SHAFAQNA- IQNA: New Zealand’s Muslim community is calling for deadlines to be set to ensure the government makes meaningful changes following the Christchurch terror attack. The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Fianz) released a new report on Monday setting strict timelines and priorities for the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the Christchurch Terror Attack in December.
The commission made 44 recommendations, including setting up a new national intelligence and security agency, changing firearms licensing rules and reforming hate speech laws. The man responsible for the attack was sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering 51 people and injuring dozens of others at two Christchurch mosques on March 15, 2019.
Fianz royal commission follow-up chair Abdur Razzaq said the association’s new report was submitted to the appropriate minister, Andrew Little. “The good intentions that the minister had initiated with the hui all over the country, now needs to be followed up with good management by the various ministries.” Razzaq said the hui were just the start of the conversation required with New Zealand’s wider ethnic and religious communities.
“They were successful in making people aware that the Government was committed to the promises made by the prime minister to implement the 44 recommendations. “What was particularly appreciated was that [Little]went to regional centers like Nelson, Ashburton, Napier and Invercargill, and the small Muslim communities were eager to share their views.”
But Razzaq said while the hui set a positive tone, the downside is that the community has a heightened sense of awareness, and any delays could easily deflate expectations. Fianz’s report classified the royal commission’s recommendations into four categories: completed, immediate (needs to be completed within three months), short to medium term (four to six months), and medium to long term (seven to 18 months).
Fianz put 13 objectives in the immediate category, including mandatory reporting of firearms injuries to police, which the report described as “a major loophole”. The royal commission’s report revealed the gunman had accidentally shot himself months before the attacks, and was treated in Dunedin Hospital.
Other recommendations marked as priorities by Fianz related to improving New Zealand’s counter-terrorism efforts, including having a single point of contact for reporting concerning behaviours, the Government publishing a list of risk factors that could identify extremist behavior, and an annual hui on countering violent extremism. Fianz also called for the Government to start investing as soon as possible in ways for young New Zealanders to learn about the value of ethnic and religious diversity, inclusivity, and conflict resolution, both at school and through community organizations.
Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge told RNZ the agency was already undergoing a “significant transformation” before the March 15 shootings, “including an increased focus on white identity extremism”, and was committed to working on the commission’s recommendations. Little told RNZ the most important thing was that the changes recommended by the royal commission did happen. Many of the recommendations were being worked on, while others would “take a while to do”, he said.