Last month was a time  for reflection, a time to take stock.  It forced us to examine who we were as a society  - and that was quickly illustrated by one symbol – the headscarves Kiwi women were quick to don nationally, in sympathy with the victims.  The shootings also prompted questions about  who we are, what we stand for and how we could use the outpouring of empathy to create  practical  ways of  better understanding Islamic culture. That won’t happen overnight, but the tone set by our PM and our  long history of seeking social justice indicates we’re already on the right path.

Leadership and our PM…

“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”  Jacinda Ardern

There is so much written and discussed about what good leadership is. Ultimately though, whatever the context, leadership is as leadership does.    And nothing demonstrated this as well as the authentic and emotionally intelligent leadership of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the last few weeks.

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“This is not us…”

“This is not us” is the phrase many of us have used after the shock of the Christchurch Mosque massacres which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers. It may come as a surprise to Kiwis, but that sentiment is being challenged on a leading US website, Buzzfeed.

Australian  Buzzfeed reporter Hannah Ryan, found examples of Muslims who had been discriminated against or were the victims of hate speech – and actions.

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Religions, social media – and free speech

Television cameras and interviewers were present on Christchurch’s last vigil for the 50 Muslims who’d been slain a week before. A young Muslim woman said the “Free-speech people” had a lot to answer for.

She used the expression ‘free-speech’ people once more in the interview, clearly in the belief that the law allowing free speech was partly to blame for the massacre. Or did she? Was she referring to the hateful, divisive and unregulated racists ensconced on social media?

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Tolerance – and ‘us’…

The Prime Minister was right to announce to the world that in New Zealand we are all ‘us,’ but   although it made us feel virtuous to agree with her, we know that’s not true.

You could say that, in general, we have tolerated Muslims, but they will tell you about being held in Customs for longer periods than other New Zealanders and that they have a harder time than European immigrants trying to get their parents to visit from places like India and Pakistan. And that feels like discrimination.

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The Very Last Time I Played Rugby…

The last time I played rugby was when I was a (relatively) springy 34-year-old.

I’d moved from south Wales to take up a new job on the English north east coast 45 kilometres or so from the town where I was born.  The good news: We found a house in a small, pleasant and ancient market town of some seven thousand people. The not so good: we  knew  very few people apart from a handful of new colleagues.

How, I asked myself, could I make friends?  The local Clubs didn’t appeal  and that left sports clubs; why not try rugby again?

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Kindness the Core of Islam

Islam says that all guests should be welcomed and treated with kindness and respect –  Muslim or non-Muslim.   Haji Daoud Nabi  was at Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque door and welcomed the shooter in to worship last Friday.

“Welcome brother,” were the last words he said before he was shot.  I have heard and read so many stories about this tragedy that have torn at my heart but, it’s this scenario which keeps running and rerunning in my head. And , it’s been made even more poignant for me  after seeing a photograph of  Haji , a kindly elderly Afghan man with a beautiful little girl who looks so like our own grandchild.

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Max’s Dogs – Hush puppies

Dog JacketIn 1958 a sales manager for the Wolverine Shoe and Tanning Corporation was on a selling trip through the American states.  When he reached the South, he was invited to a regional salesman’s  home for dinner. ‘Hush-puppy’ cornballs were part of the meal and the  sales manager asked, ‘why the name?’

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Kiwiosities: Sugar Bags

Anybody remember sugar bags?  They were Hessian, contained 44lbs (20kg) of sugar and were widely recycled in  pioneer and tougher times.  They were useful hold-alls. Tied at the corners, with light rope, they made a Pikau or pack. Split open  down one side, they made a  rain hood and  jacket.

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A Stop/Go moment

Flowers left by Rotorua residents at the home of a local Muslim

On This Day – we can call it that now because of its notoriety – we drove through Mt Roskill and paused for the stop-go road worker. We sighed and complied – just another Auckland roading improvement. On the footpath beside us, a Muslim in traditional dress tugged at his reluctant son’s hand and dragged him home as he strode past, looking grim. 

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