Fresh threats against Al Noor Mosque as country debates hate speech laws

From RNZ

As the country prepares to debate proposed hate speech reforms, Al Noor Mosque is being targeted with fresh threats of violence.

Police have received three reports relating to the Christchurch mosque in the past fortnight that a senior minister describes as “serious”.

The matters were reported to police either at or from a representative of Al Noor Mosque, says Canterbury metro area commander superintendent Lane Todd.

He says all three reports are being “actively followed up”. They are not connected to one another.

Federation of Islamic Associations chair Abdur Razzaq is responsible for one of the reports after he drew police attention to an offensive image on the online forum 4chan.

The image is a selfie of a masked man posing in a car parked outside Al Noor Mosque, with accompanying comments that threatened violence to those inside.

“Immediately we contacted the police, the police were onto it within eight minutes. The thing was being looked at, SIS was involved.

“So we are happy with that kind of quick response time but [racism is] still there, it’s still there. This is why I’m saying why everyone needs to look at the Royal Commission findings.”

The image first appeared on the encrypted messaging app, Telegram, and is no longer available on the 4chan website.

Minister in charge of the GCSB and SIS Andrew Little would not confirm the SIS is involved in this case, but reiterated it has a mandate to gather intelligence on terrorist threats and white identity extremist violence.

Little, who is also responsible for the Government’s response to the Royal Commission’s Report into terror attacks, says the post is serious.

“Anything that is a photograph like that, which is clearly intended to intimidate and cause a sense of threat to people, is never acceptable, which is why when they are seen or appear online that people do let the authorities know so that action can be taken.”

Little says no security intelligence agency or police force can monitor everything on the internet, and rely on a range of sources – including the public – for information.

Concerns about proposed hate speech reforms

Abdul Razzaq is already asking for more time to make submissions on the government’s proposed changes to hate speech laws.

He says he has been busy with coronial submissions, meetings and the counter-terrorism hui in Christchurch this month.

The public consultation period, which ends on 6 August, should be extended for an extra month, Razzaq says.

“Right now the DPMC [Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet] and the various ministries are moving at a pace that we can’t cope with. We are voluntary sectors; all our time is voluntary time as opposed to civil servants who are paid to do this kind of work.

“In the past, we have been critical of how slow they were but now we’re coming to a stage where momentum is being built and we are finding it very difficult to catch up.”

News that the Government wants to move hate speech into the Crimes Act and introduce harsher penalties caught the Islamic Women’s Council on the back foot last week.

Its national coordinator, Aliya Danzeisen, says it is a lot to process, especially as she has not had any conversations about hate speech laws since the Royal Commission.

The Islamic Women’s Council has said its warnings about growing anti-Muslim sentiment were ignored by authorities before the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Danzeisen fears nothing has changed, even though government action – like the proposed hate speech reforms – are in response to the terror attacks.

“The government hasn’t changed its spots. It’s a big machine and what we’ve been told before is that it’s a big ship that’s hard to turn. We understand that but there’s an urgent need to change the direction of how it consults with people and the community.

“That’s what the Royal Commission was saying; that you’ve got to do things differently. It doesn’t feel like it’s been done differently in this case.”

Public submissions open today and close on August 6. The discussion document includes steps on how to make submissions.

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