GUEST BLOG: Anjum Rahman – is this what you call consultation?

By   /   November 30, 2014  /   17 Comments

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About 8 days ago, I got a phone call from Andrea Vance. She was looking to do a story on the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation. Her understanding was that there would only be one week to make submissions. Well it turned out that one week is a luxury and what we got is around 24 hours.

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About 8 days ago, I got a phone call from Andrea Vance.  She was looking to do a story on the government’s proposed anti-terrorism legislation.  Her understanding was that there would only be one week to make submissions.  Well it turned out that one week is a luxury and what we got is around 24 hours.  The bill was made available on Wednesday, with submissions due on Thursday.  For a bill that seeks to allow huge intrusions into the lives of individuals, this is beyond ridiculous.

But I played the game.  I had little hope that it would have any impact and was pretty certain that the Government’s mind was made up.  Nonetheless I sat down after 9pm on Wednesday night and wrote a hurried submission, so that at least our objections would be on record.  I was lucky to have a briefing paper from the Human Rights Commission and also looked at the points made at No Right Turn.   I forwarded it to the head of the Islamic Women’s Council for feedback and approval.  The basic details of the written submission can be found at my blog.

I was expecting (probably because I hadn’t been paying close attention to the news) that the committee would hear oral submission in a week or two.  But luckily I got a call from a friend at 9am Thursday to say that the Foreign Affairs, Defence & Trade Select Committee was already sitting that very day, and on Friday, to hear oral submissions.  She texted me the name and phone number of the secretary of the committee, which enabled me to have a chance to present for 10 minutes on Friday.

At such short notice, it was going to be difficult to fly to Wellington and so have the impact that a face-to-face presentation would have.  Taking advice from friends, I chose to present to the Committee by phone.  Below is what I said, to the best of my recollection.

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Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

The first point I would like to make to the committee is that the short time frame to present on this Bill is hugely unfair.  Our organisation has not had any opportunity to consult with our community, only the executive has been consulted.  We have not had the opportunity to read through the Bill properly or to consider all the ramifications.  We object strongly to this time frame and ask the Committee to extend the consultation period and ensure that this legislation goes through the proper process.  Other countries with higher risk ratings than ours, such as the UK and Australia, have allowed months for consultation.

Since I sent my written submission yesterday, I have consulted with other people and the following have endorsed and fully support our written submission:

  • The Board of Shama (Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre)
  • Poverty Action Waikato
  • Douglas Pratt, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Waikato
  • Rob Spedding, Service & Food Workers Union
  • Janelle Fisher
  • Jane Furness, University of Waikato
  • Wendy Harper

[Others who were not able to contact me prior to my presentation: Louis Paulussen, Dr Neville Robertson]

The second point I would like to make is that the way this Bill has been presented in the media and public discussion on it is having a negative impact on the Muslim community.  We have had talk about beheadings and fighters in Syria, we have had the Herald use the words “Jihadist Bill” in a headline.  As a result of rhetoric by our politicians and the framing they have used in promoting the Bill, the negativity has flowed through to talkback radio and social media.

Muslim women have had to bear the brunt of the resulting backlash.  I had an incident of abuse just last night, with someone screaming abuse from a passing car as I crossed the street.  The level of harassment has increased severely in the last couple of months, and even the Race Relations Commissioner put out a press release a few weeks ago because of her concerns around the harassment faced by Muslim women and children.  Our organisation is now asking Muslim women to report any incidents to us, so that we can keep a record.

Our community have been positive contributors to the country and we do not condone in any way the kind of violence perpetrated by ISIS on innocent people.  If you pass and use legislation that marginalises and targets the Muslim community, you further alienate this community, and when taking into account the kinds of harassment I have mentioned above, you’re actually creating the conditions which are likely to push already disaffected individuals towards terrorism.

Instead, the Government should have made sure that our community was part of the solution.  There should have been consultation and engagement with our community.  In that regard, I support the submission made by the Human Rights Commission.  I haven’t had time to read it in full, but it talks about the solution to terrorism being a longer term engagement with the community.

I now want to talk about specific provisions of the Bill.  The first is around hijab, which is the covering of the hair and wearing of loose clothing.   For the Muslim women who practice it, this is a deeply held religious belief.  The only place where we remove our hijab is in our homes; our homes are our sanctuary.  The notion that there could be video surveillance in our homes and that some random stranger could view this footage of us without hijab is deeply distressing and highly offensive to us.  It doesn’t matter that it is happening without our knowledge, the fact that it could happen at all is enough to make us fearful in our own homes.

To know that the State can exercise this power over us without a warrant is a violation; I cannot overstate just how upsetting it is.  We would therefore expect that such surveillance would not be done without firm evidence reviewed by an independent third party.  We expect that there would be maximum safeguards around such an intrusion.

Moving on to the next issue.  I am a trustee of Shama (Hamilton Ethnic Women’s Centre).  This is an organisation that provides support services to victims of domestic violence from ethnic minority communities.  Many of the women from our communities are migrants and refugees, and some are not financially independent.  In an abusive situation, they may try to flee New Zealand back to their family overseas.  The abuser’s family or an accomplice could provide false or malicious information that would stop her from leaving the country for 10 days.  This would put her at extreme risk, and where would she be expected to go for those days?  These women often do not have social support networks in this country, they have no family here.  What could happen to them in that period of time?

This is exactly the type of unintended consequence that can happen when legislation is rushed through the house and why we need more time for consultation with the community.  I am again asking the Committee to allow us more time.

More generally, there is a significant danger of malicious and false allegations.  The Committee may not be aware of just how much hatred there is out in the community, and we feel particularly at risk.  The effects of these intrusions and restrictions cannot be undone.

What I have raised with you are serious and grave concerns.  To know that there has been talk of consultation being “chit chat” is very upsetting and does not give us confidence that this Committee is taking our concerns seriously. [Someone interrupted at this point to say that our concerns would be taken very seriously].

As we have said in our written submission, we know that the country faces security risks.  We understand that there must be some surveillance undertaken to ensure public safety.  We understand that the United Nations has put forward some requirement.  But what we don’t understand is the need to pass this legislation with urgency.  We don’t understand why we cannot be given more time to consult with our community.

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At this point, I was interrupted by the Chair, and had a couple of question around harassment.  I’m hoping there will at least be a Hansard record of proceedings and you can check the accuracy of the above, as I’ve worked from memory.  I’ll also link to the interview I did on Checkpoint, and an article on the Stuff website.

I heard on the news today that there may be some changes to the Bill.  That’s great, but it’s not good enough.  The Government needs to stop, they need to make the case for each of these new measures, they need to allow adequate time for consultation.  My written and oral submissions had a focus on Muslim women because it was on behalf of the Islamic Women’s Council.  But the fact is that these issues affect all New Zealanders.

The Committee will report back to the House on Tuesday.  We need to keep the pressure on.

 

 

Anjum Rahman. – I fit into a lot of boxes – I’m an ethnic minority (born in india), a religious minority (muslim), and a woman. I’m a mother, an accountant, a political activist and a feminist. All of these form part of my identity to a greater or lesser degree. most of all though, I’m a rebel who refuses to fit neatly into boxes or to conform to the patterns that people expect of me. 

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17 Comments

  1. Greg C says:

    Hi,

    Agree completely. It has to be thoroughly debated. And just where is the urgency? If we don’t get this legislation through by Christmas are we expecting bombings in the new year?

    Cheers, Greg.

  2. Terry says:

    Aotearoa seems perhaps to be on the verge of a persecututive attitude (or even action) toward its fellow Muslim citizens.

    • A few hundred years ago, it was witches and jews. But burning witches and persecuting jews is socially passé, so the powers-that-be require new Bogeymen with which to frighten the citizenry.

      That is, if the citizenry can shift their glazed eyes from such ‘conciousness-raising’ (note sarcasm) offerings such as “The Block“, “Big Brother Australia“, “The Voice“, “My Kitchen Rules“, et al, to become frightened of black-garbed “Jihadists”.

      Funny old world… the masses indulge in their televised ‘opiates’, “reality TV”, and in doing so by-pass the Real World in which they live in.

      Because, when you think about it, here’s the irony: in 1985, after French agents/terrorists bombed the Rainbow Warrior, killing an innocent man. The State did not react by passing a gaggle of laws increasing surveillance, police powers, and other draconian measures. The government of the day simply allowed the Police to get on with the job of apprehending the culprits.

      Meanwhile, 29 years later, with not a “Jihadist” or “Foreign Fighter” in sight, this government has enacted more repressive laws and extended State surveillance, than at any time in our short colonial history.

      Our esteemed Prime Minister – who currently has hearing, perception, and memory problems of his own – seems hell bent on protecting us from “enemies” a world away, and who, like most Americans, probably aren’t even aware of our existence. (Until, of course, he deploys SAS troops to Iraq. That will no doubt attract the attention of IS like a red flag to a bull. Nice one, Dear Leader.)

      This government could install cameras in every home in the country; set up roadblocks and checkpoints at every intersection in our cities; enact a dusk-to-dawn curfew (except Friday and Saturday nights, so bars and alcohol retailers can still ply their trade) – and the slumbering masses would simply switch channels from “Home Improvements” to “Masterchef Outer Mongolia“.

      If apathy was a strength, we would be a reigning world superpower. (If the middle classes could be bothered.)

      • YogiBare says:

        As the Romen Empire died it tried to distract the hoi polli with blood-letting circuses, now we have “reality” shows. I have read that Roman citizens were fascinated by celebraty cooks in the dying days of their Empire, is history repeating?

  3. elle says:

    Key is not interested in our safety just our freedom or lack of it,there are no real threats most threats have been false flags to do their worst in the way of surveillance. America have invaded eastern countries to take over their wealth, Obama didn’t need to invade NZ Key just handed us over for money and praise,and self protection ,very selfish.

  4. cleangreen says:

    100% Frank,

    Fear and divide & rule is this Government’s method of control.

    They are following pre-war Germany principals of dumb down and control the citizens.

    Then what’s next?

    Well it could be the following;

    Start a phoney war,as Germany did with Poland?

    This Government here are preparing us for a phoney war with Islam.

    More fools are us for swallowing this crap.

  5. George Hendry says:

    Greetings Anjum.

    Based on what you say, along with everything else wrong with it this legislation would seem to discriminate based on religion/culture and to violate that provision of the Bill of Rights.

    I’m sure the government realises this and are proceeding cynically, adding innocent law-abiding Muslims to the list chosen for Divide and Rule.

    Now reelected, they believe they can safely give 24 hours for consultation so as to be able to say later on ‘well after all there can’t have been much interest because there was an unusually low number of submissions and some were so poorly worded it was unbelievable,’ etc etc, and by the time we’ve drawn breath to say ‘but what can you do in only 24 hours ???@#%&$!!!!’ they’ll be ready to dump the next one which allows only 2 hours.

    It will take a long time to tidy them up and out of here, and hard work by several determined people from different angles. Please would you consider forwarding the petition below to the Muslim community – some say it won’t achieve anything but it’s still growing slowly and the first thing I’d like it to do is reach its target. Then to see what action the Governor General takes or what excuse if any he makes for not doing so.

    https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Governor_General_of_New_Zealand_Investigate_all_the_allegations_of_corruption_in_the_National_government/sign/?aeArPbb

    • anjum says:

      the government is claiming that the law itself it’s neutral. but the arguments made by the PM & others to try to build public support for it have been far from neutral. and they certainly can not guarantee that its application will be. i am certain that there will be profiling and that some communities are much greater risk than others.

  6. downwithnats says:

    I despise all religious practices. But I despise government interference in personal lives, while it ignores the causes of unrest even more, especially as it pretends to be open to “submissions” over a period of an unreasonably short period. Good that your efforts to object were presented on behalf of us all.

  7. Ann Johns says:

    And all of a sudden we hear about an apparent islamic extremist wanting to declare his own state inside NZ, haha. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny. There is no such thing as conincidence with this govt and I would be willing to bet this “islamic extremist” is actually a paid actor.

    • anjum rahman says:

      even if he isn’t, they know about him. so why do they need to have the power to conduct surveillance inside my house, without a warrant, because some guy would like to set up an islamic state here? and is the guy talking about using violent means to do so? then there’s your evidence, go get a warrant.

  8. Ovicula says:

    Asalam walaikum
    Tautoko.
    Nga mihi.

    I too made a submission but it was nowhere near as eloquent as yours.

  9. Well done, Anjum! God knows this country needs more determined citizens like you!!

  10. Save NZ says:

    Good on you! Agree with everything you say.

  11. wild katipo says:

    Well Frank ,….I particually liked your comment about the Rainbow Warrior,…that oppressive laws were not passed in a frenzied rush screaming ‘Terrorists”!!….on every street corner…

    Another one I remember was when this moron John XkeySCORE was guzzling beer for the photo shoots at a barbie with it might have been Prince Andrew?..Philip?….and hello !…onto the property walks a member of the public stolling up to say hello to a Royal…

    GREAT SECURITY THAT DAY !!….and if there was REALLY a problem with terrorism ,…dont you think that would have been a sterling oppertunity for said ‘terrorists ‘ ?!!?

    But what happened ? ,….thats it !!…Nothing !!

    The point being is this : If these two examples are indicative of the low state of terror in this country , – that means John XkeySCORE will be personally culpable if any person is harmed by terrorists because of John XkeySCORE’S pandering to USA ‘s interest in the middle east.

  12. Andrea says:

    I wonder if those many commenters who are ‘over hearing about the Hager book’ will notice this little gem sliding into the silly season?

    And what else is on the end-of-year agenda that the ‘Overs’ won’t be noticing?

    Brilliant work, Anjum Rahman – and your network.