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Ahmed Zaoui to speak at Victoria University

Ahmed Zaoui to speak at Victoria University

Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui is to speak about the roots of religious fundamentalism and the response to it at a lecture at Victoria University.

The lecture, organised by the Religious Studies and Political Science & International Relations Programmes at Victoria University, will be held in the University’s Hunter Council Chamber at noon on Thursday 7 July.

Professor Paul Morris, Head of the Religious Studies Programme, says Mr Zaoui’s fight to remain in New Zealand has not only galvanised public opinion but also highlighted the role of religion in society and politics.

“Ahmed Zaoui has been a touchstone for New Zealanders to consider issues surrounding religious fundamentalism, terrorism, security and human rights. For many New Zealanders, security was an issue that was played out overseas and portrayed on the television news. In one person, he has been a catalyst to bring these issues together and forced us to consider their significance – how do we balance security, concerns about terrorism and human rights?

“As well, because the Muslim community in New Zealand is comparatively small, we often don’t hear first hand of the politics of the Muslim world. Most New Zealanders would know little, if anything about the politics of Algeria. Mr Zaoui is a man who is knowledgeable about Islam and has personal experience of the politics in that part of the Muslim world.

“At Victoria, we teach several courses on Islam in the contemporary world, fundamentalism and the links between religion, terrorism, politics and international relations, and for our students to listen to Mr Zaoui and question him is a rare opportunity to hear a different perspective on these issues. Hearing different and informed perspectives is at the very heart of what a university is about and we are pleased to be able to host Mr Zaoui.”

Mr Zaoui became a member of the Algerian parliament in the first democratic elections in 1991, as a representative of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). He never took up his seat because the Algerian military launched a coup in January 1992 to ensure the former government maintained power and the FIS was declared an ‘illegal’ party. Mr Zaoui was part of a group that organised the Rome Colloquium, which sought to bring the Algerian political parties and other interested parties to work for peace in that country. He is an asylum seeker in New Zealand, is still subject to a ‘security risk certificate’ and his case ongoing.

Media are welcome to attend the lecture in the Hunter Council Chamber, level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Campus, on Thursday 7 July at noon.

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