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Islamic Awareness Week an important opportunity

Islamic Awareness Week an important opportunity

Islamic Awareness Week (Aug 8-14) is an important opportunity for the New Zealand public to learn more about New Zealand's 23,000 strong Muslim community and their beliefs, Ethnic Affairs Minister Chris Carter said today.

"Opening up to the wider community is a brave thing to do when you are under pressure in the way Muslims are at present, but I am delighted Muslim New Zealanders have chosen to do so this week," Mr Carter said.

"The more understanding we have of each others beliefs, ideals and practices the less opportunity there is for conflict and social isolation to develop in New Zealand. The reality of any society is that there will always be differences between people. A healthy society is not one that pretends there aren't.

"With the profile given to the activities of terrorists around the world, it is easy for the public to get a warped view of what Islam is about, and the priorities of Muslims. In my experience, the reality of Islam in New Zealand is very different from the way it is often portrayed," Mr Carter said.

"Muslims have lived and contributed to New Zealand since early last century, and contrary to popular belief are not only derived from Asia, Africa and Arabia. There are at least 3000 Muslims in New Zealand who identify as being of European origin.

"I would urge decent, sensible New Zealanders to make an effort to get to know their Muslim neighbours, if they don't already. The way to defeat terrorism is not by dwelling on our differences, but by unifying around common beliefs – notably, a belief in peace."

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