Local News

The threat of radical Islam: Does New Zealand have anything to fear?

In a new investigation, North and South looks at the risk of New Zealand becoming the target of a terrorist attack – and talks to our local Muslim community about their own concerns and fears.
Muslim praying new zealand north and south

It happened in Paris last November – 130 people killed in a series of Isis terror attacks. It happened in Brussels this March, when 32 people were killed by suicide bombers. It even happened in Sydney, where a lone gunman flew an Islamic flag after taking 18 people hostage in a Martin Place café. Two of them died in a shoot-out with police.

So, could it happen here?

In the new issue of North & South magazine, deputy editor Joanna Wane investigates the risk of New Zealand becoming the target of a terrorist attack – and talks to our local Muslim community about their own concerns and fears.

According to the global Terrorist Index, terrorist activity increased by 80 per cent in 2014 to its highest recorded level. Here, the Government has between 30 and 40 names on its active watchlist, and intelligence services have rated “violent extremism in New Zealand and by New Zealanders” as a top security risk.

– Muslim Kiwis from Iraq, Tunisia and Syria gather in Cornwall Park. Photo: Adrian Malloch

In May, two Auckland men (in unrelated cases) admitted possessing extremist Islamic videos – the first time such charges have been laid in New Zealand.

Former Labour leader David Shearer, who sits on Parliament’s intelligence and security committee, believes radical Islam will remain the greatest threat to world security for the next generation. He’s worked for the United Nations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, and says building close ties with the Muslim community is the best way to protect against rogue elements here.

“You can do all the intelligence you like, but Muslims in New Zealand who feel they are Kiwis, in a sense they’re the frontline for us. Rather than pointing the finger, we should be embracing them. Because at the end of the day, if there’s an outlaw within their ranks, it will be them who find it – not me, poring over intelligence reports.”

– A friendly soccer game becomes a multi-cultural match-up. Photo: Adrian Malloch

While Donald Trump hit the presidential campaign trail calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the US, support is gathering here for calls to double the number of refugees accepted here. Australia already takes three times as many per capita as we do in New Zealand – where the quota here hasn’t been increased in almost 30 years.

Murdoch Stephens, from the “Double the Quota” campaign, says any potential threat is more likely to come from someone on a business, tourist or student visa.

“These [refugees] are the people fleeing terrorism. If you have this insane idea you should ban Muslim immigration, you’re going to generate an intense division and isolate them. Then that will create the very thing you’re scared of.”

– Young refugees at a makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border. Photo: Getty

Words: Joanna Wane

Read the full story in North & South on sale now.

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