2 Nov 2022

Community groups urge need to combat online hate speech at second counter-terrorism hui

11:34 am on 2 November 2022
PM Jacinda Ardern talks to media after violent extremism hui.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the keynote speaker at the country's annual hui on countering terrorism and violent extremism. Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

Hate speech is on the rise online and community groups are concerned it will soon escalate to violence.

New Zealand's second hui to counter-terrorism and violent extremism He Whenua Taurikura, wrapped up in Auckland yesterday.

Speakers from a range of groups including Māori, Pasifika, Asian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and the Rainbow community, shared ideas on how to combat the threat of hate speech and radicalisation.

Hindu Council's Selva Ramasami has lived in New Zealand for twenty years but has seen the strongest anti-Hindu sentiment occur in the past two.

"Hate is universal, and we hope the government will encompass their work to represent the various diverse communities in New Zealand."

He said cyber security agencies in Aotearoa currently did not have the resources to address hate speech spoken in foreign languages, which posed a serious risk to the Hindu community.

"These discussions are happening in the Indian language, we cannot think the hate is just in the language common to everyone, it is a real danger."

Ramasami believed much of the sentiment came from actions in the subcontinent, something many Hindus had no engagement or connection with.

He said he was heartened by the notion of solutions by society, for society raised by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

"We have an important role to play in this strategy to build resilience of the community for a more inclusive and diverse society, we are more than willing to be part of that process."

Ramasami said hate did not discriminate and targeted all religious and ethnic groups.

"That hate escalates to violence, we need to recognise that early."

Chairperson of the Federation of Islamic Associations Abdur Razzaq said New Zealand Muslims were subjected to extreme vitriol.

"For all the metrics we have, it's getting worse, it's getting worse online and the physical space. It's not just the sheer hate but we are very concerned about the extreme hatred and the correlation with extreme violence."

Razzaq said Islamophobia was particularly prevalent in schools.

"Research has also pointed out that youth are particularly vulnerable with TikTok and others, Twitter is going back to the old days where they will have all the vitriol there so it is going to get worse in that sense, it is quite sad."

He said hate speech legislation was only one part of the solution with a social cohesion approach imperative to bringing change.

Razzaq was pleased to see the political will to combat the issue, through almost $4 million in community funding.

"Now we need to make sure we work together to make some of these implementations. Hate speech is a national security issue, and we cannot turn it into political football."

Disabled Persons Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker said ableism was also increasing.

"For many disabled people, it's just the messages we see daily, social media is a big one but it's the devaluing of our lives basically is what it's about."

Walker said more needed to be done to protect the disabled community.

"We are part of the community, we are a people as well."

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