Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ criticises Government for ignoring Royal Commission points on hate speech

"That's been ignored."
"That's been ignored." Photo credit: AM


A group representing Muslims disputes there was consultation on the most recent proposed change to hate speech laws.

Last month, the government announced it would amend two sections (61 and 131) under the Human Rights Act to include protections for religious beliefs against hate speech in response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch masjidain.

"Everybody in New Zealand deserves to be safe from this kind of violence," Justice Minister Kiritapu Allan said in a statement at the time.

"This change will protect more groups from harm and strengthen social cohesion in Aotearoa New Zealand."

The government said there was more than 19,000 submissions on six proposals, but the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) said of these, only 2817 were from individuals and 121 from organisations.

Public consultation was one of the key points of the Royal Commission, according to FIANZ chair Abdur Razzaq Khan.

But he told Morning Report there was no "extensive consultation" with the community on the recent proposed change as the government suggested in its November release.

"What we have now is, without consultation, the government coming up and saying we must include faith as one of the protected categories under the Human Rights Act Section 131. Well we say why should it be just faith, why shouldn't it be other vulnerable communities as well?

"Every recommendation that we made to the Royal Commission was based on ensuring all vulnerable communities would be included and not just faith-communities."

The association's submission to a discussion document on hate speech legislation last year was labelled as 'preliminary' because they did not expect there would be decisions made when there was so much confusion, he said.

Moreover, the focus diverted to free speech instead of hate speech, he said.

Allan acknowledged the nature of the debate had at times gone off topic.

"Some of the debate on this topic over the last year been disappointing, and at times deliberately divisive and misleading, particularly in regard to the proposals that were out for consultation."

While FIANZ commended the minister for her intentions, the association said it was "incongruous" religious beliefs was put under section 131 when the commission stated it was "not practicable to enforce".

The Royal Commission had recommended for section 131 to be repealed and for a provision to be inserted in the Crimes Act.

"That's been ignored," Khan said.

FIANZ was also critical there was no scope to apply the provisions to electronic medium, particularly social media.

"The pervasive nature of social media and its exclusion from the scope of Section 131 of the Human Rights Act, raises serious concerns as to the efficacy of the changes that the government has proposed," FIANZ's release stated.

"This social media limitation alone renders this legislation fit for 'no purpose'."

But the government has said it had asked Law Commission to review legislation relating to hate-motivated offending and hate speech and consider whether Rainbow and disabled communities should have "further protections".

"These issues are complicated and the review will ensure any further changes to the incitement provisions meet society's expectations and needs," Allan said.

"Until the Law Commission has done that work, there will be no changes to the definition of groups protected from discrimination, or any changes to how the existing legal regime against incitement operates in terms of thresholds, offences or penalties, as originally proposed."

Khan said it was ironic to give this task to the Law Commission when it recognised the Royal Commission as the highest body of inquiry.

"There is a completely separate 40 page document [by the Royal Commission] with a detailed analysis and policy review entitled 'Hate Speech and Hate Crime Legislation'. This is a supplementary document and as the Royal Commissioners themselves stated, it has analysis of the legislation in 'greater detail'," FIANZ's release stated.

"The Muslim community and others had spent many months in consultation with the Royal Commission, and now that entire process has been nullified. For the Law Commission to restart this entire process would inevitably mean reopening the trauma of 15 March."

With the amendment set to go through Parliamentary readings and subject to a full select committee process, Allan said she hoped the other political parties would consider their positions "carefully and responsibly".