Yes of course they should change the name of Canterbury's champion Super Rugby team and not just because our Muslim community deserve the utmost consideration right now, they should drop the name "Crusaders" because it's naff. It always has been.

While they are about it, New Zealand Rugby should tell the Hurricanes and Highlanders franchises to find something better too.

Way back when the three-nation provincial competition was conceived I winced at the names chosen for three of the five New Zealand sides. The South Africans had their wild animals, the Australians had some class. I thought "Brumbies" was great. But New Zealand's? "Blues" was fine. "Chiefs" was better than fine. The other three were cringe-worthy. They said, "We have nothing distinctive in these places and we don't have much imagination either. We are still reading British boys' annuals of the 1950s."


So yes, please Canterbury, find something more emblematic of your exceptional rugby culture now that you have been given the best possible reason to do it. Some of us are just discovering New Zealand's Muslim dimension, a larger population of migrants than we realised because many came as refugees.

I have always thought it a pity refugees have to be re-settled with so much secrecy. Many of them will have interesting stories to tell. They could give us personal insights into the conflicts they have fled, in which they were probably participants. I think we could handle that.

As a country we have taken part in many conflicts where the purpose was confused, both sides believed right was on their side and situational ethics applied. War is like that.

The Great War in particular was like that. The Vietnam veteran in Porirua who objected to an Islamic prayer being included in the Titahi Bay RSA's Anzac Day dawn service this year cannot have read much about Gallipoli. If he had dipped into any book on that campaign he would have discovered the Anzacs didn't hate their enemies. They respected them.

The Anzacs knew they were invaders and the Turks were defending their territory, not that those in the front lines had time to dwell on that. They had been pitched into a place where they had to kill or be killed and they knew it was exactly the same for the guys they could hear talking Turkish not far away.

Respect is a much more useful emotion than hate, as the best rugby players know. Listen to Steve Hansen before every test match and you realise he never lets the All Blacks under-rate their opposition. Considering the dominance of the team he has coached, this is probably the hardest part of his job.

We need that sort of leadership to rescue Anzac Day dawn services this year from the poison that was poured on Titahi Bay's organiser, Simon Strombom, who has fought in Afghanistan with and against Muslims. Anzacs, I suspect, would be comfortable with his attempt to include a prayer from the Koran. As for the Vietnam veteran who doesn't share this sort of respect, Strombom made the telling observation that more Kiwis died in a few minutes in Christchurch than died in the Vietnam War.

But he dropped the prayer from the dawn service when the threatening emails came in. That is understandable, nobody wants trouble on Anzac Day. It is just a pity these sort of threats can prevail.


It is hard to think of anything more fitting than an Islamic presence at Anzac Day services. War commemorations are more poignant when time has given a true perspective to the animosities of the past. It does not discredit the effort and sacrifice of those who fought.

What we urgently need now are Anzac Day services that loudly advertise their inclusion of an Islamic prayer this year.

I will attend one that does, I will not attend one unless it does, and I hope many New Zealanders will make the same declaration.

I hope that by the time this appears the Prime Minister has made that declaration. She has been rightly applauded for embracing the country's Muslims after the mosque massacre but her harder task may be this one. She needs to say unequivocally she will not attend an Anzac Day service unless it includes an Islamic element.

I think any civic ceremony filling the bill will find it is better attended than any in recent years, and RSAs that fear controversy can be left with their quiet gatherings around the local monument for those who can be bothered.

Frankly, the Anzac Day service needs freshening and it should always have included an Islamic voice. It is just a pity that, like the Crusaders, it has taken a crime against humanity to tell us the obvious.