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Crises Of Kiwi Muslims For Genuine Leadership

$2.1million Qatari donation is still in Federation of Islamic Association’s (FIANZ) bank account, which has left Christchurch victims in doubts, frustration and disappointments. FIANZ, instead of being a representative of Kiwi organisations, following the footsteps of the power-hungry corrupt political elite in the Muslims majority countries.

Last month, Asharaf Ghani (AG) and Abdullah Abdullah took the oath at the same time to become the President(s) of Afghanistan. Likewise, FIANZ is run by two Presidents. Both Presidents are publically accusing each other for corruption or favouring corruption. Regardless of good work done by FIANZ since its establishment, the crises show that Muslim organisations are not adopting transparent and democratic values of their residing country, New Zealand. The governance crisis of FIANZ represents authoritarian and corrupt regimes of Muslim worlds.

FIANZ was established in 1979 when less than 2000 Muslims were living in New Zealand. The objective behind FIANZ formation was to form a national body to connect Muslims spread all over the country. Therefore, the organisation has consisted of seven regional organisations covering Christchurch and Dunedin in South Island, Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton and Palmerston North in North Island. FIANZ is continuously representing Muslims of NZ at national and international levels. Since its inception, FIANZ develops its financial base by facilitating 3 billion dollars halal meat trade with Middle Eastern countries. It also provides halal certificate and training for the local market. A strong monetary base of FIANZ helps the organisation to do charity work and provide financial help to establish Islamic centres throughout the country. FIANZ worked closely with police, security agencies and government organisations after 9/11 and post 15 March incident, which gave the organisation respect and credibility at the political and institutional sphere.

However, this respect, financial stability, opportunities of international networking has left FIANZ executives in a running battle to gain and retain power forever. For example, one gentleman remained the president and vice-president of FIANZ for 25 years and enjoyed all perks associated with these roles. The power game in FIANZ restricts the organisation to evolve to represent over 60,000 Muslims living in NZ. Muslims residing in NZ is a diverse group. NZ immigration policy encourages professional Muslims to move from all over the world. There are many Muslim doctors, engineers, academics/researchers and students in NZ who are not getting representations in FIANZ. In Auckland, alone, there are more than 20 Muslim originations and trusts doing charity work and running Islamic centres. Among those, only 2 organisations are included in FIANZ Council. FIANZ governance structure has not evolved over time. The only changes we observe in the constitution are the lengths of presidential terms. A large proportion of the Muslim population is not getting representation in FIANZ’s electoral process while FIANZ claim to represent all Muslims living in NZ.

New Zealand government must learn that FIANZ is an independent incorporated body that is neither transparent nor democratic and is not a representative of NZ Muslim communities. It has closed doors electoral process that limits the right to vote to its seven members organisations. There are more than 56 organisations/trusts/centres throughout NZ which do not have any representation in FIANZ.

Muslims in New Zealand are from various backgrounds, ethnicities, sects and have a different understanding of Islam and its practices. This is the time for FIANZ to become inclusive, democratic and transparent. All Muslims living in NZ should have a right to vote to elect FIANZ representatives. We believe direct voting to FIANZ President and its executives will help to bring leadership from diverse ethnic, cultural and sectarian backgrounds. It would provide hope to all Muslims, especially Muslim women and young people growing up in this country.

FIANZ can only become a true ‘kiwi organisation’ if it practices kiwi model of governance rather than a model borrowed from the Muslim world. It is a time for NZ Muslims communities to play their role for an inclusive, transparent and democratic organisation that they can own with pride.

Hina Tabassum Cheema is doing Phd in Social anthropology in the School of People, Environment and Planning. Her research explores the challenges of Muslim women immigrants in New Zealand.

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