Terms of Reference for the Muslim Community Reference Group, to support the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019.

Introduction and background to the Royal Commission of Inquiry

On 9 April 2019, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Attack on Christchurch Mosques on 15 March 2019 (Royal Commission), was set up by the Government.  The Royal Commission is chaired by Sir William Young, with the Member Jacqui Caine.  Sir William is a Supreme Court Justice, and has wide experience in adjudicating sensitive and important issues.  Jacqui Caine was a long-time and recently retired New Zealand diplomat, the former New Zealand Ambassador to Chile (with accreditations to Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) and has a wide experience in working with many diverse communities and dealing with difficult and complex matters.  Sir William and Jacqui are supported by a team of Royal Commission officers.

The Royal Commission must report to the Governor-General by 26 November 2020 on a range of matters that are set out in the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission.  The Terms of Reference lists the topics the Royal Commission must inquire into and report on.  The Terms of Reference also list the topics that the Royal Commission is not allowed to inquire into.    

The Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission sets out that “the Government expects the Royal Commission connect with, and consult, New Zealand’s Muslim communities”.  The Royal Commission would like to hear from a wide range of people and organisations, to understand Muslim communities’ issues and concerns, including: 

  • What worries you most about the safety of you and your community?
  • What should government agencies be doing to keep us safe?
  • What could be done differently to help prevent something like this happening again?

The Royal Commission has set up the Muslim Community Reference Group to help it create opportunities for Muslim communities to take part in its inquiry

O humankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.

Chapter 49: Verse 13 of the Qur'an

Introduction and background to the Muslim Community Reference Group

The Muslim Community Reference Group is a group of people of faith, who have ‘Iman’ (faith).  Members of the Reference Group come with good intentions ‘Niyah’ (intention) to contribute to the work of the Royal Commission and with hope that the report can be part of creating a better future for New Zealand.  Based on this Niyah, Reference Group members see being part of the group as a form of ‘Ibadah’ (worship).  The contribution of time, energy, experience and ‘Hikmah’ (wisdom) is seen by the group as ‘Sadaqah’ (charity).

O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.

Chapter 5: Verse 8 of the Qur’an

The Reference Group has agreed to its own Terms of Reference below to guide its work.  The Reference Group has also agreed that the terms of Reference may be varied at any time by agreement. 

Niyah – What is our intention? Purpose and role of the Muslim Community Reference Group

Overarching approach

Our work is underpinned by acknowledging the 51 shuhada.  We are committed to supporting and enabling the affected families and survivors to have their voices heard in the Royal Commission’s process on their terms.

  • Because of the Niyah (intention in one’s heart to please Allah), the action of being a member of the Muslim Community Reference Group is a form of Ibadah (worship).
  • We acknowledge and commit to working together to build and earn trust in the process and with each other.

The Muslim Community Reference Group is an advisory group to the Royal Commission.  The Reference Group will assist, advise, and provide counsel to the Royal Commission.

The relationship of the Muslim Community Reference Group to the Royal Commission could be described as a consultative relationship.  The Reference Group will actively provide critique and feedback from the diverse perspectives in the group.  The Royal Commission values and welcomes this input.

Help one another unto righteousness and pious duty. Help not one another unto sin and transgression, but keep your duty to Allah. 

Chapter 5: Verse 2 of the Qur’an

Members of the Reference Group have a role in the inquiry by supporting the Royal Commission with relevant and unique questions that the Royal Commission can ask of State sector agencies.

Members of the Reference Group have considerable networks, knowledge and experience, and the advice of the group will enable the Royal Commission to engage appropriately with Muslim communities.

The Royal Commission will meet with the Reference Group regularly, as a whole group, for at least five meetings.

The Muslim Community Reference Group will not make decisions on behalf of, or instruct, the Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission will seek input from the Reference Group: 

  • into the design of the methods of engaging with Muslim communities, so that those communities can take part in the Royal Commission in ways that respect and reflect the importance of public participation in Aotearoa New Zealand as a democratic society; and
  • to identify any gaps in reaching Muslim communities of interest, population groups or people whom the Royal Commission needs to hear from.

The Reference Group is a direct line to the Royal Commission to discuss issues with the Commissioners and/or officers of the Royal Commission. Reference Group Members are taking part directly in the inquiry process by: 

  • sharing practical help and guidance informed by knowledge, experience and community networks to the Commissioners and Royal Commission team as the inquiry continues;
  • identifying any gaps in reaching Muslim communities of interest, population groups or people whom the Royal Commission needs to hear from;
  • identifying important and critical questions to ask of State sector agencies related to the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference;
  • asking the Royal Commission questions on behalf of communities and then sharing that information with others in the community; and
  • sharing stories and experiences to inform the Royal Commission’s report.

Amal – How do we do our work?:

Through the principle of ‘Tasamoh’ (tolerance) we can hear each other across our differences

We will acknowledge that in any group situation there are likely to be different dynamics present that could relate to people, organisational and network agendas, age, gender, religious and political viewpoints.

We recognise that the diverse voices of all Reference Group members are to be listened to, heard equally, and included through the process, in an environment of trust and respect.

We commit to be sincere, empathetic and understand Reference Group Members’ points of view.  We will be tolerant of different perspectives, and exercise tolerance.

We will treat information shared within the Reference Group as confidential.

The Reference Group will:

  • ask questions of the Royal Commission, and respectfully challenge the Royal Commission to keep it accountable and reflective on its processes and progress;
  • advise the Royal Commission using their knowledge and experience, to allow it to enable and enrich the Royal Commission’s community engagement with Muslim communities;
  • as allies, friends, and trusted leaders of Muslim communities, offer ideas, reflection, and advice to the Royal Commission to facilitate and enable community engagement; and
  • critique, feedback and offer advice on the Royal Commission’s communications both with the group, and with wider Muslim communities and public engagement.

The Royal Commission may ask the Muslim Community Reference Group to:

  • assist in identifying gaps and opportunities to reach communities of interest, population groups, or people whom the Royal Commission needs to hear from;
  • at the end of the public submission process, provide feedback on the extent to which the Royal Commission has heard from a fair and reasonable range of views, and if there are outstanding communities of interest or points of view that have not been heard from;
  • provide feedback on initial thinking from the Royal Commission about key themes, key findings being considered, or key recommendations from the perspective of the extent to which it reflects matters raised by Muslim communities; and
  • offer practical assistance or guidance on any emerging issues, themes, or community feedback relating to engagement and communications activities and matters within the scope of the Inquiry more broadly, throughout the Royal Commission’s term.

Muslim Community Reference Group membership and scope

Members will participate in the Reference Group through the principle of ‘Sadaqah’ (charity)‎ through giving (time) to contribute productively

The Royal Commission will respect the Reference Group Member’s gift of time commitment and Hikmah (wisdom) by ensuring effective and efficient planning, preparation, and implementation of the Reference Group process.

We will be considerate of the group by taking our turn to speak and also ensuring others have time to speak.

We will hold ourselves and each other accountable for the functions, tasks, and commitments we make through the Reference Group process.

We will allow and enable an authentic and transparent Reference Group process.

We will be clear about expectations for Reference Group Members to the Royal Commission and will act with integrity towards each other.


The Muslim Community Reference Group includes diverse members from New Zealand’s wider Muslim communities and particularly, the Christchurch Muslim communities.

Royal Commission Terms of Reference and parameters

The Royal Commission is working to a deadline, and within the Inquiries Act 2013, and the Terms of Reference set by the Government. These dictate what the Royal Commission can and can’t do.

The Reference Group will be an advisory group, without decision-making powers over the Royal Commission.  The Royal Commission needs to meet the provisions of the Inquiries Act 2013, and the requirements of the Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference, both of which specify that it is Royal Commission Members’ (Sir William Young and Jacqui Caine) role to make findings and recommendations, and that it is their report to the Governor-General.

Advice from Reference Group

The Royal Commission will consider all offers of engagement by the Reference Group, and will be honest and communicative about what is possible.

The Royal Commission is running its process mainly in private.  This means that Reference Group meetings and community engagement meetings are not advertised publicly, and media are not invited.  Any engagement must be designed within the parameters of this private process.

The Royal Commission will treat information shared by Members of the Reference Group as confidential.

All information shared with the Muslim Community Reference Group will be done with an expectation of confidence, unless otherwise agreed.  The Royal Commission cannot share classified or other sensitive information (for privacy and confidentiality reasons) with the Muslim Community Reference Group.  Information sharing will also respect that the trial must not be prejudiced and that the fair trial rights must be protected, as is required in law.

Muslim Community Reference Group’s term of appointment

The Reference Group will start in July 2019 and will have its last meeting by 10 December 2019.

Acknowledging the contribution of the Muslim Community Reference Group Members

Reference Group Members will be offered a koha (a gift of money) recognising their time commitment, contribution of advice and meeting attendance and participation.   The Royal Commission will make all arrangements (including travel) to enable Reference Group Members to attend Reference Group hui.  

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