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Keith Locke Receives Harmony Award at IAW Launch


Keith Locke and Javed Khan

Keith Locke Receives Harmony Award at IAW Launch

Keith Locke, former member of Parliament and Leader of the Green Party, was yesterday presented with a Harmony Award by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) at the official launch of Islamic Awareness Week at Te Wharewaka Function Centre in Wellington.

The award is presented annually to deserving individuals who have been identified as having worked over the years to reach out to the Muslim community.

On receiving the award, Mr Locke told those assembled that Islam is a unifying religion.

“We have a long way to go to overcome prejudice against Islam, the perception that Islam is responsible for the problems in the world,” he said.

The launch of Islam Awareness Week (IAW) was for the first time held in conjunction with the Diversity Forum organised by the Human Rights Commission.

Several VIPs and many from the diplomatic community joined local Muslims and guests to inaugurate a week of activities designed to offer a unique and intimate look inside New Zealand’s Muslim communities, to dispel misconceptions and celebrate Islam’s contribution to New Zealand society.

Brother Javed Khan, Senior Vice President of FIANZ, told the gathering that the theme of this year’s awareness is the role of youth in the community.

“Islam teaches that we don’t live alone,” he said. “It teaches youth their responsibilities to their families, their communities, and to the environment. Youth have to know they have a stake in New Zealand society, and its future.”

Melissa Lee spoke on behalf of the Minister of Ethnic Affairs Judith Collins, and as an immigrant to New Zealand herself, stressed the challenges faced by many Muslim youth in trying to forge an identity that maintains their cultural heritage while creating a place in which they belong.

“It is not easy,” she said. “People often don’t let us feel like we belong.”

Dame Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner, and United Future Party parliamentarian Peter Dunne both stressed the contribution made by Muslims to New Zealand society, and welcomed the week as an opportunity to preserve the Muslim identity and share its values with New Zealanders.

Mayor Celia
Wade-Brown

Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown, Mayor of Wellington, donned a hijab for the occasion and called for people to come forward to Council with suggestions on how to make Wellington more welcoming. She identified the “Women only” swimming facility made available at the Kilbirnie Aquatic Centre as an example of the sorts of initiatives possible.

Mohammad Hassan, Media Co-ordinator for IAW, concluded the event by noting, “It is time for young Muslims to step up to the plate and continue the work begun by people such as Keith Locke.”

END

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