More than a dozen Muslims walked out of a Government-organised conference aimed at improving New Zealand’s counter-terrorism efforts today after “hurtful” comments about the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The walkout from members of the Christchurch Muslim community came after the New Zealand Jewish Council’s Juliet Moses spoke about the conflict in Israel at the National Counter-Terrorism Hui.
In her speech, Moses labelled the military wings of Hezbollah and Hamas as “prescribed 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 crowd. They argued the rally was simply pro-Palestine.
It caused Gamal Fouda, the Imam of Al Noor Mosque to walk out of the room in protest.
“Yeah, this is racism against us,” he said.
He added that the Christchurch Muslim community felt they had been “ignored” in the conference, which didn’t include anyone affected by the terror attacks on any of their panels.
Azad Razzaq Khan from the Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism said he was disappointed by the selection of some speakers.
“Similarly, one speaker who was supposed to discuss community responses to countering terrorism instead implied New Zealand Muslims support terrorism.
“This was deeply hurtful, harmful and frankly disgusting considering some Muslim members of the audience are victims of the Christchurch attack. We walked out of the hui during this presentation to demonstrate our outrage.”
The Muslim community, however, chose to return for the rest of the event, out of respect. Debate continued, with each side having a say.
“If we start saying some terrorism is justified and some causes are justified to pursue violence for, then I don't even - why are we having this discussion?" Moses said.
Rashid Omar, whose son Tariq died in the Christchurch terror attacks, said he came to the event “not to hear racism” about Muslims supposedly “supporting terrorism”.
“We are the ones who suffer,” he said.
John Minto, the chair of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, said the group approached Moses to complain and asked her to condemn racism against Palestinians.
Had anyone said the same thing about Jews, "she would have quite rightly condemned it as anti-Semitic", Minto said.
The He Whenua Taurikura hui, which translates to the "A Country At Peace", is being staged annually as a recommendation of the post-Christchurch terror Royal Commission.
A suite of experts, intelligence and police chiefs gathered for the two-day conference beginning today.
Rebecca Kitteridge, SIS Director-General, said the primary threat came from "identity-motivated" and particularly white supremacists, akin to the March 15 terrorist, Australian man Brenton Tarrant.
"If a terrorist attack were to be committed in New Zealand in the next 12 months, we think it would most likely be carried out by an extremist lone actor, without any detectable forewarning."
Cameron Bayly, NZ Police's chief counter-terrorism adviser, also revealed today community members prevented two further possible attacks around the time of the 2019 massacre.