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On Saturday Nov 29th at 10 am in the morning I was nervously glued to my phone. I was told the day before that, following my written submission, the Parliament Select Committee would be calling to hear my oral presentation on the new Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill.
The call never came reinforcing my view about the Government’s complete disregard for due process and the farcical manner in which this important Bill is being rushed through.
Here’s what the Select Committee on this Bill did not hear:
I would like it to be registered that my submission is in no way an endorsement of the process by which this bill is being considered.
Apart from undermining the normal parliamentary procedures and therefore the democratic process, the unnecessary rushed processing of this Bill creates a false sense of urgency and the wrong impression of New Zealand being under immanent threat of terrorism.
This exaggerated presentation of terrorist threat prejudices the Muslim community in NZ who continually have the finger of suspicion pointing at them and are perceived as the main source of terrorisms, even thought, the only real acts of modern terrorism in this country were initiated by the Government (2007) and French agents (1985).
I asked for this oral presentation because I felt that, due to the tight time constraint, my written submission was not well prepared and did not include all the points that I wished to raise.
One major point which I did not include in my written submission is the obstacle this Bill creates for me as an Iranian-bred Muslim woman, and many Muslims like me, to exercise our right to freedom of thought, speech and association without the fear of being perceived as a threat to national security and without the fear of being put under secretive, intrusive surveillance and, most importantly, without the fear of the cancellation of our passports.
Learning about what happened to David Small and Aziz Choudry in 1996 and also what happened in 2007 Ureweras raids and recently with the misuse of SIS for political purposes; makes me very concerned and conscious about abuse of power by the police and the SIS.
Cancellation of my passport is one of my biggest fears. I imagine the scenario of being stranded in Iran whose government I have criticized openly many times.
These fears and concerns not only infringe on my right to live without fear of unnecessary search and political harassment but they also have the real potential of disengaging many people like me from the civil and political participation. This leads to the point raised in my written submission.
This form of Government overreach would result in the further alienation and disengagement of moderate Muslims.
The post 9/11 events and the actions of ISIS and other fundamentalist groups have already resulted in the unwanted outcome of many moderate Muslims disassociating themselves from Islam and identifying themselves specifically as non-Muslims for the fear of being painted with the same brush that portrays Muslims as extremists or even terrorists.
The net result is self-fulfilling stereotypical view of the Muslim community that is fast losing its moderate members and is overtaken by a greater percentage of its more extreme elements.
Same problem can be extended to civil participation and political engagement. This Bill discourages moderate Muslims from active political engagement and carries the risk of removing the neutralizing influence of moderate voices that are needed in order to draw back radical elements that might resort to violence.
In summary, this Bill is undemocratic and counter productive. It infringes on our democratic and human rights and pushes the terrorists deeper into the dark crevasses of radicalism where they breed and multiply.