3 Mar 2015

NZ Muslims extend hand to PM

11:32 am on 3 March 2015

The Federation of Islamic Associations says it still wants to meet Prime Minister John Key so it can help efforts to combat Islamic State (IS)

It comes after Mr Key yesterday said the number of people on a Government watchlist of potential threats had grown. He said 30-40 people were on the list because of their involvement with or support for IS. Another 60-70 required further investigation - an increase from last year.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (left) and Prime Minister John Key (right).

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee (left) and Prime Minister John Key (right). Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Last week the Government also confirmed it was sending a contingent of 143 New Zealand troops to the Middle East to help train Iraqi troops battling IS. The first officers will leave for Baghdad next month, with the main deployment beginning in May.

Mr Key said he was happy to meet Muslim leaders but the Government would not change the decisions it had already made about its response to IS.

Javed Khan, the federation's acting president, said it did have a good relationship with government agencies, but it wanted to talk directly to Mr Key. It was worried by his comments there were more people on the watchlist.

"If he has made that commitment that he would want to meet with the Muslim leadership then we would welcome that... opportunity and we would like to," Mr Khan said.

Taking the wrong approach could make some people more militant rather than help the situation, he added.

"That's why we want to sort of be involved in this, in this whole matter so that we can assist each other in getting to the root of the problem."

Mr Khan said the federation would like to know who was on the Government watchlist and where they lived so it could help.

Mr Key said there had been communication between his office and Muslim leaders.

"I'm going out to one of the mosques pretty soon. But I'm more than happy to talk to them about the actions the Government's taking. But they are constantly in discussion with various parts of, essentially, my administration and my office," he said.

Jamal Green, the federation's secretary, said the organisation opposed IS and "deplored" the things it was doing.

"Obviously he [Mr Key] has information that we are not party to, but at the same time we think that any real attempt to try to get to the bottom and tease out what this is really demands a much deeper analysis of the situation that's gone on in the Middle East."

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