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Commemorative Dinner for Muslim Philanthropist

PRESS RELEASE (01/12/06)

Dignitaries & Lawyers to Attend Commemorative Dinner for Muslim Philanthropist and Advocate for Peace

This evening the family of Abdul Rasheed Q.S.O. will host the Governor-General, Ministers, Judges and prominent lawyers to remember a man who dedicated his life to others. Abdul Rahim Rasheed (LL.B (NZ), B.Theol. (Auck), Q.S.O) was called to rest on 3rd October 2006 ending a life full of humanitarian works. He practiced as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of NZ for twenty-five years, assisting Pacific, Indian and Asian peoples to justice at little or no charge and enabled thousands to migrate to NZ during a period of stern hostility towards migrants. He successfully fought gruelling cases in Criminal and Immigration law such as Aloua vs Department of Labour [1975] 1 NZLR 507, introducing the mens rea (or guilty mind) requirement to prove the offence of overstaying, a case soon overturned by parliamentary legislation the following year.

A sufferer of several heart attacks and 3 open heart surgeries, ill-health often intervened and eventually forced him to retire prematurely from legal practice in 1992. Ironically, while still doing pro bono legal work, he was able to undertake more community work at local, national and regional levels. He was long an ambassador for peace and had begun ongoing dialogue with Christians and Jews, later founding the Council of Christian and Muslims. He died its patron. He travelled the Pacific including Tonga, the Samoas, the Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Cook and other Islands promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue. To equip him better in his dialogue with Christians he undertook and completed a degree in Christian Theology at the University of Auckland in 1996 despite his failing health (NZ Herald 11 May 1996, p20).

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In NZ he had firmly planted the flag of his faith by initiating and leading the building of the first mosque at Ponsonby in 1979 and acquiring other sites where mosques now stand. He was the founder and President of FIANZ and instrumental in arranging halal meat certification which now earns hundreds of millions of export dollars for NZ. He founded numerous inter-faith dialogue and other organisations and affected nearly every major project undertaken. Despite ill-health again intervening to force him out of active community work, he soldiered on to write and distribute numerous books and traits promoting the understanding of Islam vis-à-vis Christianity and other religions, in the wider community.

In the Queen's Birthday and Golden Jubilee Honours of June 2002, he was appointed a Companion of the Queen’s Service Order for his community service. Yet he continued to epitomise humility that reflected the humble background from which he came. Born in Fiji in of working class parents and the sixth of ten siblings he went short in life in many respects but was always kind, generous and never forsook humility in dealing with his fellow human, regardless of his success in many facets of life. He is remembered as such by all, from colleagues to clients to his medical staff over many years.

Mr Rasheed left an unrealised dream of a dedicated inter-faith centre for dialogue where education and discussion could continue on an on-going, regular, and comprehensive basis. Accordingly, in his name and memory, the establishment of a facility, dedicated to him and his 30 years of pioneering inter-faith work, especially between Islam, Christianity and Judaism, is being proposed. It is widely supported, and is an official Human Rights Commission Diversity Project. At the dinner, after comments from His Excellency the Governor General and Hon. Phil Goff, Assoc Professor Doug Pratt, who dedicated his latest book to Mr Rasheed, will explain the need for the proposed Centre for Inter-faith Dialogue and Education (CIDE), and its appropriateness in light of Mr Rasheed’s life-long commitment to inter-religious discussion, education and harmonious community relations.

Mr Rasheed was a great visionary whose proudest achievements were serving his community and its people. In the current climate of hostility and suspicion, his struggle for openness and understanding and for peaceful for co-existence between all faiths and groups, will be sorely missed.

This evening’s dinner, also being attended by Auckland District Law Society President Gary Gotlieb, will be held tonight at the Society’s headquarters, Chancery Chambers, Norman Shieff Room, at 6:30pm.

Abdul Rasheed is survived by his widow and two sons and two daughters, all of whom are married and have resolved to help continue his work. His younger son was admitted to the bar in February 2006 and is employed by the Public Defence Service.


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