I’ve found the Wikileaks cables fascinating, as it shows us what the US Embassy was interested in, and reporting on.
In some areas, they have done an analysis which is superior to anything I have read in the local media.
This cable analyses the Kiwi Muslim community, and looks at whether they are heading for integration or insulation.
New Zealand’s small but active Muslim community points to a member of parliament, regular appearances on national television by community leaders, ready access to the Prime Minister and her cabinet, and joint statements with Jewish organizations as hallmarks of movement into the political mainstream. But a recent influx of Arab and African immigrants is creating tensions within New Zealand’s traditionally South Asian Muslim population. This changing ethnic makeup is causing some disagreement over members’ identity and assimilation, as well as concerns about preventing terrorist groups and Wahhabi ideology from gaining a toehold here. The community also faces other challenges )from hate crimes to job discrimination ) as it deals with its continued growth.
They correctly highlight the tensions between the traditional sources of Muslims – South Asia, and more recent migration from the Middle East and Africa. We have seen this play otu in just the last week with battles over the main Auckland mosque.
The Embassy also looks at the Wahhabi faction of Islam, and the internal politics within NZ:
In a meeting with ConOff, XXX2, president of [REDACTED], said FIANZ is essentially a Sunni establishment. X said Shias do not feel represented by the national organization. Although X claimed there are no tensions between FIANZ and the Shia community, X criticized FIANZ for not doing enough to educate New Zealanders about Islam.
Contrary to assertions by XXX1 (see ref A) that there are no extremists in New Zealand, XXX3 told Conoff that Wahhabi groups have “overtly tried to influence New Zealand’s Muslim society.” XXX3 said [REDACTED] has sponsored speakers from Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al Haramain. XXX3 claimed these two groups receive Saudi money for their activities. [REDACTED]’s alleged drift towards or tolerance of Wahhabi ideology made it difficult for Shias and even some Sunnis to stay with the group, and so XXX3 and other disaffected members left to form [REDACTED].
And a warning:
Reftel A showed that the first large wave of Muslim immigrants from the 1960s through the 1980s had no choice but to interact with their non-Muslim neighbors, and was thus quickly initiated into traditional New Zealand life. They were largely English-speaking, educated service providers whose language abilities and job skills dovetailed with Kiwi society. However, since the 1990s, immigrants with limited language and educational backgrounds have come into an already established Muslim community with mosques, Halal meat butchers, and government services available in their native language. If not carefully managed, this could lead to the kind of insulation seen in some Muslim populations in Europe that can potentially serve as a breeding ground for homegrown extremists. While we don’t see extremism taking hold here yet, our GNZ counterparts and many Muslim leaders recognize the ingredients are there.
But the Embassy also followed domestic politics closely – not just the national race, but even electorate contests, as seen in this cable about the Auckland Central race in 2008:
The National Party is making a serious play for Auckland Central, an electorate that has been in nearly uninterrupted Labour control for almost a century. That a 28-year-old virtual unknown has a serious chance of ousting a Labour stalwart demonstrates just how vulnerable the Labour Party is in this election cycle.
That was their summary. And they profile the electorate:
The electorate is dominated by well-educated young adults. It has the lowest proportions of children and pensioners of any electorate in the country, but the highest proportion of people in their twenties. It is the third-wealthiest electorate in the country, but is socially liberal. It ranks last of all New Zealand electorates in the percentage of inhabitants identifying themselves as Christian, and first among those who ascribe to no religion at all. It has the country’s lowest share of married residents, but highest share of partners in non-marriage relationships. It has a higher ratio of single people than any other electorate.
And in this cable they look at the Chinese vote in NZ:
New Zealand’s Chinese can be divided between those with deep roots in the country and more recent arrivals. Members of the first group trace their ancestry to the market gardeners and Otago gold miners that arrived in New Zealand as far back as the mid-19th century. Their forebears suffered overt racism and often toiled in poverty on the margins of society.
4. (SBU) Members of this group to this day often keep a low political profile. While many enjoy a standard of living their grandparents could not have dreamed of, they often stay loyal to the Labour Party. They remember Labour as the social welfare party that was most ready to help the working class and as the most racially tolerant party. This loyalty is weakening as Chinese Kiwis grow wealthier and as the National Party leaves race-baiting in its past.
The 70% of Chinese who arrived in New Zealand after 1991 make up the second group.
So a 30/70 split between those with traditional loyalties to Labour and those who are more heterogenous in their voting.
Huo nonetheless remains Labour’s most important Chinese candidate. Despite not getting the nod to run in Botany, Huo was given a far higher place on the party list than Tawa. Indeed, Huo placed higher on the list than a number of veteran Labour MPs. In a meeting with the CG, Huo’s lack of partisan passion was notable. While paying lip service to Labour policies, his remarks suggested he was drawn into politics not to support a particular ideology, but because the Chinese community’s voice “was not being heard.”
A fascinating insight into the Labour MP.
Huo argued that National’s Wong “does not connect well” with most Chinese New Zealanders because she’s from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese rather than Mandarin. …
Also, like Huo, Wang told the CG that Wong is “not Chinese enough” and that Botany’s Chinese would prefer a Mandarin speaker like himself to a Cantonese speaker like Wong.
The importance of language!