow (a tenet common to proponents of many religions) and that Muslims have the duty of active da’wa. He has made declarations about Muslims interacting with non-Muslims who are not a threat to Muslims. There are non-Muslims living apart from Muslims and who are not enemies of Islam (“Muslims are allowed to undertake exchanges of interests with these non-Muslims so long as these ties do not tarnish the image of the faith”), and there are “the non-Muslims who live in the same country as the Muslims in cooperation and on friendly terms, and are not enemies of the faith” (“in this case, their rights and responsibilities are the same as the Muslims so long as they do not become enemies of Islam”).

And what are Al-Azhar University’s view of freedom of speech:

In October 2007, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy, then the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, drew allegations of stifling freedom of speech when he asked the Egyptian government to toughen its rules and punishments against journalists. During a Friday sermon in the presence of Egyptian Prime MinisterAhmed Nazif and a number of ministers, Tantawy was alleged to have stated that journalism which contributes to the spread of false rumours rather than true news deserved to be boycotted, and that it was tantamount to sinning for readers to purchase such newspapers. Tantawy, a supporter of then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also called for a punishment of eighty lashes to “those who spread rumors” in an indictment of speculation by journalists over Mubarak’s ill health and possible death. This was not the first time that he had criticized the Egyptian press regarding its news coverage nor the first time he in return had been accused by the press of opposing freedom of speech. During a religious celebration in the same month, Tantawy had released comments alluding to “the arrogant and the pretenders who accuse others with the ugliest vice and unsubstantiated charges”. In response, Egypt’s press union issued a statement suggesting that Tantawy appeared to be involved in inciting and escalating a campaign against journalists and freedom of the press. Tantawy died in 2010 and was succeeded by Mohamed Ahmed el-Tayeb.

So these imams coming to “reduce” radicalisation and jihadism in NZ mosques aren’t that much different in their views. The Media party just laps it all up without becoming alarmed.

Then there is the stated aims of Al-Azhar University

They simply do not see the irony in statements like this:

Muslims, now about 1 per cent of the population, are New Zealand’s fastest-growing religious group.

We should be very concerned by that. At one per cent of the population Islam isn’t much of a problem, but once it starts growing the problems arise.

Expert Paul Buchanan is somewhat confused in that he says there isn’t any radicalisation or jihadism, but there is enough of a problem that the Egyptians are coming to take over. But then gets to the heart of the issue.

Egypt had also had little success combating extremism at home, so he was not sure what they expected to achieve here. They might be interested in countering the influence of Wahhabism – an ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim sect – in NZ, he said.

The imams could also be New Zealand-bound as part of an as-yet-unannounced trade deal, with their work aimed at “softening” the inevitable views from opposition parties to any deal with Egypt, he said.

“Otherwise [the Government] opens itself up to the charge that New Zealand is cosying up to a dictatorship,” Mr Buchanan said.

He doubted the gesture came without some kind of ulterior motive.

“There’s always more than meets the eye … why Egypt would choose New Zealand to export its anti-radicalisation views, you don’t have to be an international relations expert to see that’s unusual.”

New Zealand is the back door to Australia. They come here, gain permanent residency then off to Australia they go. So what you might say, but when you look at the stated aims of Al-Azhar University in proseltyzing Islam:

According to Muchlis, in the constitution of Egypt, Al-Azhar is an Islamic institution which is independent and has the authority to carry out all the activities of Islam.

Al-Azhar, he continued, was the main reference for religious sciences and Islamic affairs and was responsible for carrying out proselytizing activities.

Proseltyzing is defined as:

proselytize ‎(third-person singular simple presentproselytizes, present participleproselytizing, simple past and past participleproselytized)

  1. (intransitive) To encourage or induce people to join a religious movement, political party, or other cause or organization.
    It is illegal to proselytize in some countries
  2. (transitive) To convert (someone) to one’s own faith or beliefs.

So, far from being comfortable with this development of Egyptian imams coming to “reduce” radicalisation and jihadism, I am actually very concerned that we are letting in proselytizing imams intent on the spread of their sects view of Islam, which actually isn’t that much different from all the others.

They aren’t coming to help I can assure you.

 

– NZ Herald


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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