Green MP Golriz Ghahraman spoke movingly in Parliament during the debate on the motion of condolence to families of mosque victims, recalling how as a nine-year-old she and her family were welcomed in Auckland as they “escaped oppression at the risk of torture”.
“We had lived through a war, and I will never forget being that nine-year-old girl on the escalator at Auckland Airport with my frightened parents. We weren’t turned back. We were welcomed here. So I want to thank every single New Zealander—hundreds of thousands of people—who came out over the last three days, who stood on the right side of history for our values of inclusion and love”.
Then she issued a challenge to her fellow MPs. She contended that politicians bear some responsibility for the shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques on Friday.
“There sit among us those who have for years fanned the flames of division, who have blamed migrants for the housing crisis. None of us are directly responsible for what happened on Friday – we’re all horrified – but we’re all on notice now, we have to change the way we do politics. Our most vulnerable communities are hurt, we’re scared – white supremacists want us dead.“
Ghahraman asserted that although the man accused of the shootings was not born in NZ, the ideology that led to the Christchurch mosque shootings exists in pockets of NZ
“This was terrorism committed by a white supremacist. It was planned at length and gone unchecked by authorities because white supremacy was not seen as a pressing threat, even as some in the Muslim community were.”
Ghahraman said ethnic communities, refugees and tangata whenua had raised concerns about racist ideology before Friday’s attacks. She claimed she had received online threats of death, rape and gun violence .
“I receive all the barrage of hate online. Every minority in New Zealand knows this as a little bit of their truth. We can’t pretend this was an aberration from overseas – the truth is it happened here and it began with hate speech allowed to grow online”.
But in referring to fellow parliamentarian, was she referring to the politician who was questioned about his party’s immigration policy on TVNZ’s Q+A programme on June 5, 2016 and said:
“But here’s what we want. We want them to salute our flag, respect our laws, honour our institutions and, above all, don’t bring absolutely anti-women attitudes with them, treating women like cattle, like fourth-class citizens.”
Or the politician who on November 23, 2016 declared “extremist Islamists” shouldn’t be coming here and New Zealand’s attitude to immigration is “cavalier in the extreme”.
Or the politician who on the election campaign trail insisted:
“The Muslim community had been quick to show us their more moderate face. There is a militant underbelly here in NZ as well. Underneath it all, the agenda is to promote fundamentalist Islam. These groups are like the mythical hydra – a serpent underbelly with multiple heads capable of striking at any time, in any direction”?
The record shows those statements were made by NZ First leader Winston Peters.
This week he seemed to want to backtrack a bit. He says his comments “must be taken in the context of the time”.
He argues no politician is blameless when it comes to past political comments.
Peters had been asked by journalists whether he stood behind comments he made in the past about extremism, including linking it to Muslim members of the community.
He concedes he has made all sorts of comments about extremism – including recently calling out a group of Nazis from Austria who were driving the UN migrant pact debate.
“I made it very clear, I’ve called it out wherever I see it. Because I don’t believe that terrorism, whatever its background creed, or wherever it comes from, is acceptable.”
Now as deputy PM, Peters has a more formidable task on his hands. He has to face down Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a diplomatic stand-off over inflammatory comments made by Erdogan in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks.
Speaking at a campaign rally in northern Turkey, Erdogan criticised the Anzacs for their role in Gallipoli and threatened to send NZers and Australians who came to his country with anti-Islam sentiment, back in a casket.
“Your grandparents came here… and they returned in caskets. Have no doubt, we will send you back like your grandfathers.”
In Indonesia, on his way to Turkey, Peters said it would be premature to review NZ’s travel advisory on Turkey. He added he planned to address Erdogan’s comments when he got to Turkey.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described Erdogan’s comments as reckless and deeply offensive.
“I don’t find these comments very helpful, I don’t find them very accurate or truthful as well because the actions of the Australian and the New Zealand governments have been consistent with our values of welcome and supporting people from all around the world”.
Morrison summoned the Turkish ambassador to Australia to his office to demand the comments be withdrawn and said further diplomatic action could follow if they were not.
“I have asked for these comments, particularly the reporting of the misrepresented position of Australia on Turkish television, the state-sponsored broadcaster, to be taken down”.
Morrison said the ambassador suggested that Erdogan, who was in the midst of election campaigning, made the comments in the heat of the moment.
Morrison said those excuses did not wash with him.
Erdogan also used a political rally to play parts of a video live-streamed by the Christchurch gunman – despite NZ’s request for the distressing and violent footage not be distributed – as a tool to stoke nationalist and religious sentiment.
ACT leader David Seymour said he hoped Peters would protest when he was in Turkey in the strongest possible terms.
“Somebody who politically campaigns off the back of this tragedy in any country is morally deplorable and we should be taking the strongest possible stance to stand up for that principle and show those values.”
The uproar over Erdogan’s remarks raises a further question: how long should we continue the annual pilgrimage to Gallipoli led by the great and good?
Now that the centenary commemorations of the Great War have ended, maybe it’s time to draw a line and commemorate the war dead and wounded at home.
Countless military historians have recorded Gallipoli was not the first time New Zealanders saw action in the First World War – and wasn’t the last. Deaths on the Western Front were much higher (12,483 compared with 2721 at Gallipoli). There’s no similar trek to the battlefields of Belgium and France.