There’s a better way of discouraging would-be jihadists



The Prime Minister claims there is a growing threat from New Zealanders attracted to Islamic State and he wants to increase state powers to watch such people and take away their passports.

I believe there is a better way to discourage would-be jihadists than the state enacting measures that erode the civil liberties of all New Zealanders.

For a start, John Key seems to be overplaying the threat when he talks about a “watch list of between 30 and 40 people of concern in a foreign fighter context” and “another 30 to 40 on a list of people requiring further investigation.”

Islamic community leaders question these figures. To their knowledge there are only a handful of such potential pro-Isis jihadists. They should know, because the Islamic community in New Zealand is relatively small and anyone with an extremist bent would quickly become known.

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John Key refers to the danger of “domestic attacks of the type we have seen prevented in Australia and recently take place in Canada.” That is stretching the facts. In Australia raids by 800 police resulted in one terrorism-related charge. It appears, from reports so far, that the police don’t have any evidence of a specific terrorist plot. In Canada, the New Democratic Party’s parliamentary leader, Tom Mulcair described the shooting of a soldier near parliament as criminal attack by someone with mental issues: “I think we are not in the presence of a terrorist act in the sense we would understand it.”

Certainly the risk of terrorism here is not so great as to justify the government rushing through new legislation, as it plans to do over the next month. John Key wants “the ability to cancel a passport on the grounds of national security for up to three years.” That is, in defiance of natural justice, Mr Key wants to give a Minister, in secret and with no evidence made public, the power to punish someone for what they might do in the future – such as going off to fight in Syria.

Rather than go down the punitive route, wouldn’t it be better if the government worked with a willing Islamic community to educate any youths who might be heading in an extremist direction. Punitive measures will further alienate such men and lead them to hide their plans. In other words, it will be counterproductive.

Perhaps we could learn from the mistakes the Police made in Operation 8 back in 2007. When Police detected arms training in the Ureweras, they should have delegated their iwi liaison officers chat with the Tuhoe leadership and Tame Iti’s group to find out what story was. Instead, Police instigated a major “anti-terrorist” operation which incensed a whole tribe. [To their credit, Police have recently done a good job in patching up relations with Tame Iti’s family, and with Tuhoe as a whole.]

Until the 2007 Tuhoe raids, the Police had felt a bit left out of the “war on terror”.  So in a way they welcomed finding their own “terrorists” in the Ureweras and set in motion a huge operation. Similar over-the-top behavior is observable in the National government’s reaction to a handful of people possibly going overseas to join Isis. In truth, we are not in much danger and we’re unlikely to see beheadings in our city streets. Let’s not rush in new laws increasing state surveillance and interfering with our right to travel abroad, something which is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.


  1. Yes I would definitely agree there are better strategies that the PM could source out before claiming false claims. Ones that will always need facts not assumptions and deceitfully lying about prejudicing and discriminating another minority group. You would of thought the Operation 8 they would of learnt something. Stop infringing on basic human rights John Key it is not warranted and you cause hate infringing inciting against you when you keep on getting your claims wrong. Another apology has been made to KDC and to Tuhoe Tribes and what another international apology to the Islamic Muslim brotherhood. Shame on you John Key for ever thinking you were allowed to breach NZ’ers basic Human Rights to be able to live in peace and free from cultural ethnic discriminations.

  2. Wholeheartedly agree. I noted that the 40/40 figures have already been conflated into 80 total by the mainstream media this weekend. So the rather flimsy justification being used for removing the civil liberties of an entire population needs to be bolstered by mistating it.

    I’m glad you’ve raised the Australian and Canadian events. In the case of the Australian case, this was stated catedgorically by TV One News as being a successful raid which prevented the public beheading of an innocent member of the public. It would be more accurate to portray it as it actually was. 800 members of the police arrested 15 people, and had to release 14 of them with no charges. The 1 remaining young man arrested had boasted with his friends of carrying out such an attack. The ‘sword’ shown in media footage and photographs to scare the public was later quietly noted to be plastic.

    With the Canadian case you’ve already neatly described the difference between what Key has described and reality. The man will say anything to implement his autocratic State, nobody should believe a word he says.

  3. Wouldn’t it just be easier to vote Green* in few years? All this patching of bad laws, and the awful “debate” that goes on while it happens… any country anywhere can do without that.

    [*Lee does not adovcate voting Green or encourage voting. The point is that The Greens are the only party presently who would have the inclination to repeal and generally avoid such silliness.]

    I’d need to hear more about the situation between Police and Tame’s sudden road to Damascus change of heart before handing out the bouquets. Another thing our culture doesn’t need reinforcing is that if you threaten everyone with weapons and force, the establishment (Police) will eventually recognise that the two of you aren’t all that different and smooth the way to quietening your squeaky wheel. Our political scene won’t be improved by that. We have enough shameless showponies, careerists and sociopaths at the top already.

  4. a very good article…scaremongering a pretense to wider spying and erosion of freedoms.And using incorrect information to drive it on, surely we are not that stupid.

  5. Hi,

    I don’t disagree that finding these at risk would be jihadi’s and counselling them would be the better option for all concerned. But first you have to find these people within a relatively closed community. Then you have to somehow force them / persuade them to undergo some sort of counselling. You have to consider the enormous man hours involved, because let’s face it you don’t really know who’s at risk and who’s just got a big mouth. You may have to overcome the rhetoric of others both in the mosques and on line.

    What you’re asking for is an Olympian feat in terms of social engagement. And lets be honest our track record hasn’t been very good on trying to do this sort of thing. Because how well do we do on stopping murderers and career criminals before they begin? Shit awful as far as I can tell. We couldn’t even identify a man living in a camp with guns who had made threats before he attacked a WINZ office. We know the children of gang members often grow up to be gang members. But how well do we engage with them to steer them in a better direction? Poorly at best.

    And last, is this really an either / or thing anyway. Shouldn’t we be doing both?

    Cheers, Greg.

    • Agree.

      So we have these cute little tykes, some of them still in high school – being all passionate as young blokes often are and, as young blokes often do – they’re ignoring parents, mullahs, Olders and Wisers…

      ‘to educate any youths who might be heading in an extremist direction.’

      Works so well for excess drinking, furious driving, unprotected sex, bullying etc. Doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??

      And, of course, when ‘our brave blokes in the military’ come home they’re like, well, different, somehow, from Other Fighting Forces? Or should we take their passports, too? (No cancer treatment trips to Aus for those guys! No way!)

      The whole thing reeks of hypocrisy.

      Especially while we “celebrate” (yuck!) Armistice Day when kids of 15 and up who went to hell ‘for King and country’ returned to a ‘land and empire unfit for heroes’ with gassed lungs, PTSD, and no work.

      But it’s probably OK to join a mercenary band working somewhere in Africa. Libya, anyone?

  6. “Islamic community leaders question these figures. To their knowledge there are only a handful of such potential pro-Isis jihadists. ”

    Not exactly an impartial source.

    I still don’t see the point of cancelling the passport is though. If we want to clamp down on civil liberties, why not just embargo them from ever being able to return, if they survive that is.

    • Hi, I guess the assumption here is that the community leaders want to play down figures, so they are not “impartial”? But they have no reason to be. Keith’s point I think, is that the government has way overblown this. The community is the only party with direct access and knowledge of the situation. Working with them is the obvious solution. This would be on proper terms. The community would want this blight on them gone more than any one of us would — they’re the ones feeling the backlash.

  7. You couldn’t make this stuff up:

    “ISIS destroys tomb of Saddam Hussein’s father in Tikrit, Iraq”

    ….thought we went to war against Saddam.

    “Iraq admits Lebanese Hezbollah and Iranian RG fight alongside Iraqi security forces”

    ….don’t tell me Shon Key is sending us off to join forces with Hezbollah.

    “America’s attacks on Isis may help Bashar al-Assad”

    What a tangled web.

  8. Again Keith Locke is talking much more common sense than anyone in government seems to be doing. Certainly John Key is not to be trusted, given his previous changes of mind, his contradicting behaviour and his lies. I strongly oppose the suggested 48 hour surveillance option for the SIS (without a warrant), and it is bad enough we already gave this option to the police.

    Maybe all that is needed there is for the SIS and GCSB to work more closely with the police, who already can take action to prosecute people under the terrorism laws. A law change will only give more power to the SIS, which is likely to be abused again, at least in some cases.

    Re the passport withdrawal I have a different view. If there is indeed a danger of some persons wanting to go and fight for an extremist group that is on the terror list, an extension of up to 3 years may be reasonable, and such a decision would be open for review anyway.

    I agree that the numbers of persons needing to be watched, presented by Key, seem rather exaggerated. It makes more sense also for the government agencies to work more closely with the Muslim communities, who will know who may tend to be radical.

    Question remains though, whether those at risk can be reached, as they may object to cooperate and follow their radical ideas in their homes, via the internet and so. While most Muslims will attend mosques for prayer, not all do so, and if feeling isolated, the ones at risk will simply not go to the local mosque and rather pray at home, or in a garage, as some have been doing in Auckland.

    The threat from groups such as ISIS and Al Nusra is indeed very serious, and so I understand to some degree the logic behind the government’s decision to send military advisors or trainers to Iraq.

    As it is the scene is already so much out of control, when we look at Syria and Iraq, I cannot see the local official armed forces there manage the situation and contain ISIS and other groups. It has all gone terribly wrong, and we can to a large part thank President George W. Bush for the mess, and the allies that marched into Iraq and overthrew Saddam’s regime.

    Nobody in government even mentions one other option, to put pressure on countries like Saudi Arabia, to stop their citizens and certain organisations support ISIS. But that is, because New Zealand’s government does not want to “upset” a major export customer. ISIS though seized huge amounts of funds when raiding the local Iraqi office of the Reserve Bank, when taking over Mosul. They do now not even need foreign donors all that much, to operate.

    This is a huge mess now, and the few New Zealand training staff will hardly make any difference. It is all clearly to please the US allies, what is being done.

  9. When all you’ve got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    There’s no good reason for the state to be involved in fixing the problem unless you want to argue that a secular state or a Christian state is somehow better than an Islamic state.

    If you really want to know what the extent and nature of the threat is, then simply ask a Muslim what they think about extremism and compare notes with others that are doing the same. Reason is one of the underlying values of Islam, and this quality makes it compatible with the law of the land, which is also fundamentally connected to reason.

  10. The Nerd is rarely wrong:

    The War Nerd: Farewell Islamic State, we hardly knew ye

    Suddenly, Islamic State just can’t fall fast enough. All Summer, the press has been saying IS will soon be accepting the keys to every city on earth, an unstoppable jihadi juggernaut.

    And now, after six weeks stalled out against a local militia in Kobane and going exactly nowhere in the over-hyped drive on Baghdad, even the mainstream press, represented by America’s paper of record, the New York Times, is saying what I said months ago: IS is just a Sunni Arab militia that will never take serious turf from the other powerful groups in the region, the Kurds of the north or the Shia of the south. Or, in the more measured tones of the NYT:

    ISIS thrives in poor, Sunni Arab areas…But after months of steady expansion, the Islamic State has taken most of these areas in Iraq while failing to seize areas with non-Sunni populations.</blockquote

    ……and the winners are……drumroll please……

    The psychopaths who parlayed this nonsense into an assault on the inviolate right to privacy.

  11. What about the Jihadists in Nigeria, I heard Boko Haram is at it again (did they ever stop). Why aren’t we sending troops there, after all we should be consistent shouldn’t we, and there are women and girls being sorely mistreated there. Why the difference in response?

    • There are certain parts of the world that certain superpowers are interested dear Dialey.

      The “Islamic world” indeed includes much of Africa, much of Asia etc. In fact, most Muslims are not Arabs.

      But, it is the Arab lands that is of most interest to major corporations, who always happen to have great presence even well before the military withdraws.

      So that’s where the superpower interference has become human history’s big thing.

      So Boko Haram can do whatever it wants — there won’t be “fight against evil” there.

  12. “Rather than go down the punitive route, wouldn’t it be better if the government worked with a willing Islamic community to educate any youths who might be heading in an extremist direction”

    Yep, tell them its naughty, that will work. Dreamer.

      • It’s not hate, it’s realism. Keith is dreaming if he thinks trying to reason with these people will help. We have a generation of terrorists right ow who are beyond reasoning with. Keith can be all smug and theoretical in his cosy little world until the bomb goes off in our own back yards. I say no to appeasement and yes to freedom.

        • That “realism” you’re referring to has been in evidence since 1948 in the Middle East.

          Where has it gotten us? The reason we have “bombs going off in our own back yards” (really? I’ll be avoiding barbies at your place from now on) is the result of Western imperialism; the addiction-like thirst for oil; and the festering sore that is Israel’s suppression of the Palestinian people.

          You can support kneejerk, reactionary policies all you like – but it will simply result in the same outcomes. What was it that Einstein said? Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome.

          I say no to appeasement and yes to freedom.

          Jingoism isn’t a sound basis for addressing international problems, Nehemia. Look at things from the point of view of our so-called “enemies” and perhaps we can start looking at alternative solutions for pressing problems.

        • Why not try reason?
          Bombing and strafing 14 Arab countries, leaving over a million dead civilians doesn’t seem to have worked.

  13. You make a very good point but is it possible to de-radicalize impetuous and maybe deprived youths? Some I fear want glory more than commonsense. They want to be a shooting star across the sky even though their lives may be only as brief,

  14. Keith,

    I think you’re giving the government too much credit here.

    Has the government resolved longstanding issues of youth disengagement? Of Maori crime? Or around child poverty? Of youth justice?

    All of these are factors that contribute to these few (whatever their number) becoming vulnerable to their desire for “glory” as the writer above aptly calls it.

    In fact, 40 is a remarkably low number, and its probably due to how quiet and peaceful our country and communities are.

    If you actually look at how disengaged much of our population (incl Maori is), we would be wanting to ensure ISIS, or the next glory giving crisis, does not entice our disengaged communities with offering the temporary high they need to forget about their miserable lives.

    Keith, I agree that this whole problem requires a more thoughtful response than eroding everyone’s rights to deal with a few that dont care about any such thing anyway.

  15. Better late than never. An interesting take on the scary Australian story:

    “He just wanted to go to Afghanistan to get married. He was no part of this ISIS crap. He had nothing to do with all that stuff. This is all propaganda. He showed no signs of terrorism. He was a very happy guy – a normal 18-year-old that loves life, happy with all his mates. He was enjoying life, he was going out having fun, and having food every day with his friends. There was nothing abnormal about him.”

    No clue as to the provenance.

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