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Islam Awareness Week launched

Islam Awareness Week launched

News Report by
Syed Akbar Kamal



In an increasingly multi-cultural and diverse ethnic landscape of Aotearoa Gov-Gen Anand Satyanand underscored the need to channel efforts in realizing religious understanding while launching the 5th annual Islam Awareness Week organized by Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) here at the Wellington Islamic Centre.

Governor General said that being a New Zealander of Fiji-Indian descent he believes ‘this diversity has the ability to enrich our society, culture and economy.’ He lauded the efforts of FIANZ in increasing the awareness of Islam and showcasing its values and tenets to the wider NZ society.

Coming close on the heels of the First Muslim Stakeholders Meet held in Parliament launched by Prime Minister Helen Clark, this year's Islamic Awareness Week theme is "Strong Families, Better Society". The event runs till Sunday. It aims to build awareness of Muslim beliefs, values, practices and explains the intricacies of Islam.

FIANZ president Javed Khan recalled the contribution of the Muslim community in enhancing and safe guarding the interests of the country. He noted that Muslims in New Zealand have done well to assimilate in being a part of the mainstream and living in harmony with diversity professing religious tolerance.

Mr. Khan acknowledged the government’s positive contribution in his communities various efforts in particular partnering FIANZ’s various initiatives.

Nationalities of Muslims in New Zealand hailing from around 42 countries mirror the United Nations a comparison observed ever so frequently by Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Dr. Ashraf Choudhary Labour List MP representing PM Helen Clark laid emphasis on the need for Muslims to engage with the wider society. He said ‘when you are standing on the truth and justice you have nothing to hide’. The community is noted for its harmonious relations with the wider New Zealand communities.

The event was attended by a host of dignitaries ranging from across the political spectrum, a large diplomatic corps, religious leaders, academics and officials from NZ Police and prominent members of the Muslim community and representatives of several regional constituents that make up FIANZ.

Peter Dunne leader United Future and Minister of Revenue, Wellington Mayor Jenny Brash, Ambassadors of USA, Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Mervin Singham Director Office of Ethnic Affairs were among others who graced the occasion.

Representative, Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand Ms Rehana Ali organized a celebration of Islamic fashion, a ladies-only event at the Kilbirnie Library in Wellington as part of Islam Awareness Week.

Muslim women from South-east Asia acted as models a mix of traditional Islamic clothing interspersed with modern threads.

New Zealand is home to 36,072 Muslims based on 2006 census and the country has around 40 mosques and Islamic Centres with two Islamic schools Al Madinah and Zayed College for Girls.

In recent years an influx of foreign students from Malaysia and Singapore has increased the proportion of Muslims in some other centres, notably the university city of Dunedin. Dunedin's Al-Huda mosque is perceived as the world's southernmost, and is further from Mecca than any mosque in the Southern Hemisphere.

The first identifiable Muslims resident in New Zealand are 15 Chinese gold diggers working in the South Island, recorded in the government census of April 1874. Over the last five decades the number has swelled from approximately 200 in 1950 to around thirty thousand today, including almost 4000 European/Pakeha and Maori.

Gov-Gen Satyanand presented Ann Dysart, Dr. Manuka Hanare, Bruce Keeley, Dr. G.P. Spry and David Kinzett with the Harmony Awards established as part of Islam Awareness Week to recognise the contributions of New Zealanders to improving understanding and relationships between Muslims and the wider community.

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Syed Akbar Kamal is the producer/director for the current affairs program Darpan-The Mirror on the World Wide Web. He has written extensively on a wide range of issues for numerous domestic and international publications. He can be reached at kamals@xtra.co.nz
www.teamworkproductions.co.nz

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