The Press

Jihadi brides denied by Muslims

- MARTY SHARPE, BLAIR ENSOR and KATIE KENNY

Politician­s agree a number of Kiwi women have travelled to the Middle East to be jihadi brides, but Muslim community leaders say that’s unfounded.

Prime Minister John Key said on Tuesday that New Zealand women were known to have taken part in ‘‘weddings’’ before heading to Islamic State (Isis) stronghold Syria, which pointed to the fact they were going as jihadi brides.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he also understood a small number of women had gone to Syria, and there were others who were ‘‘susceptibl­e’’. It was clear there were people in New Zealand and ‘‘many other countries well away from the Middle East’’ who for many reasons were attracted to radical messages and being incited to be part of it, Little said.

‘‘In order to get there they are going through marriage ceremonies here or in the Middle East, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,’’ he said.

However, a Maori Muslim spokeswoma­n said the jihadi bride suggestion was ‘‘ludicrous’’.

A former secretary of the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Associatio­n, Jameela Hawkins, said she knew of men expressing a wish to travel to Syria, but no women. ‘‘I don’t know any women prepared to go over there and become brides. I thought it was just ludicrous."

Hawkins said she knew of young Maori Muslim men who said they were prepared to go to Syria to fight for Isis. Police and the Security Intelligen­ce Service knew who they were and kept an eye on them.

Hawkins said she would question anyone who said they were prepared to fight for Isis, which did not stand for Muslim values.

The Federation of Islamic Associatio­ns of New Zealand president, Hazim Arafeh, said suggestion­s that a growing number of Kiwi women were becoming jihadi brides came as a ‘‘surprise to all of us’’. Arafeh said he was aware of ‘‘less than a handful’’ of people who were under 24-hour surveillan­ce in New Zealand because of their links to Isis. He would not say where they lived.

Christchur­ch Muslim Aaron Tahuhu, who supports Islamic State’s efforts to establish an Islamic caliphate, said he was unaware of any New Zealand women who had become jihadi brides.

‘‘The prime minister and his banker cronies are just trying to make an excuse to justify sending more troops and money to take part in and fund a war that has nothing to do with us and in my opinion is an act of oppression and terrorism,’’ Tahuhu said.

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