I have read of a church in Wellington called Celebration Church, which consists of evangelical Christians who believe that Islam is a threat to New Zealand. Coming not quite three months after the Christchurch terrorist attacks, it reminds me that there are people still in society who because of the actions of an equally few radicals, believe entire religions can and should be written off as dangerous.
They might be genuine in their concerns, yet the evidence does not appear to match. Whilst concerns have been raised about radicalized Muslims going overseas to serve the rabble that was Daesh, they were in the clear minority of potential threats. And contrary to popular belief were most likely to have been screened by New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, before they left – every time they sent an e-mail, placed a cellphone call/text, they like anyone else doing so, would have been monitored by the Government Communications Security Bureau. Yet the two biggest threats that materialized into actual events in New Zealand were not radicalized Muslims. Two were French Government agents – namely Dominique Prieur and Alain Mafart committing state sanctioned terrorism. The other was the Christchurch mosque attacker.
Anyone can be radicalized if they want to and in the correct environment, that radicalization can become militant in nature. Radicalization is one thing, but converting it into the will power to conduct or otherwise be involved in acts of violence and destruction against innocents in the community is quite another thing altogether. I am reminded though at the same time that there are many unreported instances around the world of religious faiths coming together to protect each others places of worship after an attack – and in one case, building a church:
- Muslims building a church in a Punjabi town for the Christian population
- Christians and Jews protecting a mosque in Texas after the previous one burned down
Contrary to the belief of the evangelicals 41% of New Zealanders do no aspire to any religion at all. The 2013 Census found that the Islamic faith only makes up 1.18% of New Zealand’s population. The Buddhist faith attracts 1.5%; Hindu’s make up 2.11%; Presbyterianism 8.5%; Anglicanism 11.8%; Catholicism 12.61% and all other Christian faiths 15.14%.
If we are going to call out one religion or another for practicising discrimination against others, then we should call the whole lot out. Discrimination is something New Zealand takes a lot of pride in standing against, which assumes that New Zealanders will therefore have no problems in calling out those who practice it and condemn such acts. It means we should condemn the Buddhist violence against Christians and Muslims overseas; the attacks on synagogues in the hopes of once again stoking the fears that Jewish bankers are taking over the world. It means we should condemn the attacks on churches in places like Nigeria by Boko Haram.
My message is very simple. I have no time for extremism from anyone irrespective of nationality, or any other potentially discriminating characteristic. Like the many Christians, Hindu’s, Buddhists and others who have moved to New Zealand to live a better live, our Muslim community have tried to do the same. All such communities have one or two who will not fit in, but the very vast majority come in peace.