The national Islamic Women's Council is not aware of any New Zealand jihadi brides heading to war torn regions to join the fight with Isis.

Council president Anjum Rahman told Paul Henry that although it was happening overseas there was no indication the same thing was happening here.

Ms Rahman said she listened carefully to Security Intelligence Service director Rebecca Kitteridge yesterday and she didn't mention the women leaving were jihadi brides travelling to Syria to marry and support fighters.

Jihadi brides: What are they and how big is the problem?


"All she said was the number had been growing and because it was a war torn area that was a concern," she said.

"We don't know the ethnicity of these women, we don't actually know the religious background of these woman, whether they just converted before they went, whether they converted at all, and we definitely don't know what they're doing while they're over there."

Asked if the council had information on women travelling overseas to marry and support Isis Ms Rahman said: "No. We don't have any knowledge or indication of that happening."

She said the Islamic Women's Council had not been approached by the SIS to discuss radicalisation or gain intelligence. "They may well have been in contact with the Islamic Federation. I know that that organisation has been in contact with the police and other agencies so there is a little bit of engagement there."

She said efforts to counter radicalisation by local islamic organisations included integrating new immigrants into the community and building a sense of a Kiwi muslim identity.

Speaking to reporters later she would not quantify the number but confirmed the number was less than a dozen.

She would not comment on whether had any had returned to New Zealand.

When asked about the extent to which the SIS knew about Jihadi brides returning, Ms Kitteridge said "of course we would maintain an interest in those people" but the SIS did not know about every single person.

"Obviously we would be concerned with whatever they are doing in a war zone of that kind.

"There would be really significant concern about what they are being exposed to, the conditions that they are, their ability to get away if they want to or how heavily radicalized or exposed to acts of barbarism they might be seeing.

"For a whole range of reasons it is a real concern to us."

Ms Kitteridge offered her remarks in her initial presentation then elaborated on them when Mr Key asked about the type of people that the SIS watched as a security risk.

"They may have other problems in their life," she said.

"It's not your kind of average person who's going out to work, or happily married or raising their kids.

"I would say there is a pattern of people who seem kind of disengaged in some way with productive life."

There were a range of age and a range of backgrounds - "quite a diversity of people actually."

Meanwhile, Mr Key questioned whether that a proposal he has previously rejected - attaching the Cortex cyber security programme to the Southern Cross internet cable linking New Zealand to Australia and the United States - should be revisited to give wider cyber protection to New Zealand companies.

He made the suggestion while questioning the acting director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, Una Jagose, who gave a detailed speech recently about Cortex as part of a new policy of openness in the bureau.

Mr Key said he had canned the original proposal because of the potential anxiety of it being seen as mass surveillance but he asked if an argument could be made, with enough public debate for it happen to protect smaller companies.

At present, the GCSB uses Cortex to mount cyber defence on Government agencies and strategically important private companies - and only with their permission.

Ms Jagose said the "hard ground work" by the GCSB needed to be done to be more open about the GCSB's cyber defence work.

She acknowledged the possible anxiety over "mass surveillance."

"We needed to have that maturing of the bureau and of the public to understand the threat and what we are doing about it. But one of our great advantages as a country is that we are small and we are surrounded by water and we have limited inputs for the international internet traffic to come.

"That is an opportunity for the future, I would say, that this country should think about very seriously because there is an opportunity to protect everybody, not just Cortex customers.

"On a future day, we might have that discussion again."

She said that in her engagement with boards and executive teams, she was asked quite often why the GCSB was not doing cyber defence for everybody.

"I think it is a question that will be asked of Governments in the future."

"News to us"

The head of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand Hazim Arafeh said it was the first time he had ever heard about the claims woman were travelling to support Isis fighters.

"This is absolutely news to us," said Mr Arafeh.

He said the wider Muslim community did its best to keep watch on anyone who they thought was vulnerable.

"Certainly our first reaction is to make sure that those people get very well informed that they are making a wrong decision religiously.

"As we have stated in the past Daesh ideology has nothing to do with Islam."

Mr Arafeh confirmed he had come across people who were vulnerable but none were female.

"I've never met any woman that has ever been attracted to this ideology before. They were all men," he said.

Mr Arafeh said a common thread among this group was their misinformed and weak knowledge of Islam.

To counter radicalised beliefs the topic was frequently addressed in Friday sermons at mosques across the country.

The number of people he had spoken to holding alarming beliefs was "very low".

Mr Arafeh said the Muslim community was sad the situation was making people in the wider community feel unsafe.

"That's certainly not the intention of any Muslim who lives in New Zealand because we're Kiwis - we're part and parcel of society - and our allegiance is first and foremost for New Zealand. "

- With Audrey Young