Teachers at New Zealand’s biggest Islamic school are monitoring students’ online activity in light of increasing international concerns over how extremist groups are using the internet to recruit members.
Principal of Mangere’s Al-Madinah School, Asin Ali, told the Herald on Sunday that cyber-monitoring of his 550 students was being conducted, including scanning for extremist-related material. The students and their parents know of the surveillance.
Ali said no content had caused concern but vigilance remained important to help ensure young, Islamic New Zealanders were protected from dangerous activity.
“We try to monitor the internet and what students are using and make sure we are talking to them to help mitigate these kinds of risks and make sure that nobody comes to any extreme views,” Ali said.
“We have not encountered anything like that, but we do also encourage our students to report any concerns about extreme views.
“We ensure that the message of living in New Zealand and being a common Muslim is promoted — and that any sort of violence is not.”
National spy chief Rebecca Kitteridge last week said the risk of a terrorist attack in New Zealand had risen over the last year and extremist groups such as Islamic State were using the internet, particularly social media, to spread propaganda in attempts to recruit susceptible individuals.
This week 140 Kiwi troops began their deployment to Iraq as New Zealand joined the fight against IS, while counter-terrorism police in Australia also foiled an alleged terrorist targeting Melbourne’s Anzac Day commemorations.
The exposure of that plot has also led British prosecutors to charge a 14-year-old boy with two offences of inciting terrorism overseas.
The Education Ministry said New Zealand schools were responsible for their own policies around online monitoring. A spokesperson said the ministry was not aware of any concerns about the radicalisation of students of any religious or ethnic background in New Zealand schools.
Ali said students’ education at Al-Madinah also included coping mechanisms in the event of encountering prejudice and misinformation around the Muslim faith’s connection to extremism.
Al-Madinah is one of three Islamic schools in New Zealand. Zayed College For Girls is also located in Mangere, and declined to comment. The third is Haleema Kindergarten in Lower Hutt.