April 29, 2008
Vector Energy sold to Chinese spy?
ANY STORM IN A PORT
China's Trojan horse in NZ
[The following story initially ran in the April 06 edition of Investigate magazine, but is directly relevant to the purchase announced April 28, 2008 of Vector Energy's Wellington grid by the same businessman]
The Hong Kong business conglomerate trying to purchase a stake in some of New Zealand's biggest port companies [and now the purchaser of energy company Vector] has been named as a front for the People's Liberation Army of China, and some of its associates have been caught shipping weapons and alleged WMD technology. IAN WISHART has more
His name is Li Ka-shing, and if his name sounds like a cash register there's a very good reason: this 77 year old Chinese businessman has just been ranked by Forbes magazine as the tenth wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at nearly US$20 billion. His companies, including Hutchison Whampoa, account for 10% of the value of the Hong Kong stock exchange and have tentacles that reach across the globe – more than forty countries according to one estimate – and in industries as varied as mobile telephone networks, electricity grids, retailing, shipping and real estate.
Many New Zealanders may have become familiar with Li's work in the sixties and seventies, when his main business was making plastic toys with the infamous "Made in Hong Kong" imprimatur.
But there are two sides to the Li Ka-shing story. One is the traditional fodder of business magazines, lauding the rags to riches story of a billionaire whose father died after the Japanese invasion of China before World War 2, leaving a 12 year old boy with the task of earning enough money to feed his mother and siblings. It's a story of a man making wily business decisions, building an empire and showing aspiring MBA graduates how it's done.
And here's how one of those gushing business stories reads:
"The move by the richest man in Asia and one of the richest in the world to take a stake in the operation of the Port of Lyttelton is one that has potentially great benefits for Christchurch and Canterbury and ultimately the rest of the country," said the Christchurch Press in an editorial mid February.
"There is no need to be starry-eyed about the proposed venture. Li Ka-shing has risen from complete destitution as a refugee who fled the raping and pillaging of China by the Japanese in the 1930s to become a multi-billionaire.
"He did it by being an astute and hard-nosed businessman. He also did it, according to one account in a business journal, by 'remaining true to his internal moral compass' and operating with integrity."
Like we said, that's one side of the Li Ka-shing story.
The other side of Li Ka-shing is much darker, and less likely to be taught in graduate classes. It's the story of a man whose companies are regarded by Western intelligence agencies as nothing more than a money-making front for Chinese military intelligence as China prepares for what it sees as an "inevitable" conflict with the US.
As this 1996 diplomatic cable release by the US Government under a Freedom of Information request shows, Li Ka-shing's businesses didn't make money the hard way.
""Embassy Panama has received information to the effect that HIT (Hutchison International Terminals) is controlled by mainland Chinese, perhaps through a Macao front which allegedly recently invested $400 million in HIT," states the cable. "Such control would have security implications and might affect the Panamanian government's views on awarding the port concessions."
The "mainland Chinese" referred to in 1996 have turned out to be the Chinese Government itself, and more specifically its People's Liberation Army – more of which in a moment, but first some background.
Intelligence agencies have used what they call "arms length" front companies – genuine commercial operations whose owners are sympathetic to a particular cause. Back in the 1970s and 80s, for example, America's CIA set up a global freight airline, Air America, and a merchant banking operation, Nugan Hand Bank of Australia, to help launder money and assist with so-called "black operations" that the US government could not directly be involved in. Discretion, and plausible deniability, required "cut-outs" who could take the heat if discovered. One CIA front company, US accounting firm Bishop Baldwin Rewald Dillingham & Wong, even went so far as to open an office in Auckland in 1983.
But there's one difference between CIA front companies and Chinese ones. Ultimately, the US government takes a major PR-hit when dirty covert operations are uncovered. The Chinese government suffers no embarrassment when caught spying, because of its tight control of Chinese citizens and the lack of democratic accountability.
Investigate enjoyed a world exclusive in March 2000 when it reported that Chinese businessman James Riady, wanted for spying and illegal payments to the US president, Bill Clinton, had been in New Zealand as a guest of the National Government and introduced to Clinton at APEC.
Ever since Clinton was elected to the Whitehouse in 1992, China has bought influence in American politics by using businessmen like Riady and Li to donate to Presidential campaign funds, or the election campaigns of key senators and congress representatives. As a result, when America's lease fell due on the Panama canal in 1999, the Clinton administration let it slide, and Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa picked up control of the crucial ports at either end of the Panama canal. According to US reports, Hutchison also paid substantial bribes to Panamanian officials to secure the deal.
Amazingly, the deal also allows Hutchison to transfer its control of the Panama facilities to any other organization or country of its choosing, meaning it could – in the lead up to a conflict – effectively place the canal directly and officially in the control of China, allowing Chinese military and naval forces to legally occupy and defend their beachhead in the Americas. Because of the immense strategic importance of the Panama canal, any military attack on it could cause damage making the canal impassable regardless of who controls it, thus limiting US options.
Newssite WorldNetDaily reported a 1995 diplomatic cable from the US Embassy in the Bahamas revealing Hutchison had just been given the go ahead to build a US$88 million container port there. The embassy copied its cable to the Drug Enforcement Agency and US Customs, noting the possibility of a major increase in smuggling through the Hutchison facility.
They were right to be concerned. There are growing reports of a strong Chinese organized crime presence in Panama.
Some analysts fear the US is becoming more vulnerable to "Trojan horses", in the form of cargo or container ships that dock containing weapons of mass destruction and/or short to medium range ballistic missiles, leaving America vulnerable to a surprise attack with no possibility of missile intercept because of the short ranges involved. Indeed, this has been one of the security fears over the past month because of a bid by a Dubai-based company to take control of major US ports – the possibility that weapons of mass destruction could be smuggled in through civilian ports controlled by foreign interests.
Al Qa'ida has already been implicated in smuggling Islamic extremists into the US across the Mexican border, but China is equally active in shipping the ingredients of terror through commercial operators. Li Ka-shing, for example, sits on the board of CITIC, the China International Trust Investment Company, which has also been active in New Zealand business circles and still has a presence here. But US investigations have determined CITIC is also a People's Liberation Army front company, and during the Operation Sidewinder investigations in Canada recently authorities discovered quantities of weapons had been supplied by a CITIC company and stored on Mohawk Indian reservations.
CITIC was also in the news at Christmas after signing a US$900 million contract to build an aluminium smelter in Iran. Aluminium tubing is used in the production of missile technology and nuclear weapons.
China's state owned national shipping company COSCO, again a 50% joint venture partner in some of Li Ka-shing's operations, has been implicated in the sort of activities that would make the CIA blush.
"Both U.S. Senate and Canadian intelligence sources have described COSCO as "the merchant marine for China's military"," reported Canada Free Press last year.
"According to U.S. intelligence reports, COSCO vessels do not just transport Oriental bric-a-brac. COSCO vessels have been caught carrying [two thousand AK-47] assault rifles into California and biological-chemical weapons components into North Korea, Pakistan, Iraq and Iran. Add to these disturbing events that Canadian law enforcement agencies have kicked in with hard-line information that Chinese Triad criminal elements are active in and around Canadian ports."
But it isn't just smuggling items in, there is also the question of Chinese spies operating through front companies to smuggle information and technology out of countries like Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand – all of which have been named internationally as prime targets for Chinese intelligence.
According to the Canada Free Press report:
"Conspiracy theories were tossed out the window when U.S. Congressman Dana Rohrabacher revealed that the U.S. Bureau of Export Affairs, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the Rand Corporation had identified Li Ka-Shing and Hutchison Whampoa (Li's primary business) as financing or serving as a conduit for Communist China's military in order for them to acquire sensitive technologies and other equipment."
But again, Chinese intelligence is one step ahead of the West. Just as Bill Clinton had been paid off in the US in order for China to gain access at the highest levels, so too was the-then Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien:
"Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien's connections to the burgeoning CITIC conglomerate served as his entrée into the private sector," says Canada Free Press. "While John Turner was leader of the federal Liberals, Chretien was working for Gordon Securities, one of the many Li-controlled companies on Canadian soil."
According to Canada Free Press, Operation Sidewinder was "sideswiped" after political pressure from Chretien.
With the Chinese military currently embarking on the most rapid rearmament in world history, the involvement of Chinese commercial entities should come as no surprise.
An American Defense Council report published two years ago paints an extremely disturbing picture for the West.
"Li Ka-Shing, the leader of Hutchison Port Holdings (China's primary shipping line), has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and to the CITIC. The CITIC is believed to serve as a funding umbrella for the Chinese military, supporting the acquisition of military-related technologies. Hutchison Port Holdings manages, operates and is in possession of significant portions of three of the world's top five ports as measured by both the number of containers shipped and total tonnage shipped.
"China's other two huge shipping lines are directly controlled by the Communist Party. One, the China Ocean Shipping Co (COSCO) was described in the Cox Report issued by the US Congress as follows: 'Although presented as a commercial entity, COSCO is actually an arm of the Chinese military establishment'."
According to the Defense Council report, there are 10 strategic global shipping "choke points" that are crucial to US oil and trade lifelines.
"In the last decade, China has succeeded in building, managing or operating strategic ports adjacent to, or, as in the case of the Panama canal, at the entrance and exit of seven of these 10 global shipping choke points."
What has not been widely reported is another paragraph in the Congressional investigation into Chinese spying:
"The Clinton administration has determined that additional information concerning COSCO that appears in the Select Committee's classified final report cannot be made public," concluded the watered down version released by the House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare.
COSCO already has a strong presence in New Zealand, with offices in Auckland and Christchurch and a container line service that runs into Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Lyttelton and Port Chalmers. Four of its vessels here, including the Aotea, are Panamanian registered.
While there is no doubt that COSCO routinely ships ordinary freight, every day, as any other commercial business does, there are also days when it ships the extraordinary, as this American news report notes.
"At least three arms shipments were traced from China to the Cuban port of Mariel during the past several months, according to an article Tuesday in the Washington Times. All the arms were aboard vessels belonging to the state-owned China Ocean Shipping Co., or Cosco, U.S. intelligence officials told the newspaper. The explosives were said to be "military-grade" material, the newspaper said.
"U.S. officials said Tuesday that the subject of arms trafficking between China and Cuba is a worrisome one, though they stopped short of confirming the Washington Times account. "We are very much concerned with this PLA [People's Liberation Army] cooperation and movement of military equipment in Cuba," said James Kelly, assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs, when questioned during a hearing of the House International Relations subcommittee."
Questioning of Li Ka-shing is something Canadian government security advisor Scott Newark would like to do. He told the respected online journal NewsMax.com that a request by Li's Hutchison group to purchase ports in the US be given full congressional scrutiny.
"I'd like to suggest that the appropriate congressional committee hold hearings and that they call Li Ka-shing as the first witness. I volunteer to be second, but frankly there are people far more knowledgeable than me in this regard, including for example the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police, which just held their conference in NYC. As a speaker at that conference I urged ridding ports of such crime and rogue government-connected companies, not making them the local constabulary."
According to NewsMax, Newark identified five critical port security issues: "preventing smuggling of drugs, guns and people; preventing export of stolen products; providing site security as a result of 9/11; preventing terrorism related smuggling; and preventing attacks on ships leaving ports."
To that end, Newark sounds a warning that is relevant for New Zealand authorities as they consider whether to approve a buy-in by Hutchison into Lyttelton and possibly the Auckland or Tauranga ports.
"We need full scrutiny of the principals of Hutchison Whampoa and all of their business or government-related associations, and any history of any activity of them or their associates – including links to organized crime and terrorist groups, activities or states supporting the same – that would raise concerns to any of the above.
"We should give full scrutiny to any relationship of Hutchison Whampoa, its partners, directors or officers with any foreign government that would raise concerns to any or all of the above issues."
If that isn't ringing warning bells at the Christchurch City Council and in the Beehive, it should be, especially as the Li's business partner – the Chinese military's "merchant marine arm" COSCO - is already a big player in New Zealand ports.
Both COSCO and Hutchison have faced this negative publicity overseas. In COSCO's case, it hired one of America's leading public relations companies to spin the strong business and economic benefits of trade with China to the news media and key politicians, while playing down the "unfounded and negative" stories we've just highlighted. According to commentators the PR ploy has worked, with coverage of the company in the US largely restricted to positive business and trade stories in the media.
Nor is Li Ka-shing a stranger to New Zealand business. In Australia, he's the majority owner of Hutchison 3G Mobile, but you might be surprised to learn Theresa Gattung's Telecom New Zealand holds the remaining 19.9% in a joint venture.
Ironically, it was only a decision by US telecommunications regulators to threaten a veto that stopped Li Ka-shing's Hutchison from buying the giant international phone network Global Crossing three years ago. The purchase would have given Hutchison the possible option of eavesdropping on phone and data calls being made on Global Crossing's planet-wide network of undersea phone cables linking all the continents. Global was also bidding for US Defence contracts at the time.
Li's business ventures with the Chinese military include the Guangzhou Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Company, a Chinese air force company 25% owned by Li; and a one-third stake in AsiaSat, also part owned by the People's Liberation Army.
The move by Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd (HPHL) to purchase the Lyttelton Port Company in Christchurch raises some more questions for Helen Clark's Labour Government to answer. HPHL is registered in the British Virgin Islands, the same Caribbean tax haven at the centre of our February story about the New Zealand Labour Party's biggest campaign donor, Owen Glenn. Coincidentally, Glenn is also a shipping handler who's managed to get a rare Class A business licence in China and is said to have influence in Beijing, but whose operations don't appear to stack up based on what Investigate was able to discover. Glenn funneled $500,000 into Labour's election coffers last year.
Is the New Zealand Labour Party receiving money from the Chinese Government through a complex web of shady business figures and front companies? At this point Investigate doesn't have enough information to answer one way or the other, but the magazine's investigations are continuing.
In the meantime, we have discovered Li Ka-shing has reserved the name Hutchison Ports New Zealand Ltd with the Companies Office. The deal relies at this stage on Christchurch City Holdings Ltd acquiring the 31% of Lyttelton port shares that it doesn't already own, and that purchase offer closes on April 8. If CCHL gets the shares it needs, it plans to sell down 49.9% of the port to Hutchison. But Hutchison would get majority control of the company actually running the port on a daily basis, effectively putting the Chinese Government in command of imports and exports out of Christchurch.
The Christchurch Press reports the deal was driven initially by Lyttelton Port Company management, but picked up by Hutchison Port Holdings executive directors Mark Jack and Richard Pearson – both apparently ex-pat kiwis. A search of Companies Office records lists a Mark David Jack, resident in Hong Kong, as sole director of Ardmore Hangars Ltd – set up last year – and Ardmore Aviation Services Ltd, set up in 2003.
We have been unable to confirm any New Zealand directorships for Richard Pearson.
Christchurch mayor Gary Moore has dismissed reported links between Hutchison and the Chinese military as the work of "conspiracy theorists" who'd been listening to a sole US congressman, and Mark Jack has told critics to ignore the bad media and concentrate on the company's economic performance – a carbon copy of the PR stance Hutchison has taken in the US.
But Gary Moore – as provincial local body mayors often are – suffers from not being privy to intelligence. If it was only "conspiracy theory", why was Hutchison forced to back away from Global Crossing? And if Moore is correct about only one congressman raising concerns about Hutchison, why did the South China Morning Post report that Hutchison's paid lobbyists in the US were targeting three, including the then Senate Majority leader Trent Lott and former US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger who testified Hutchison's takeover of the Panama canal would pose a security threat to the US?
And if Gary Moore is correct, how does he explain the now-released 1999 intelligence briefing from the US military Southern Command which states: ""Hutchison's containerized shipping facilities in the Panama Canal, as well as the Bahamas, could provide a conduit for illegal shipments of technology or prohibited items from the west to the PRC, or facilitate the movement of arms and other prohibited items into the Americas."?
We put similar questions to a spokesman for Christchurch City Holdings Ltd, the current majority owner of Lyttelton Port Company, and ended up in a slanging match where the response to the allegations was "so what if he is?". The spokesman pointed out that national security issues were something for the Prime Minister to sort out, and Christchurch was only interested in the commercial deal.
The spokesman referred to a statement by a US Clinton administration official in 1999 to the senate hearing that Hutchison Whampoa's operation of the Panama ports would have no impact on shipping movements, and that the company had no known ties to the Chinese government.
However, those claims have already been tackled by the Washington Times' Insight magazine:
"Western policymakers and business leaders have little or no idea of China's grand strategy and how Beijing's leaders want to situate their country for the next century. When, in 1999, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) sent Insight's report, "China's Beachhead at Panama Canal," to then defense secretary William Cohen, he called for a full national-security appraisal of the problem. Lott told Cohen, "U.S. naval ships will be at the mercy of Chinese-controlled pilots and could even be denied passage. It appears we have given away the farm."
"At Lott's request, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing in which four Clinton-administration witnesses testified that Hutchison Whampoa posed no security challenges to the United States [see "PC Answers on Panama Canal," Nov. 22, 1999]. But not one of the witnesses could answer the fundamental question, posed by Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.): "Do you believe the People's Republic of China uses commercial enterprises to advance their military interests?"
"Bill Clinton's assistant secretary of defense, Brian E. Sheridan, who had issued a defense of Hutchison Whampoa, confessed, "I don't know." Alberto Aleman Zubieta, whom Clinton had appointed to run the Panama Canal until 2005, didn't answer either. Neither did Joseph W. Cornelison, the deputy administrator of the Panama Canal Commission, nor Lino Gutierrez [the official referred to by Christchurch City Holdings Ltd's PR man], then principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. All had contradicted their testimony. Only Marine Gen. Charles E. Wilhelm, then chief of the U.S. Southern Command, answered affirmatively to whether Beijing uses commercial enterprises to advance its military interests, saying only: "I think so."
"That was it. And apparently the government has learned little since. "Many of those who are engaged in China policy or who invest there remain blithely ignorant of Chinese goals to replace the United States as the reigning world power," says Thomas Woodrow, a former senior China analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency."
Lino Gutierrez is the Clinton official whose testimony was used to rubbish suggestions of Chinese government investment. He told the senate hearing:
"Through publicly available information, we have been able to ascertain that neither
Hutchison-Whampoa, nor its subsidiaries Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) and the Panama Ports Company (PPC), have any significant investment from mainland China."
What isn't clear is how Gutierrez determined that, when many key companies in the group including Hutchison Port Holdings are registered in tax havens so their true ownership cannot be searched.
Investigate did finally get to put a series of questions to CCHL Chief Executive Bob Lineham. The questions, and his answers, are as follows:
- How is CCHL satisfied that, even if Hutchison is a front company for the People's Liberation Army of China, that its majority stake in the operating company for the Port of Lyttelton remains a good idea?
Answer from Bob Lineham:
"In the event that Christchurch City Holdings Limited's (CCHL) Takeover Offer for Lyttelton Port Company Ltd (LPC) succeeded, and Hutchison Port Holdings Ltd was introduced into the Port of Lyttelton, the Christchurch City Council would retain control of the Lyttelton Port Company with a 50.1% voting majority (through CCHL) of the shares in LPC.
"The purpose of the new port operating company in which HPH would have a 50.1% share is to operate the Port of Lyttelton. It does not and cannot control the Lyttelton Port Company. With HPH as a port partner, the Port of Lyttelton would be controlled, as it is today, by the people of Christchurch through CCHL and the Christchurch City Council.
- How is CCHL satisfied that Li Ka-shing is a legitimate businessman, in the face not only of his vast personal fortune in a socialist country, but also his well-documented ties to communist China and its ruling politburo long before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong? No answer received.
- Why is it not strange that a communist state can be home to the world's tenth richest man, without corruption being a factor? No answer received.
- In what way has CCHL consulted with the New Zealand government or its officials over the proposed buy in?
Answer from Bob Lineham:
"The introduction of Hutchison Port Holdings to the Port of Lyttelton would be subject to the usual regulatory consents that are required when an overseas company is involved."
- Li Ka Shing or companies and individuals associated with him have been implicated in smuggling 2,000 AK 47 fully automatic military rifles into California, and shipping componentry for nuclear weapons to Iran. CITIC, a Chinese Government company that Li helped found and sits on the board of directors of, is building an aluminium smelter in Iran the product of which can be used in missile technology and the production of nuclear weapons. Why are the reputational issues surrounding Li Ka Shing not a concern to CCHL? No answer received.
- Why is CCHL not concerned about the fact that Hutchison was prevented from purchasing telecommunications provider Global Crossing in 2003 because of concerns that he was a security threat to the US? No answer received.
And if the Christchurch port administrators are relying on assurances by Clinton administration officials that Li Ka-shing is not a security threat, they could be backing the wrong horse. Sadly, Investigate has reported before on how badly briefed New Zealand officials are on international intrigue. Former National Government Prime Minister Jenny Shipley was given a briefing by Foreign Affairs and Trade on visiting businessman James Riady in 1999 that read like this:
"The Lippo Group is one of Indonesia's largest conglomerates in terms of market capitalisation with estimates of value putting it at having US$11 billion in assets.
"The vision of its founder Mochtar Riady is to transcend the institutional limitations placed upon organisations run in the traditional overseas Chinese pattern and adopt a modern publicly owned and professionally managed pattern of business.
"Mochtar has formed alliances and joint venture partnerships with world class multinational corporations and has high calibre professional management staff working for him.
"The Lippo empire rose out of the success of the Lippo Bank. Unlike just about all other banks in Indonesia its founder Mochtar Riady tended to shun the Suharto connections that for other conglomerates in Indonesia were the keys to success.
"He avoided lending to politically connected groups or to state enterprises and instead built his business on legitimate retail and trade finance."
Yes, well. That's the New Zealand intelligence briefing, but while our diplomats were talking about how politically-neutral and non-crony like the Riadys were, the businessmen themselves were on the run from US justice for illegally laundering $4 million of illegal Chinese government donations to President Clinton's re-election fund.
The saddest part of that story was the information about the Riadys was in the public domain, just as the information on Li Ka-shing is, but New Zealand trade officials chose to ignore it or write it off as "conspiracy theory".
Interestingly, one report from a US Congressional team that visited Panama says "Li Ka-Shing is an investor in the Riady family's Hong Kong China Bank." It is this international game of join the dots that seems too hard for New Zealand officials to understand.
The Riadys were heavily involved with a company called China Resources Ltd, which is also a joint venture partner with Hutchison in the Panama canal. China Resources has long been known as a front for Chinese intelligence, but this too was completely missing from the intelligence briefing given to Shipley. Indeed, judging from their innocuous contents one would have to suspect the briefing was in fact prepared by Chinese intelligence!
"The Lippo Group has a strategic position in China and Hong Kong with substantial investments and relationships with powerful business and government people and organisations.
"It owns 49% of the Hong Kong Chinese Bank with the remaining 51% held by China Resources (Holdings) which is a wholly-owned enterprise of China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation."
So despite Christchurch's insistence that New Zealand authorities have it all in hand and that citizens can rest easy in their beds, Investigate is reminded of this news release about the previous Asian-investor golden boy James Riady, issued by the US Department of Justice in 2001:
WASHINGTON, D.C. - James Tjahaja Riady will pay a record $8.6 million in criminal fines and plead guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to defraud the United States by unlawfully reimbursing campaign donors with foreign corporate funds in violation of federal election law, the Justice Department's Campaign Financing Task Force and the United States Attorney in Los Angeles announced today.
In addition, LippoBank California, a California state-chartered bank affiliated with Lippo Group, will plead guilty to 86 misdemeanor counts charging its agents, Riady and John Huang, with making illegal foreign campaign contributions from 1988 through 1994.
As the world's largest port operator, there are sound economic reasons for Hutchison to operate New Zealand ports. But there appear to be equally sound political and strategic reasons as to why they should not. If the deals proceed, it could turn into yet another political bombshell for the Labour Government to work through, a government that is, itself, close to China.
March 30, 2007
Preachers of Hate
HELEN HOODWINKED BY PREACHERS OF HATE
OSAMA BIN LADEN’S TENTACLES REACH NEW ZEALAND’S FIVE MAIN CENTRES IN MASSIVE BORDER SECURITY BREACH
Some of the world’s most extreme Islamic preachers, and organizations
linked to terrorist groups, have spent seven years infiltrating New Zealand’s moderate Muslim community – running training camps and “intensive” courses – and the Government never realized. IAN WISHART has the extraordinary story that’s left local Muslim leaders shocked and embarrassed, and raised major questions
not just about our border security, but whether al Qa’ida has been actively recruiting on the ground in New Zealand
A massive breach in New Zealand’s national security has been discovered by Investigate magazine, with revelations that senior Islamic “preachers of hate”, some with links to al Qa’ida, have been able to come and go from New Zealand with no one in the media, the Government or even the security services apparently aware of who they were.
Among the roll-call of dishonour that’s left the head of New Zealand’s Muslim community reeling and pledging major changes within mosque vetting procedures: two firebrand clerics named as “unindicted co-conspirators” in New York’s infamous
1993 Day of Terror case, when Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Centre the first time and a dozen other men planned to explode ammonium nitrate car bombs at other major New York landmarks.
Additionally, Investigate’s inquiries have shown that a large number of the organizations listed as international affiliates of New Zealand’s mosques have been named by the United Nations, intelligence and law enforcement agencies as supporters, fundraisers and sometimes active participants in al Qa’ida terror plots. Yet members of these organizations have been able to come to New Zealand unobstructed, supply “educational and spiritual” literature to Muslim youth here and run training camps, as recently as last July.
Undercover video footage taken by Britain’s BBC television of training camps run by the same organization overseas has shown children being trained to become suicide bombers.
The President of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Javed Khan, was doubly shocked to find out about the backgrounds of the extreme Wahhabi Islam visitors, because his organization had personally invited them here to help encourage local Muslims in their faith.
For seven years, preachers, whose works include book urging followers to kill Jews, Christians, pagans and Hindus, have been holding “workshops” in mosques and university student halls up and down New Zealand, yet no one from the Government, Security Intelligence Service or police ever lifted a finger to ring Javed Khan and ask why moderate NZ Muslims were inviting the world’s most extremist clerics here.
While Khan and senior figures in New Zealand’s Islamic community are now urgently reviewing their policies and links to overseas Islamic groups, there’s also growing concern about why, if the Government really regards the NZ Muslim community as friends, it never even bothered to have a quiet word in their ear. Worse, if the Government didn’t know about the backgrounds of the extremists visiting New Zealand, what implications does that have for national security?
For most New Zealanders, the story of modern Islam and the government’s walk-on-eggshells approach to it, begins with September 11:
IN THE BEGINNING
As the smoke from the gaping holes that had been New York’s twin towers still swirled in an acrid mist across Manhattan, choking rescue workers with the fumes from 3,000 vapourised human bodies and thousands of tonnes of vapourised buildings, New Zealand’s acting Prime Minister when the Islamic terror campaign struck, Jim Anderton, raced to get a press release out.
“Acting Prime Minister Jim Anderton is urging New Zealanders not to associate New Zealand’s Muslim community or Afghan refugees with acts of terrorism in the United States yesterday.
“One of the great things about New Zealand is our tolerance and the absence of political and religious extremism in New Zealand. I call on New Zealanders to remember that and not blame or associate people in New Zealand with the terrorism in the US on the basis of national origins.
“It is reprehensible to link the terrorist attacks in the US to refugees in New Zealand, let alone to New Zealand’s Muslim community. Even if Islamic extremists are ultimately shown to be responsible for the terrorist activity, refugees to New Zealand are by definition trying to get away from persecution by extremist regimes and they can hardly be blamed for that,” concluded Anderton.
Leaving aside a possibility that clearly hadn’t occurred to the Deputy Prime Minister – that refugees may simply be extremists from a losing faction fleeing persecution by the extremists of the winning side – the message of tolerance towards Islam became almost a national hymn throughout the West.
A year later, just after the Bali bombings that claimed a further 202 lives at the hands of Islamic extremists, the Labour Government was once again calling for tolerance towards the real victims of terror – Muslims themselves.
“I chose to [meet] with the Muslim community,” declared Ethnic Affairs minister Chris Carter in December 2002, “because Muslims everywhere have had a very difficult twelve months. The New York and Bali terrorism attacks have focused unwelcome attention on what is a fundamentally peaceful religion.”
Among issues raised by Muslims for the government to consider, said Carter, were:
“The fact that Arabic was not taught as part of the school curriculum, despite it being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, [and] a lack of family counseling services that were sensitive to the cultural differences of the Muslim community.”
On a number of occasions, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark has told the country that Islam is a religion of peace. One of the most recent of these declarations accompanied the history-making visit of the PM to the Federation of Islamic Associations of NZ (FIANZ) annual conference at the South Auckland Mosque on May 28 last year.
In a copy of the FIANZ newsletter sent to Investigate, Clark – who’d previously refused to say “Grace” at a state banquet for the Queen, broke royal protocol by wearing trousers, and had a run in with Maoridom over her place on the marae as a woman – is photographed wearing the Islamic hijab – a sign to Muslim men of her secondary status as a woman and submission to Islam’s requirements.
“In her address,” says the FIANZ document, “she acknowledged
and thanked FIANZ and the Muslim community at large for maintaining calm and building better relationships with others subsequent to attacks on Auckland masjids (mosques) after the London bombings.
“Speaking on the diverse New Zealand people she said that migration over many years has resulted in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society.
“Speaking of various initiatives by her Government she mentioned the special ‘Building Bridges’ programme by the Office of Ethnic Affairs, police recruitment of ethnic people, and the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Building Cohesion in Society’.
“Looking to the future she mentioned three priorities for Muslim kiwis: Modernisation and transformation of the economy;
Building stronger family, young and old; Building a unique national identity of our diverse country.
“In all three, the Muslim community has a part to play…Quranic classes are necessary for a sense of identity.”
You would think such an important and history-making speech by the Prime Minister would be on the government’s website. It is not. No news release about the visit was sent out electronically to media, nor is there a report in Auckland’s journal of record, the New Zealand Herald. Instead, the only printed report of this visit is that contained
in the FIANZ newsletter, which concludes:
“We need to build a distinctive New Zealand with one identity built on each of us being sincere in who and what we are, where we come from, what our hosting home and culture are. Openness and dialogue are important to go ahead as a nation.”
Elsewhere in the same FIANZ newsletter, the familiar refrains are echoed – “Islam means peace”, it declares in an article on outreach to the wider New Zealand community for Islam Awareness Week. Few New Zealanders would know, however, that the correct Arabic translation of Islam is “submission”, not peace. To a Muslim, peace only comes through submission to Allah, but the phrase gets shortened to “Islam means peace” for Western consumption.
It is little PR shortcuts like this that make Islam an easier sell to young westerners: Islam is seen as the underdog, misunderstood and bullied by the West. But this is a carefully crafted façade largely driven worldwide by Saudi extremists and Saudi money.
According to independent estimates, the Saudi Arabian regime has spent somewhere in the region of NZ$110 billion exporting Wahhabi Islam – the variety of Islam followed by terrorist group al Qa’ida – worldwide. That money, itself the proceeds of petro-dollars, has been used to train Muslims in extremist Saudi universities
and send them overseas as missionaries to train local Muslims in the most fundamentalist strains of Islam.
To put this in perspective, bear in mind that 15 of the 19 hijackers killed in the 9/11 attacks were Saudi Arabian. Nearly all had been Saudi-trained.
The tone of Saudi extremist Islam was recognized early by New Zealand, as the Prime Minister herself noted on 21 September 2001 when she followed President Bush’s lead in separating moderates from extremists.
“President Bush made it clear that the teachings of the Islamic faith are good and must be distinguished from the terrorists who have blasphemed that faith and tried to hijack it.
“I call on New Zealanders to make that distinction too. Our country also contains people of many faiths, and all those faiths and those of peaceful intent who follow them must be respected.”
Clark did not explicitly state what al Qa’ida’s blasphemy was, but the group’s aims are on the record as being consistent with Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Islam: the submission of the entire world to Islam, as is predicted in the Qu’ran and which Muhammed instructed his followers to achieve; the introduction of Shari’a law worldwide; and a return to what Wahhabists see as fundamental Islamic values, such as women being forced to wear veils, and pagans, atheists and gays being stoned to death.
Implicitly in the Prime Minister’s statement, these are the extremist blasphemies New Zealand was joining the US in fighting against.
“President Bush has said that he sees this as an international effort. New Zealand is in it for the long haul too. What the United States is asking the whole world to address is a radical terrorist network which has shown its capability to deliver co-ordinated acts of hideous violence. New Zealand supports the United States’ determination to root out al Qa’ida and other terrorist groups worldwide. This will be a lengthy campaign,” declared Clark.
Yet despite the tough talk, the New Zealand government appears to have been asleep at their posts as Islamic extremists from Saudi Arabia quietly infiltrated the very same mosques Labour had been praising as moderate.
BILAL PHILIPS “The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture…an enemy Islam” – Bilal Philips
In the very same 2006 FIANZ newsletter featuring Helen in the hijab is another, seemingly innocuous, article recording the July 06 visit of “Islamic scholar” Dr Bilal Philips. It wasn’t a random visit. Philips was expressly invited here by FIANZ as a warm-up act for Islam Awareness Week.
“During his visit to New Zealand,” says the report, “Dr Bilal held lectures in Dunedin, Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland…He received his BA degree from the Islamic University of Madina and his MA in Aqeedah (Islamic philosophy) from the King Saud University in Riyadh.”
Madina is to Islam what Medellin is to Colombian drug barons: the heart of the empire. For the record, and to give you an idea of the Wahhabi pedigree of Philips, the University at Madina is regarded as the most fundamentalist of all the Islamic study centres, and the King Saud University in Riyadh was also attended by Osama bin Laden.
“The theme for [Bilal’s] lectures was “Muslim Minorities living in Western Civilisations”, notes the FIANZ report. “There were full attendances in all the Centres he presented his lecture.
His lectures were very enlightening and educational.
“A recurring advice throughout his lecture is for the Muslim community in New Zealand to join together to pursue an Islamic way of life in education, housing and commerce.”
The newsletter records that Philips visited the Federation’s offices to hold discussions with local Muslim leaders Hanif Ali and Sheikh Amir, as well as discussions with Muslim students at Victoria University and intensive workshops on how to spread Islam with “a group of enthusiastic brothers and sisters” at Auckland’s Avondale Islamic Centre.
“The visit of Dr Bilal was indeed very successful and FIANZ hope to continue in the tradition of welcoming respected overseas Islamic scholars/speakers to New Zealand to further enrich our community.”
OK. That’s how local Muslims saw Philips through their eyes. But what does Bilal Philips really talk about on his sellout lecture tours? We might never have known had Philips not shot to fame on a major investigative documentary screened on Britain’s Channel 4 last month by the Dispatches programme.
Neither TVNZ nor TV3 in New Zealand have run the programme yet, but it created huge waves in Britain and America because it exposed self-professed “moderate” Muslims at the UK’s biggest mosques preaching messages of hatred and jihad against the West as recently as just a few weeks ago. A Dispatches journalist went undercover for several months to secretly film lectures in the mosques given by Bilal Philips and others.
In one segment of the programme, Philips was covertly filmed telling Muslim men it was OK to marry 9 year old pre-pubescent girls, because the prophet Muhammad did it.
“The prophet Muhammad practically outlined the rules regarding marriage prior to puberty, with his practice he clarified what is permissible and that is why we shouldn’t have any issues about an older man marrying a younger woman, which is looked down upon by this [Western] society today, but we know that Prophet Muhammad practiced it, it wasn’t abuse or exploitation, it was marriage.”
Philips later argued to the media he was only re-stating the Qu’ranic position, but it is clear from his comments above he endorsed it.
But marrying pre-pubescent girls in the name of Islam wasn’t the only message Philips has preached. In 1991, as part of a Wahhabi infiltration of US military units stationed in Saudi Arabia for Gulf War 1, he led Islamic evangelism programmes – paid for by the Saudi government – that reportedly converted some 3,000 US soldiers to Islam, some of whom later joined Islamic jihad movements. This was first revealed in a Washington Post article on November 2, 2003, which quotes Bilal Philips.
“The clash of civilizations is a reality. Western culture led by the United States is an enemy of Islam.”
Remember: this is a man hailed at the time as a leader and a scholar by moderate New Zealand Muslim leaders, and who held sellout lectures and workshops for young Muslims up and down the country last year.
One spin-off from Bilal Philips’ efforts in 1991 however was that the Pentagon suddenly had to find Muslim chaplains to minister to its freshly converted Islamic US soldiers. “One architect of this initiative was Abdurahman Alamoudi, who was indicted Oct. 23 on money-laundering charges for allegedly taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from Libya, which is designated by U.S. officials as a state sponsor of terrorism,” reported the Post. An extra irony is that Alamoudi was an election campaign donor to both Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Hillary Clinton, evincing a “bob each way” mentality.
The article goes on to say that the Pentagon is now “worried” about the loyalties of its Islamic troops.
“Some military officials believe that the al Qa’ida terrorist network is trying to recruit Muslim members of the U.S. armed services and contractors who work with them. Other officers have expressed fears that some Muslim soldiers, sailors and airmen might one day decline to take up arms against fellow Muslims.”
A news article listed on Wikipedia and sourced to Intelwire directly links Bilal Philips to known terrorists.
“An al Qa’ida operative sought to recruit US veterans as paramilitary trainers and combat volunteers in 1992 and 1993, at the explicit direction of a cleric [Philips] who converted thousands of Gulf War soldiers to Islam on behalf of the Saudi government,” begins the report.
“Clement Rodney Hampton-El was convicted of conspiring to blow up New York city landmarks in a 1993 terror plot linked to the World Trade Centre bombing in February of that year.”
As an al Qa’ida trained explosives expert with ties to the first World Trade Centre bomber Ramzi Yousef, Hampton-El (better known as “Dr Rashid”) gave evidence at his 1995 federal trial that he’d been summonsed to a meeting at the Saudi embassy in Washington in 1992 and told wealthy Saudis were bankrolling a project to recruit US soldiers as jihadists, and that he would be given a budget of US$150,000 for his role in the project. He testified that Bilal Philips then gave him a list of US Muslim soldiers to approach and worked with Hampton-El to achieve the goal.
Philips’ involvement is a matter of public record in the court documents (US vs Rahman, S5 93 Cr.18, August 2, 1995), yet he managed to slip through New Zealand immigration in July 2006 no problems at all.
But wait, there’s more. In the mid-90s, Bilal Philips was teaching at an Islamic school in Cotabato, the Philippines – home territory to the deadly Abu Sayyaf terrorist group and an al Qa’ida recruiting ground for the Pacific (see Investigate, Feb 05).
Osama bin Laden’s brother in law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was documented by both US and Filipino authorities as funneling money to Abu Sayyaf via the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines – an organization listed on the website of FIANZ in New Zealand as one of its international affiliates.
“In May, 1993,” continues the Intelwire story, “Bilal Philips sent for Hampton-El, who was flown first to Saudi Arabia for a week, then to the Philippines for a week.
“In Manila, Hampton-El testified, he met with Philips at an Islamic conference… sponsored by wealthy Saudis and the Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines. The Da’wah Council was one of Khalifa’s [Osama’s brother in law] charities.
“On his return to New York, Hampton-El told friends that he was planning to move to the Philippines and join an Islamic militant movement there. According to testimony and surveillance tapes presented at his trial…he visited training camps in the south of the country during the May 1993 trip. He also described visiting a terrorist safehouse with Bilal Philips.
“Bilal Philips, Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa were all named by the [US] government as unindicted co-conspirators in the Day of Terror trial,” reports Intelwire. For his part, Hampton-El is languishing in a maximum security penitentiary in the US where he won’t be eligible for parole until 2023.
So Bilal Philips is a very strange houseguest for moderate Muslims in New Zealand to be inviting over.
But it doesn’t stop there. The deeper Investigate dug into the moderate mosques in New Zealand, the messier it got. Of all the names of invited overseas scholars who’ve come here that it was possible for us to verify [due to variant English spellings of Arabic names], virtually none was a “moderate” – most were Wahhabi extremists and some, like Bilal Philips, have links directly to terrorists.
SHEIKH KHALID YASIN
In May 2005, another extremist Wahhabi preacher arrived in New Zealand as a guest of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Sheikh Khalid Yasin. Trained, again, in Saudi Arabia, this American convert to Islam is well known for a verbal jihad in his lectures.
And like Bilal Philips, Yasin also rocketed to stardom in Britain as a result of January’s TV documentary exposing preachers of hate. In Yasin’s case, the TV crew found DVDs on sale at “moderate” mosques in London where Yasin says women are worthless.
“This whole delusion of the equality of women is a bunch of foolishness…There’s no such thing.”
He also claims AIDS is a western conspiracy.
“Missionaries from the World Health Organisation and Christian groups went into Africa and inoculated people for diphtheria, malaria, yellow fever, and they put in the medicine the AIDS virus, which is a conspiracy.”
But despite being welcomed by moderate Muslims in New Zealand, Yasin had a tougher time being interviewed by Nine Network’s Sunday programme in Australia, which dragged out yet more video clips of his lectures from around the world.
“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend,” he told believers at one rally – which doesn’t gel with the gestures of friendship from the same local Muslim leaders who invited him to New Zealand.
“If you prefer the clothing of the kafirs [infidels] over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that’s on most of those clothings [sic] is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians.”
“How do you feel about the fact that the Government is saying we should set up some new rules to make sure that no potential terrorists are developed or cultivated. And also we want to see inside the mosque and places so we can see before something happens. How do you feel about that? Because that’s what’s being talked about. Now, if they didn’t say exactly that, I’m telling you that’s what it means!”
Naturally, young Australian Muslims digesting the questions he phrased it felt threatened, victimized and angry. Yet Yasin’s messages of hate are a very good reason for the Islamic community to be transparent.
Despite Arab TV network al Jazeera broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s admission that he ordered the 9/11 attacks, Sheikh Yasin – who has lectured extensively in NZ mosques and universities – shows himself to be a 9/11 denier.
“There has been no evidence that has surfaced, no bona fide irrevocable, irrefutable evidence that has been surfaced that showed that there is a group called al Qa’ida that did the September 11 bombings.”
He told Sunday’s Sarah Ferguson that “sophisticated entities” blew up the twin towers.
“Sophisticated entities means entities who themselves were governmentally instructed, equipped, motivated. We now know that the way the World Trade Centre fell, the way those buildings fell – they fell from internal explosive charges, the same way it’s done in a construction site.”
Yasin calls for homosexuals and lesbians to be put on trial for immorality, “and if they are tried, convicted, they are punishable by death”.
In his Sunday interview, and in his lectures to Muslim students in Australia, he preaches the message that Muslims everywhere are victimized. When Sunday raised the case of the Islamic bookshop in Sydney caught selling a how-to book on suicide bombing, Yasin simply denied it.
“There is no books [sic] in no Muslim bookstore that says how to become a suicide bomber. This witch-hunt against Muslims is what we are against. I have not been able to find one single incident.”
Another Muslim scholar brought out to New Zealand in 2001 – just months before 9/11, was American convert Siraj Wahhaj, invited here by FIANZ. Wahhaj was once hailed as a “moderate” in the US, and became the first American Muslim to deliver the daily prayer in the US Congress, in 1991, as a recognition of his “moderate” views. But like Bilal Philips before him, Siraj Wahhaj was leading a double life: teacher’s pet moderate Muslim on the outside for the benefit of politicians and the media, die-hard radical extremist on the inside. Wikipedia records that Wahhaj was named by the US Department of Justice as another of several “unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators in the attempt to blow up New York City monuments” including the World Trade Centre in 1993.
As Salon magazine reported on September 26, 2001, Wahhaj had a close relationship with an Islamic terrorist, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul Rahman, inviting him to speak at Wahhaj’s Brooklyn mosque and even testifying as a character witness for Rahman in court.
Wahhaj, who like Philips slipped into New Zealand without opposition by the SIS, police or border security, is also quoted in Salon as calling the original Gulf War 1 – against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait – “one of the most diabolical plots ever in the annals of history”, and “part of a larger plan, to destroy the greatest challenge to the Western world, and that’s Islam.”
Comparing the fall of Soviet Russia to the current crisis in the West, Wahhaj warned America too will be crushed unless it “accepts the Islamic agenda”.
Journalist Daniel Pipes, in The Danger Within, details a 1992 address Wahhaj gave to an audience of New Jersey Muslims.
“If only Muslims were more clever politically, he told his New Jersey listeners, they could take over the United States and replace its constitutional government with a caliphate. ‘If we were united and strong, we’d elect our own Emir [leader] and give allegiance to him…Take my word, if 6-8 million Muslims unite in America, the country will come to us’.”
So that was Siraj Wahhaj’s agenda just a year after reading the opening prayer in the same US parliament he was hoping to overthrow, and he is welcomed as an esteemed speaker by moderate Muslims in New Zealand.
The website MilitantIslamMonitor.org has compiled its own research on Wahhaj.
“There’s no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend”
“Wahhaj extolled the joys of martyrdom in this Jihad website entry, ‘No one who dies and goes to Paradise is going to want to come back to this world, except a Martyr, a person who gave their life for Islam, for Allah, they will want to come back to the earth and die ten more times in the way of Allah, because of the great gifts Allah has given them in Paradise’.
“Wahhaj often writes and speaks on the subject of martyrdom in Islam. Some of his works are entitled: ‘Are you ready to die?’ ‘The blessing of Death’ ‘The easy way to Paradise – how to get there’.
“In addition to martyrdom Wahhaj is a proponent of polygamy and has produced many tapes on the subject.”
While the latter topic might fit Labour Party policy in New Zealand, it is doubtful Wahhaj’s commitment to military jihad would.
For his part, Wahhaj has told American media they’ve misunderstood him, that “Islam is a religion of peace”, and that he really is a moderate.
ISLAMIC YOUTH TRAINING CAMPS
In addition to general visits and lecture tours by people like Bilal Philips, the Muslim community has been seeking specialist input for the spiritual training of young Muslim men in New Zealand. The FIANZ Annual Report for June 2000 through May 2001 records one such “North Island” camp, held at the Kauaeranga Forest Education Camp on the Coromandel Peninsula between 12 and 14 January 2001.
“The theme of the camp was ‘The Khilafah and man’s role as Khalifah’.”
While the words may not mean anything to the average reader, the “Khilafah” is the Arabic word for the restoration of the Caliphate – worldwide Muslim rule under one Caliph. The last Caliphate fell with the collapse of the Ottoman empire in Turkey after World War One, and extremist Muslims blame the West for this. A “Khalifah” is the future leader of Islam worldwide, the one who will unite the planet under one crescent.
“In accordance with Islam, it is the duty of the Muslims worldwide to elect a Khalifah. Such an appointment is seen as a duty (fard) similar to all other duties within Islam. The duty is seen as inevitable, and any divergence from the path is considered a grave sin, and therefore any neglect of this duty will be punished accordingly. The establishment of a Khilafah is seen as vital, because without it Islam cannot possibly be applied,” notes one Islamic scholar on the point.
Jemaah Islamiyah, the group responsible for the Bali bombings, is trying to establish a Khilafah state ruled by Muslims that covers Australia, through Indonesia and South East Asia, which is one of the reasons Prime Minister Helen Clark outlawed Jemaah Islamiyah in 2002.
“Jemaah Islamiyah is an extremist Islamic organization…its stated goal is to create an Islamic state…the organization has established links to al Qa’ida, based on a shared ideology and cooperation in relation to terrorist activities and training,” said Helen Clark.
Meanwhile, the FIANZ annual report detailing the NZ youth camp continues:
“Sixty brothers, aged between 15 and 25, attended…to improve and encourage youth practice of Islam and also to foster a greater awareness of one another amongst New Zealand Muslim students.”
Nor were South Island Muslim students left out. They had their own camp near Mosgiel in mid April 2001.
“The theme of the camp was ‘Islam is the Solution’. Approximately 100 brothers and sisters attended.”
There was another big training camp only weeks later, from 3 to 10 July 2001, arranged in association with Auckland’s Al-Manar Muslim Trust (affiliated to Mt Roskill’s Masjid-e-Umar mosque), which hosted 40 young Muslims from around the country.
“Three Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia supervised it,” notes an Al-Manar briefing on its website. “The camp was very successful, the youths and their families expressed their gratitude for such an activity, where the principles of Islam, strengthening the brotherhood ties and the development of the youths’ skills were the main purposes of the camp.
“At the closing ceremony of the camp, which was held in a very beautiful area in the north of New Zealand, prizes were given to the participants by Dr Anwar Ghani, the president of…FIANZ.”
Similar camps have been held every year since, many of them with invited Saudi-trained preachers like Yahya Ibrahim, who inspired the youth at the 2004 Muslim Youth Camp held at Tui Ridge Park in Rotorua.
A Canadian of Egyptian descent who currently lives in Australia, Ibrahim hit the headlines just over a year ago when US Homeland Security officials barred his entry to the United States on unspecified grounds. Ibrahim had been scheduled to speak at an Islamic rally in Texas, and had been seen by some as a “moderate”. Others, however, are not so sure. Fluent in Arabic, he specializes in translating the works of some of Saudi Arabia’s most extreme Wahhabi preachers into English. Among them, three books by Sheikh Abdurahman al Sudais, whose views and television broadcasts across the Middle East urge Muslims to kill “Jews and worshippers of the Cross” as well as “Hindus”. It would be fair to say Sudais is an equal opportunities genocidal maniac.
Another of Ibrahim’s translations is Explaining the Hadith of Battling The Jews, a book often used by the terrorist group Hamas to justify suicide bombings and other attacks on Israel. The translation includes verses like “…the decrepit nation in which the scattered Jews of the world were gathered unrightfully and in oppression – the State of Israel – shall cease and be erased from existence.
“It is abundantly clear that the big battle is inevitably coming and that the Word of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) will be victorious without a doubt.”
In another of his translations it is written, “Allah has cursed the Jews in the Qu’ran on numerous occasions, informing us of his anger towards them…the enemies of the Prophets – especially the Jews – shall not be given inheritance of the earth during
their worldly life and they shall face a grievous everlasting punishment in the Eternal Fire in the next life.”
In one of his own lectures, available on the internet, titled “How kuffars [infidels] try to take the light out of Islam”, Ibrahim himself tells Muslims they can have nothing in common with Western society, Christians or Jews, that all are “evil” – hardly the message of moderation when Prime Minister Helen Clark talked of the “peaceful intent” of Muslims.
Then there’s the comments of Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter in January 2003, a full year before the New Zealand Muslim community invited Yahya Ibrahim here to train Muslim youth in January 2004.
“New Zealand’s Muslim community should be applauded for their declaration of peace and goodwill today,” Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter stated.
“Ten Muslim groups from all over the country have signed a declaration to all New Zealanders affirming their commitment to peace and stability, and to being an integral part of our nation.”
The signed declaration Carter refers to was issued in the name of FIANZ, but it was FIANZ a year later that brought in Ibrahim.
One of Ibrahim’s taped lectures begins with a statement that the Qu’ran warns all Muslims who their “enemies will be”, and he then launches into a stinging attack on liberal western society, atheists, Jews and Christians. Further on in the tape, Ibrahim launches into homosexuals.
“When we look around and see the society that we are living in, we see people who are committing fornication and Allah punishes them by giving them a disease like AIDS. We look again and we see the murders, we look again we see the drug addictions, we look again and we see the prostitution, we look again and we see the disbelief in the laws of Allah: there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet! These words stand for everything against that, stand against drugs and prostitution and disbelief. These words stand against all of that.”
It is hard to reconcile the teachings of Yahya Ibrahim to kiwi Muslims on a youth camp, and his translation works heralding a coming world battle where Islam will reign victorious, with the stated declaration that Muslims are happy to be part of a New Zealand liberal society lead by a very liberal Labour government.
As Canadian commentator David Ouellette remarked after Ibrahim was banned from the United States a year ago, “In Australia, Ibrahim is widely considered as a ‘bridge builder’ between Muslims and non-Muslims. Yet, publicly available information on Ibrahim appears to point to the profile of a hardcore activist of the Wahhabi strain working to spread in the West the hateful, terror-inspiring Salafi ideology, the likes of whom should not be welcome in free societies fighting Islamic extremism.”
FUNKY COLD MADINA: SAUDIS IN NZ
You could put down a visit by one of the men above as just an aberration, a mistake made by innocent Muslim leaders in New Zealand. But taken as a whole – given that the visits involved packed lecture sessions up and down the country, youth training camps in some cases, and that all of them are extremist Salafi/Wahhabi firebrands – it does raise questions about what kind of Islamic society in New Zealand local Muslims are aiming for.
Take Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, mentioned earlier as a Saudi-backed organizer of the youth camps. On its website, Al-Manar says one of its prime objectives is the introduction of Shari’a in New Zealand – at least among Muslims.
“One of the main objectives of the Al-Manar Trust is to expand the knowledge [of] Islamic Share’ah principles between Muslims in New Zealand.
“To achieve that goal, Al-Manar Trust has organized the following Share’ah educational courses in co-operation with Saudi Arabian universities: The first educational session – in co-operation with the International Islamic Youth Association.
“The courses were run by eight lecturers [who] came to New Zealand from the University of Imam Mohammed Bin Saud in Riyadh. There were 300 participants in the courses.
“The second educational session – after the major success of the first session, another session was held in co-operation with Al-Haramain Charity Association, between 11 July till 21st of July 2001.
“Over 250 attended the lectures given by Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia.”
Take a moment to join some dots here. Early in the article under the “Youth Camps” heading you’ll recall Al-Manar Trust organized a national Muslim youth training camp from the 3rd to the 10th of July 2001, supervised by three Saudi sheikhs. Lo and behold, on 11 July a group of Saudi sheikhs from Al-Haramain charity begin conducting intensive lectures for adult Muslims. By a process of elimination it seems highly likely it was Al-Haramain involved in the youth camp as well. Which makes the next piece of information we’re about to give you highly relevant.
It is true that New Zealand Muslims used to overwhelmingly be moderate, but in the last few years the balance has started to tip – only the media and politicians haven’t noticed it. The first public inkling of trouble came in late 2003 when genuine moderates in Christchurch warned the Government that extremist Saudi’s linked to the Al Haramain terrorist organization were infiltrating the local mosque.
“An Islamic ‘charity’ involved in fundraising for al Qa’ida and the southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah is trying to set up a front organization in New Zealand, and may get approval to do so,” Investigate reported in November 2003.
“Al Haramain operates in more than 60 countries worldwide, and its attempts to get a toehold in New Zealand hit the headlines last month when a group of Muslim community leaders sent a letter to the New Zealand government, warning that the Saudi-backed Al Haramain would bring chaos and disaster to New Zealand if their application is approved.
“That application includes setting up an Islamic school to teach Wahhabi Islam – the radical branch of the religion – and establishing an ‘Islamic bank’ in New Zealand.
“While daily news media have played down Al Haramain’s links to terrorism, Investigate has now confirmed an extensive relationship between the ‘charity’ and al Qa’ida. Those links include Al Haramain’s involvement in a series of al Qa’ida suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia earlier this year  – the Saudi government shut down ten offices…as a direct response after discovering it was funding Osama bin Laden’s organization.
“Additionally, a senior figure in Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah arrested three months ago [in 2003], Omar al Faruq, has told investigators that his organization has received extensive funding and moneylaundering services from Al Haramain.”
The website for the Wellington mosque, iman.co.nz, noted in a 2003 news release (still on the web) that two senior figures from Al Haramain, Sheikhs Abdul Majeed Ghaith al Ghaith and Menea al Dakeel, toured NZ mosques in May 2003.
Despite being warned of the threat, Labour’s then Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff dismissed the fears of the Islamic moderates in Christchurch, saying the government was “leaning towards the view that it’s mainly an internal conflict in the Muslim community in Christchurch that they need to sort out among themselves,” and describing Al Haramain as “largely a distinguished and peaceful charitable organization focusing on the education and welfare of the Muslim community around the world.”
What neither Goff nor Investigate knew in late 2003 was that Al-Haramain didn’t have a toehold, but a stranglehold on NZ Islam and had been indoctrinating local Muslims for at least two years.
Within months of making arguably one of the most ignorant comments of his career, Phil Goff could only watch from the sidelines in 2004 as the United Nations froze the worldwide assets of Al Haramain because of its strong links to al Qa’ida and other terror groups, whilst masquerading as a distinguished and peaceful charity.
The damage to the Christchurch mosque, however, had already been done. Although the UN move kept Al Haramain officially out of the picture, the Saudi financiers of terror and Wahhabi Islam simply fronted up with some other Muslim ‘charities’ to help New Zealand’s Muslim community and their mosques.
The resulting tension has split the Muslim community in Christchurch into different factions.
Disquiet was also voiced in the New Zealand Herald last year by local Muslim leader Abdullah Drury, who warned that 30 years of making the Muslim community a mainstream part of New Zealand was disappearing out the door because the huge influx of recent immigrants under Labour has changed the balance of power. Where once Muslims had a sense of their NZ identity, Drury says the new leaders’ “hearts, minds, rationale and prejudices are still firmly rooted in their home countries.
More than one North Island critic has stated that some Canterbury Muslims think they’re still living in Africa or the Middle East.
“Why are things falling apart now?” asks Drury. “The most significant contribution stems from the massive and poorly planned influx of immigrants and refugees from Africa and the Middle East in the 1990s. Nobody in the local Muslim community
ever anticipated or planned this.”
From 13,000 Muslims in 1996, there are now almost 37,000, and the Islamic community has jumped 50% under Labour.
“The pioneering Muslim families who established Islam in this country have been effectively overwhelmed: swept out of office by the superior numbers of the new faces, or entrenching themselves and encouraging newcomers to set up their own Islamic prayer arrangements.
“There was also a substantial change in composition. In the 1970s most Muslims in New Zealand were…mostly from societies with long traditions of interaction with white Anglo-Saxon culture and customs: Indians, Fiji Indians or Pakistanis.
“Now, there is a substantial bloc, often Arab or African, with considerably poorer education than their predecessors, with vastly different language skills and cultures to those this country has traditionally absorbed.
“This,” warns Drury, “has exacerbated community differences along ethnic, linguistic or cultural lines inside mosques from Christchurch to Auckland…very quickly [the Arab/African faction] use their disproportionately larger numbers to vote in their own leaders. Consequently, a fair number of mosques in New Zealand are currently being administered or dominated by people and groups who have arrived in this country within the last 10 years, some substantially less.”
And if that’s a warning from a moderate Muslim worth listening to, consider this: the new leaders in New Zealand’s mosques have strong ties to Wahhabism.
The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) website notes the Islamic organisations and educational institutions it is now affiliated to. The majority of those links, checked out by Investigate, track back to extremist organizations with known involvement in either exporting Wahhabism or terrorism.
As the FIANZ annual report from 2001 notes:
“Over July-August-September 2000 New Zealand was blessed, or more accurately blitzed, by several visits by various groups of scholars from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“The first such group came from the Al Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University of Riyadh between 25 July and 12 August. They were led by Dr Abdul Aziz al-Omari.”
Try this as an interesting exercise: Google al-Omari’s name and you’ll find it’s the exact match for a 29 year old Saudi hijacker killed on one of the planes that hit the twin towers a year after this NZ visit. Although unlikely to be the same person, you’ll find both Omari’s attended the same university.
The FIANZ report continues:
“Sheikh al-Omari ran an 11 day Islamic Seminar at the new Blockhouse Bay mosque. This group then split into three parties who traveled the country giving lectures and conducting brief courses in Aqidah, Fiqh and methods of Da’wah [spreading Islam].
“Between 23-25 August Dr Abdul Aziz al Shaum and Dr Mohammed al-Sawai al-Omari, also from the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, conducted a similar whirlwind tour of New Zealand, visiting Muslim communities in Auckland through to Dunedin in a matter of days.”
The question of precisely why Saudi Arabian clerics from some of the most extreme, terror-linked Universities in the world, were sweeping through New Zealand every year remains unanswered. But they kept on coming.
“Over 25-28 August, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the South Pacific Da’wah Council organized a Da’wah training course in Auckland featuring Dr Abdullah al-Malki, Dr Sayeed al-Ghamdi, Dr Abdul Rahman Mohammed al-Jarri and Brother Abdul Rahman al-Fifi of the King Khalid University in Riyadh.
“Drs al-Malki and al-Ghamdi then went on to visit Muslims in Christchurch, Dunedin
and Wellington over 29 August-1 September. The other two scholars made corresponding visits to Hamilton and Palmerston North over the same period.”
Sayeed al-Ghamdi’s name is similar to another of the 9/11 hijackers, although the two are not the same.
But what of some of the organizations mentioned here?
THE WORLD ASSEMBLY OF MUSLIM YOUTH
Based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this charity (WAMY) is involved in education programmes for Muslim youth, including training camps, in New Zealand.
“The Muslim Association of Canterbury (MAC) received an air cargo from WAMY, Saudi Arabia, that was intended to cover an Intensive Islamic course run by WAMY,” records a Christchurch mosque newsletter for August 2002, a year after 9/11.
“On 16 July ,” a MAC report says, “four scholars from WAMY in Saudi Arabia visited the mosque and conducted a 10 day Intensive Islamic course. More than 300 brothers and sisters attended the course. There was a special scholar for the children.”
The World Assemby of Muslim Youth is also listed as a special affiliate of FIANZ. But what does it really do?
Left wing American journalist Greg Palast, no friend of the Bush administration’s War on Terror, nonetheless highlighted the ongoing involvement of WAMY in the US as a failure of national security:
“On November 9, 2001,” wrote Palast in a 2004 dispatch carried by Scoop in New Zealand, “when you could still choke on the dust in the air near Ground Zero, BBC Television received a call in London from a top-level US intelligence agent. He was not happy. Shortly after George W. Bush took office, he told us reluctantly, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the FBI ‘were told to back off the Saudis’.
“We knew that. In the newsroom, we had a document already in hand, marked ‘SECRET’ across the top and ‘199-I’ – meaning this was a national security matter.
“The secret memo released agents to hunt down two members of the bin Laden family operating a ‘suspected terrorist organisation’ in the USA.”
The “suspected terrorist organization”, it transpired, was WAMY.
“Called the World Assembly of Muslim Youth,” writes Palast, “the group sponsors soccer teams and summer camps in Florida. BBC obtained a video of one camp activity, a speech exhorting kids on the heroism of suicide bombings and hostage
takings. While WAMY draws membership with wholesome activities, it has also acted as a cover or front, say the Dutch, Indian and Bosnian governments, for the recruitment of jihadi killers.
“Certainly, it was worth asking the bin Laden boys a few questions,” says Palast, “but the FBI agents couldn’t, until it was too late.”
Remember, WAMY has been actively involved in Muslim youth camps in New Zealand right up until now.
But, as Palast points out, the “back off the Saudis” instruction meant the US headquarters of WAMY, in Virginia, wasn’t raided by the FBI until May 2004, long after the bin Ladens had fled, presumably taking with them all incriminating information.
Although a squad of 50 agents reportedly surrounded and sealed off the WAMY office, they “seized mostly empty files and a lot of soccer balls,” wrote Palast.
Over on Wikipedia, the encyclopedia acknowledges WAMY’s claim to be nothing more than a football-mad bunch of Muslim boy-scouts, but then refers to evidence about WAMY that’s emerged from some of the Guantanamo detainee hearings:
“The terrorists that plotted the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing kept literature handed out by WAMY. Here are some samples: ‘The Jews are enemies of the faithful, God and the angels. Teach our children to love taking revenge on the Jews and the oppressors’.
“Here are some examples of what specifically to teach the children: ‘In 1989 Abdul-Hadi Nemin carried out his own heroic operation while on bus #405 of Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line; he charged at the bus driver, chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great!], twirled the steering wheel toward the cliff and caused the bus to take a big fall. As a result of his courageous act, 14 Israelis were killed and 27 were injured’.”
This was the kind of “boy scout” training WAMY was caught teaching to Muslim youth. WAMY had been run by Omar bin Laden and Abdullah bin Laden.
The Muslim youth group has also been named in a major United Nations report,
“Terrorism Financing: Roots and trends of Saudi terrorism financing”, prepared for the UN Security Council in December 2002. The report states that WAMY, Al Haramain and the Muslim World League – another ‘charity’ supporting New Zealand’s mosques – are all major fundraising arms for al Qa’ida and other terrorist entities.
It is interesting, too, how these ‘charities’ are able to fly a dozen preachers all the way from Saudi Arabia to New Zealand just to run a youth camp or a few lectures. The Al-Manar Trust in Auckland acknowledged as much in its newsletter.
“Al-Manar Trust was able to build a very friendly relationship with Islamic associations overseas. Some of these associations have provided Al-Manar Trust with valuable books and resources.”
One of its goals, it says, is building an “Islamic nation” here.
“The youth activities organized by Al-Manar Trust include [a] weekly lecture for Muslim youths, sports activities and camping. The activities’ aim is to reinforce the Islamic principles and to strengthen the brotherhood ties between them. Al-Manar Trust is very keen to continue providing these activities to our youth because we believe in the youths’ important role in building the future in our Islamic nation.
“Protecting our youth from the influence of the western society that they live in is a very important factor in achieving our goal.”
In other words, forget warm fuzzy talk from the government about common ground: whatever the Muslim leaders are saying publicly, privately some appear to be creating a state within a state, a kind of Islamic apartheid which will grow in significance as Islamic immigration grows, helped by theology and resources from Saudi Arabia’s extremist, terror-linked “charities”.
Al-Manar has already used that expertise and resource to begin Islamification outreach programmes “at New Zealand universities and visiting prisons”. The Trust says it recognizes “the importance of introducing Islam and its principles to the New Zealand society. Therefore, the Trust intends to provide the public and university libraries with a set of Islamic books, which are simple, easy to understand and very comprehensive. There is a lot of potential to spread the word of Allah in New Zealand. New Zealand is a very peaceful country where Islam has no enemies
and the people are kind, simple and keen to read.”
Among the resources Al-Manar has, it boasts its library “has the full set of Dr Tarek Sweedan cassettes”. Sweedan, or under one of the many alternative English spellings of his Arabic name, Tareq Sweidan, hosted a TV show in the United Arab Emirates two years ago where he urged Muslims to find gay men and kill them:
“Anyone caught committing sodomy – kill both the sodomiser and the sodomised. The clerics determined how the homosexual should be killed. They said he should be stoned to death. Some clerics said he should be thrown off a mountain. This is an abominable act in human life, and so the punishment is severe.
“If moral values sink to this level, Man becomes lower than a beast. Therefore the punishment was extremely severe, and the position of Islam was clear and courageous. There should be no lenience in this case, and governments and countries must enforce the law strictly against anyone committing such an abomination.”
New Zealand has certainly seen its fair share of stoned gay men in recent years, but the stoning Sweidan contemplates would be a vastly different kind of experience.
Over at CooperativeResearch.org, Tareq Sweidan was named, along with Abdullah bin Laden of WAMY, of being involved in a US finance company allegedly raising money for terror.
Under the heading, “Prisoner’s Library”, the Al-Manar newsletter says:
“We have noted that the prisoners are the largest group in New Zealand to accept Islam as their faith…We believe there is a lot of potential work that can be undertaken in that area, such as a small Islamic library in each prison. Therefore we need support
from Muslims around the world to help us by providing the Islamic books, particularly the translation of the meanings of our Holy Qura’an and translation of various hadith.”
The Sunday Star-Times published details of the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association converting Maori prisoners to Islam three years ago, although the AMMA claimed its comments had been deliberately sensationalized by the newspaper. Nonetheless, a young Muslim woman calling herself ‘Penelope’ posted a message on the NZMuslim.net bulletin board warning of the dangers of prison outreach:
“These converts are Maori gang members – drug traffickers, drinkers, wife beaters, thieves, rapists – you name it, they are the dregs of NZ society. The interviewer got it right – they are drawn to Islam because they perceive Osama Bin Laden as a hero, beheading videos as light entertainment and jihad as their cause against Christian/Judaic non-Maori New Zealanders. I think it is only fair to warn you that these despicable criminals are not interested in Islam as a religion – they are only interested in submission and power for themselves and their gangs and they will use the name of Islam to hide behind whilst continuing their evil and illegal practices.
“FIANZ is doing the Muslim community in NZ no favours by financially supporting this “missionary of Islam” in his conversion of uneducated thugs. Do you really want these people in your community representing your religion? The sooner all NZ Muslims and the Muslim councils of NZ advise FIANZ to withdraw any support from this man the better, or you will all be tarred with the same brush. NZ does not need an Islamic Black Power or Islamic Mongrel Mob gangs – these men will never change their ways, drug-dealing and death are part of their lives – even their own people live in fear of them.
“It is the responsibility of FIANZ to stop financing this madman before it is too late and he and his converts degrade the good name of Muslims in NZ.
“Do not be flattered that these criminals are converting to Islam – they see Islam as a way to oppress and terrorise the good and lawful people of this land and Islam will eventually take the blame! Every decent Kiwi is certainly ashamed of them.
“And don’t think it won’t happen, because if this man continues bringing these undesirables to Islam – it will!”
THE CALL OF THE WILD ONES
Naturally, we wanted to put all of these issues to FIANZ and its President, Javed Khan. To his credit, Khan just about fell off his chair in shock when Investigate began running through the list of people and organizations with terror links that FIANZ had brought out here.
We began by raising the visit of Bilal Philips just six months ago, a man whose photo is in the latest FIANZ newsletter. Javed Khan was unaware of Philips’ videotaped comments about marrying nine year old girls, and was stunned to hear about his involvement in the Day of Terror trial.
“No, I was not aware of any of that!”
Khalid Yasin, who’s been to New Zealand on numerous occasions, was another whose statements took Khan utterly by surprise. When we told him of Yasin’s claim that Muslims were not permitted to have non-Muslim friends, for example, Khan was audibly disappointed.
We took Javed Khan through the many statements of Siraj Wahhaj, from his comments on martyrdom to his wish to overthrow the US government, to his involvement in the Day of Terror case and his desire for polygamy.
“No, I was not aware of any of this, to be quite honest,” admitted Khan.
On the links between World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and al Qa’ida, Khan told Investigate, “I am aware that at one stage WAMY was blacklisted by the US, as an organization which was affiliated with al Qa’ida or had some sympathy
with al Qa’ida. But that blacklisting I understand has been lifted because after further investigation they found this allegation was not founded on any sort of concrete evidence.”
When we pressed Khan’s memory further on the point, he told us that a letter had come from WAMY rejecting the US allegations. But in fact, there has been no lifting of the blacklist. Although WAMY continues to operate in 55 countries, including
New Zealand, and works closely with the Western charity Oxfam, its literature for children’s camps in other countries has been found to include incitement to hate crimes and jihad against Jews, and at least one of the 9/11 hijackers was on its payroll. Osama bin Laden’s nephew remains the organisation’s Treasurer at head office in Saudi Arabia.
WAMY organised a big youth camp here in New Zealand only seven months ago.
Javed Khan says New Zealand’s Islamic federations had initially cut ties with WAMY when it was blacklisted, “but they wrote to us, saying that this was a totally false allegation and WAMY was not involved in any of those activities. And we have been involved for quite some time with WAMY – they helped us out, well previously they used to but not now, after the United States started to take control of funds going out. But our youth camps were very well organized and we wouldn’t have anyone coming talking to us promoting hostage taking or suicide bombing. To my knowledge no one has ever come and taught anything like that to our youth.”
But the problem, as we pointed out to Khan, was not necessarily what the al Qa’ida linked groups and preachers actually said while they were in New Zealand, so much as the mana that would rub off on them in students’ eyes because of the fact they’d been invited by the New Zealand mosques. In other words, by being welcomed as esteemed leaders, wasn’t FIANZ unwittingly encouraging NZ youth to search out more of their lectures and material online and start buying into the global jihad?
“It could happen, yeah, I agree it is possible.
“But now I think we have become much wiser. What we have decided to do, before inviting any overseas speakers in the future, is that we will vet what they are saying, their websites, all those things, well in advance of extending any invitation for them to come here.
“We were a bit lax and we took people on face value in the past, but after coming to know about all this, and there was some talk internally about one of our speakers, we have decided that we have to be extremely careful before inviting anybody to come here to New Zealand. We have become much wiser as parents and we will really investigate into the backgrounds of any people who want to come here and decline somebody who has the sayings and doings that you have described.”
We asked Khan about Auckland’s Al-Manar Trust, which had worked closely with WAMY on the youth camps and whose library was carrying the “stone the gays to death” Tareq Sweidan cassettes.
“That would be a concern to me, yeah,” says Khan, although he adds that the guys who run Al-Manar are “pretty moderate sort of people, although they are from an Arab background, but I have pretty regular discussions with them.” On the issue of comments like building an “Islamic nation”, Khan laughs, putting it down to a poor command of the English language. “I’m sure they mean ‘Islamic community’.”
But if the New Zealand mosques are moderate, we ask, why are there so many ties to Wahhabi organizations linked to terror?
Khan ponders the question for a moment, and says he hears what we’re saying in regards to some of those organizations.
“But you’ve got to remember we’ve had associations with some of these organizations since FIANZ was formed (in 1979), before al Qa’ida even existed. The extreme teachings that are advocated, or that any of these people are advocating, are not taken any heed of as far as we are concerned.
“Look,” he says, “we don’t have those firebrand-type teachers or speakers [based] here, like demagogues, who go out telling people ‘this is what you need to be doing…committing suicide is becoming a martyr’ – we don’t have anybody like that who does things like that, and if we find anybody doing that we’ll deal to it pretty quickly.
And yet…and yet, we ask Khan, the reality is that for seven turbulent years FIANZ has been inviting in men who are the rock stars of international Wahhabism – latterday Pied Pipers – without even realising what songs they’re singing. It hardly inspires confidence in FIANZ’s ability to diagnose the problem.
And precisely how do moderates teach young Muslims to view the wider New Zealand culture, given its current climate of extreme liberalism?
“Everybody has a TV, youngsters these days are not fools. We advocate that you abide by the law of the country in which you live. If the law of the country legalizes homosexuality then you have to respect that law, although it is against the teachings of Islam. But you have to accept that that’s the law, and whatever is legal you cannot go against in that country. Now that has been coming out very strongly, the imams have been telling their congregations that we are living in a country with its own set of laws and you have to live by the laws of this country.”
Whether that message is strong enough to combat the allure of the “rock stars” remains to be seen. Khan says that although there have been strong historical ties to Saudi organizations, that source of money has dried up recently and local Muslims are having to dig into their own pockets to pay mosque expenses.
He insists that the community is moderate but, as we remind him, the parents of the kids who blew up the London Underground were moderates: their children were not.
Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Massey University, Peter Lineham, is one who believes the New Zealand government is aware of a growing extremism in the young but was hoping no one would notice.
“The complexity of Islam is that very often we see the face of the woman from Hamilton, who is a very moderate Muslim, but certainly there are other voices in Islam. You need to bear in mind that the Government is pretty nervous about the potential for radical Muslims – within the international Western security
framework there’s a great deal of nervousness about terrorist links with Islam but they deliberately won’t talk about it.
“I think this is why they’re promoting things like religious dialogue, because their attitude is that religious dialogue, and the proposed religious harmony agreement coming out later in the year – I think the hope is that documents like this will convince Muslims to not align themselves with the radical side of Islam.
“I suspect that these are things that the Government is very concerned about but doesn’t want to draw attention because it figures that there will be a negative reaction from the Islamic community that perceives itself being attacked. And so they therefore try and work with moderate Islamic leaders. If you look at the people associated with these religious harmony dialogues like the one coming up in Hamilton next month, they’re clearly trying to build and strengthen the moderates. They’re following the British line on this.”
The problem, as Lineham himself acknowledges, is that the British are failing to make a dent in the uptake of extremist Islam, despite six years of bowing, scraping, and praise for “tolerance”.
In July last year, to mark the first anniversary of the London Tube Bombings, the Times newspaper in Britain published a national opinion poll of British Muslims. There are one million Muslims living in London. Of those polled, 7 percent agreed suicide attacks on civilians in the UK are justifiable.
That’s 70,000 Muslims in London who support mass murder in the name of Islam. The figure rose to 16% (160,000) who supported suicide attacks against military targets in Britain – that’s roughly one in every six Muslims!
No similar poll has ever been commissioned in New Zealand, but if seven percent of Kiwi Muslims supported suicide bombings here, that’s still a hefty 2,600 people – some of whom might just be prepared to volunteer for martyrdom, especially
after listening to some of the hardline preaching in NZ’s mosques that nobody realised was going on.
As Mark Steyn notes in his book America Alone, another poll of British Muslims found 60% want to live under shari’a law in England! Ask the 300 who attend the intensive Islamic courses each year in New Zealand, and you’d probably get a near-100% agreement.
With a few more years’ percolation, and immigration growth in double digits every year, imagine the sort of headache New Zealand could end up with.
Religious studies professor Peter Lineham remains cynical about the Government’s current reliance on “Interfaith dialogue” to promote greater understanding and tolerance.
“The problem with interfaith discussions, as I see it,” says Lineham, “is that the interfaith attracts the people who are interested in interfaith discussions and they’re not necessarily a fair representation of their faith communities. The Christians who’ve been involved have very rarely been representative of the whole of the Christian community. I do think that the Christian community in NZ does have to find some way of living with people from other religions, but for those of us who are Christians the concern is that we can’t do that in a way that reduces our allegiance to our faith. And unfortunately, the leaders of the interfaith discussions do seem to have a more relativist approach to their faith.”
In the meantime, the big question is whether the seven year security breach – that allowed some of the most extremist Wahhabi clerics on the planet to hold seminars and training camps in New Zealand – has had an impact on the hundreds of young Muslims who attended. As terror analysts like Rohan Gunaratna point out, al Qa’ida works by shoulder-tapping people quietly, and setting up small localized cells that no one, not even their parents, knows about.
The people who listen to Islam’s firebrands will not become suicide bombers overnight, if ever, but the more exposure they get to messages of hate over the long term, the less these people will feel they belong to New Zealand society.
How can they belong when the Qu’ran, in verse after verse quoted by Bilal Philips and others, repeatedly tells ordinary Muslims not to mix with infidels, not to become part of their society, and to remain a nation apart?
And how can a good Muslim sit back and twiddle their thumbs when the same Qu’ran then instructs him that the entire world must submit to Islam in order for the Mahdi to return and usher in the end times? The Qu’ran says that infidels are actually born Muslims who rejected the faith and must be brought back to it. That’s why they call Western converts to Islam, “reverts”.
So those twin tensions exist: reject the infidel world, then conquer the infidel world for Allah, and in doing so earn a place in Paradise. That is precisely the message being preached by people who have been welcomed in NZ’s mosques.
To an extent, of course, this is a one-dimensional portrait of the problem. There are young kiwi Muslims who do have Western friends while maintaining their own faith and managing to pray five times a day. They enjoy McDonalds and they wear the hijab. They have been born here, they’ve grown up here. New Zealand is indeed home.
If young Muslims can maintain that balance and perspective, and if other New Zealanders in turn can tolerate those differences, then a comfortable balance may yet be found. But that will become a harder task if the local mosques don’t start rejecting
Wahhabi preachers and literature. It will become a harder task if Muslim children only go to Muslim schools and don’t mix with other cultures. It will become a harder task if Muslim teenagers are told on camps by people like Khalid Yasin, “There is no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend.”
Already, on NZ Muslim websites in New Zealand, you can read messages where people say they no longer have a nationality – their nationality is Muslim. Unlike Christians, who were instructed to tolerate Roman control, Muslims are told in the Qu’ran they are not allowed to live by Rome’s rules – they either make Rome submit, or leave themselves.
A pretty similar warning has been issued by the Australian government, with both John Howard and his deputy Peter Costello warning hardline Muslims that if they want to live under Shari’a, they’ll have to leave Australia.
One final question that arises out of this story: where is the SIS, where is border control? How did several men with known links to terrorism and al Qa’ida walk repeatedly through immigration gates at New Zealand airports? Are the intelligence agencies taking the view that it’s better to watch from a distance than ban outright, or are the agencies as totally unaware as the Prime Minister seems to be?
In the meantime, the photographic image of New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister – a woman who has built her entire career on feminism and women’s rights – voluntarily wearing in her own country what millions of women around the world see as one of the ultimate symbols of oppression of women – that image will echo in the minds of many in the months to come as people weigh up whether Labour has allowed a massive breach of New Zealand’s national security.
As this issue was going to press, the Government issued a news release welcoming a decision by Saudi Arabia to send more a further 350 of its own students to study in New Zealand, “as part of an expanded scholarships programme for Asia and Oceania”.
“This represents a strong endorsement by Saudi Arabia of the quality of our teachers and the excellence of our learning environments,” boasted Tertiary Education Minister Michael Cullen.
“There has been steady growth in students from the Gulf States studying in New Zealand institutions since 2001. More than 500 Gulf students are currently enrolled in New Zealand institutions, many from Saudi Arabia and Oman.”
It does beg the question however: if Saudi Arabia loathes Western culture so much, why is it really boosting the number of its students in New Zealand to more than 700?