Now that you’re all over the initial shock…

Last week Spanish Bride and I visited a mosque in Auckland, and we both wrote completely different articles based on our experiences.

After years of providing our readers with information about Islam that basically can be summed up as “since we can’t tell which ones to trust, and which we can not, we might as well not trust any of them”, I decided that wasn’t good enough.  We must be more discerning than that.

At the same time, New Zealand has – so far – exactly zero incidences of radical Islam hitting out against Kiwis.

So there is a huge gap between what we fear and what is happening so far.

We have all seen, many times now, that when sufficient Muslims are allowed to congregate in a country, the requirement of these Muslims wanting to turn their own life into one fully dedicated to Allah appears to exclude the concurrent coexistence of those who do not.  Eventually a parallel Sharia law is proposed, at least in small places.  And then it grows.

And as we’ve seen in Europe, that’s not a place any western country wants to end up if it can avoid it, because our values in general do not match those of radical Islam, most visibly when it comes to the highly paternalistic nature of Islam versus our culture, the different kind of dress, and the fact there is no separation of church and state once Islam is implemented in full.

Peaceful coexistence is something of a core Kiwi value.  And by allowing the immigration of people that, once they have sufficient numbers to democratically alter the structures of our society, are duty bound to their own God to change New Zealand to one fully supportive of Islam, we too will be facing the troubles seen overseas.  

And yet, radical extreme Islam is really only a thing since the 1980s.   Before that, Islam co-existed quite well without the danger it presents to Western life.  Allowing for local problems, there wasn’t a world-wide push to start killing cartoonists, perform suicide bombings, and blow up concerts, airports and subways.

As people read my story last week, I received the full gamut of reactions.  This is normal, as among you, there will be the full range of opinions.  The “thank goodness you are doing this, there is nothing wrong with Islam” is just as dangerous a view as “there is no way any Muslim should be trusted and they all present a danger in some form”.

The truth is somewhere in the middle.   And that’s the journey that SB and I are on.   By engaging, we would like to learn about life as a Muslim in New Zealand.  Any kind of Muslim, not just the moderates we visited first.

This blog’s view has consistently been that until we fully understand the problem as a country, then taking our lessons from Europe, we need to urgently review immigration policy to ensure at a minimum we don’t allow more Muslims to immigrate to New Zealand that can potentially turn into suicide bombers and hostage takers years from now.

How can you tell the difference?  Unless our authorities can, we have to assume that by not making that distinction that some of the Muslim immigrants coming to New Zealand are already, or will become, the kind of Muslims that are a threat to our Kiwi values.

Just like we have our security services monitoring a number of people resident in New Zealand with concerns about their intentions and behaviour linked to radical Islam, our immigration policy should reflect that we do not want to make more work for the GCSB, SIS and NZ Police until we have a better handle on the situation.

What you can do is to make sure your local MPs know that’s what you expect a government to do.  It is protecting the safety and future of our citizens, our children and our grandchildren.  This isn’t racist.  This isn’t even about religion.  But it is about defence of the realm and everything we collectively hold dear.

We’ve subsequently been contacted by another Muslim, who identified as Abdullah, but I believe that’s a screen name for now.  He invited me to come see the mosque’s stall at the Otara Markets.  Unfortunately, I had a meeting to attend, but I’ll review popping over next weekend.

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Masjid at-Taqwa at the Otara Markets 16 April 2016 / Facebook

He provided a link to their congregation’s Facebook page, and emailed SB a brochure about the hijab.  He also invited me to a lecture in Glendene that night, but that was all a bit of a rush, so I chose not to go.

I did spent a considerable amount of time taking in all the information, photos and videos on the group’s Facebook page and their web site.   They also operate a YouTube channel.  They have an annual open day, and even live stream their lectures.

My first reaction was that it scared the crap out of me.  I’m just being honest here, and not wrapping it up in flowery language.

It is all so extremely foreign.  The Arabic, the religion’s own jargon, the way that they dress.   It is, literally, a culture shock.

But then I’ve also been in Italian basilica for a full Latin Mass.  And if I compare that, then those people were also dressed funny, spoke  language I can’t understand, follow ritual, and seemed to have only men standing out at the front.

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Leaving the argument about religion in a wider context aside, I realised that what was foreign (and scary) doesn’t necessarily present a threat to me.  Or you.

The Masjid at-Taqwa congregation are clearly trying to communicate outwards, rather than being secretive.  Most videos are hard to follow, and a lot of speakers are heavily accented.   But here’s an example that you can at least understand after the brief opening (prayer?).

https://youtu.be/4wt_cHLYXOk?t=27m6s

On the web site, they invite anyone to ask questions about Islam.

If you have a look, like I did, then the culture shock may be as severe for you as it was for me.  Especially when you realise that this isn’t overseas, this is happening just a few suburbs away.

Yet if you listen to the man, and insert “God” for every time he says “Allah”, then the lesson is no different to:  Judgement is not up to you, but to God.  Do not judge, lest you be judged.

As I spend more and more time looking through the material, some of the fear of the unknown was mitigated.  I’ve listened to some of the lectures.  I’ve looked through all the photos of their events, camps and celebrations.  I’ve noticed that they ask the public to ask questions, they post their lectures (sermons) to the Internet, and they appear to want to be open to the community, rather than hide away.

But yes.

It is still a very different culture.

The biggest difference remains that throughout all the videos, the photos and the web site, I think I’ve spotted one young woman, and one older woman in a hijab.   Everything else is wall to wall men.

This is something that feels upsetting to our culture.  And yet Islam strongly holds the principle that woman and men have equal rights.  This is a conundrum that I’ll let Spanish Bride chip away at.

My objective is to get to know our Muslim New Zealanders.  Our Muslim permanent residents.  And our Muslim Kiwis, with a view to understand them, to share what I see and learn, and to get to the point where I, and hopefully you too, get better informed so we can change our current position from “all Muslims are bad for New Zealand”, to “these Muslims are bad for New Zealand”.

As a country we have a proud history of accepting all sorts of cultures, all sorts of faiths, all sorts of colours.

But we have always done so with the understanding and the social contract that those who come here want to join us in becoming “Kiwis”.  The essence of the threat we feel, much more so than the threat of a terrorist event on our own soil, is that Mulims will change our way of life to the point where we end up like western Europe.

As I said in the introductions, that’s partially mitigated by smart immigration policies:  do not import people that do not value our Kiwi culture.  And the other side of that coin is to get to know, like and support those Muslims that are very much Kiwis in the sense we all understand it.

 

– Pete


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