As delivered by Juliet Moses on 15 June 2021.
Thank you to our esteemed panellists, kia ora koutou, as-Salaam-Alaikum, shalom.
I’m not an academic. I’m the only person on this panel who isn’t an academic. I’m here as a member and spokesperson of a community that faces ongoing threats from a number of sources and ideologies, which we’ve heard about today. I’m also a trustee of the Astor Foundation, a charity that combats religious and racial disharmony and extremism, and seeks to promote social cohesion.
Three things I’ll cover briefly today. Firstly, I’ll make a few general comments on what I think we should aim for as a society. Then how we build the society we want. And then I thought I’d also give some specific examples of some initiatives that I’ve been involved in in those different capacities I just mentioned.
As we’ve heard, there’s no one pathway to extremism or terrorism. I’ve learned quite a bit from reading about Christian Piccolini, who is an American man who is a former neo-nazi, he’s reformed himself, and he does a lot of work in the space now helping to reform other people. He said, extremism is usually motivated by a desire for identity, purpose, and community. Usually there is a sense of isolation, victimhood, and disempowerment. So I think, to counter extremist ideologies we must also offer identity, purpose and community. We must have a collective identity, as a nation, that gives every individual a sense of belonging, inclusion, and empowerment. We must find a vision for the future and build a society that unites us all, while allowing space for difference; in other words, unity, not uniformity. This model of society emphasises, and we’ve heard a lot about this today actually, responsibilities as well as rights. We all have a role to play, and we must all have a role to play, and valid contributions to make, in building the nation we want.
My concern about the current zeitgeist, if you want to call it that, is that it’s building walls, not bridges between people. It focuses on what divides more than what unites, and that brings about segregation, not integration.
I do fear that there is a particular fixation at the moment on “whiteness” as a source of evil. And I think we have to allow, and I understand why that might be, it feel like a form of redress or justice, but I think we need to remember that every person, no matter what their skin colour, no matter what their race, or religion has inherent dignity, and we have to honour them as such. And I think what Sara said before is very important to remember, that Pakeha is an ethnicity in itself. And I say this, by the way, as a person who is not considered to be white by white supremacists, because I’m Jewish.
Read the full transcript of Juliet Moses speech on Shalom.kiwi here.