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Cullen: Address to celebrate the end of Ramadhan

Address to celebrate the end of Ramadhan

16 November 2005Speech Notes
Address to FIANZ Function to Celebrate the End of Ramadhan
Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Eid Mubarak.

It is a great honour for me to address today's celebration. I bring you the greetings of the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Helen Clark, and my colleagues in the Labour Caucus.

You have two very good reasons for celebration, one that is shared with all Muslim communities across the globe, and the other that is a uniquely New Zealand Muslim occasion.

To begin with the latter, as an historian I am very interested in the fact that the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, or FIANZ, is marking 25 years of existence. That is not a particularly long time, although New Zealand is a country with a relatively short history overall. New Zealand is a vastly different place to what it was twenty five years ago, and the strength of our Muslim communities is an important part of that changing picture.

Indeed, looking back, one might see the creation of FIANZ in 1979 as an umbrella organisation for the seven Muslim associations in New Zealand as marking the coming of age of New Zealand's Muslim population.

As you will be aware, the first major group of Muslims to emigrate to New Zealand came under the auspices of the Colombo Plan. By the late 1970s, it was becoming obvious that small, but significant communities were forming in several cities, and that there was a need for a stronger organisation to provide a national voice for the Muslim community as a whole and to support local efforts for the transmission of Muslim values and beliefs.

FIANZ was established with a fairly broad mandate:

·To establish and maintain the highest standard of Islamic practice in accordance with the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah.

·To undertake Daw'ah, education, welfare and other Islamic activities.

·To strengthen Islamic unity and assist in the development of the Muslim community of New Zealand.

·To establish and foster good relationships with Muslim countries and International Muslim organisations and institutions.

Over the years, that broad approach has been maintained, although FIANZ has also taken on specific roles in areas such as administering Halal Certifications and maintaining Halal standards and practices. In that regard, FIANZ has played a key role in assisting the New Zealand meat industry to develop some very valuable markets throughout the Muslim world.

As a Minister with responsibility for economic policy, I have to say thank you to FIANZ for playing such an important role over many years in the development of our export markets. Trade in meat and dairy products has, of course, been the precursor for an increasingly sophisticated two-way flow of trade, exchange of technology and cultural visits.

Undeniably, it has also sparked interest among many New Zealanders in understanding more about the Muslim world. Although the average Kiwi still has a long way to go, I believe most appreciate the great diversity of Muslim people, both ethnic and linguistic diversity.

I hope that that has preserved non-Muslim Kiwis from the temptation in the last few years to retreat into a narrow view of what and who constitutes the 'mainstream' of New Zealand society. As a community, you have responded with great patience to the loud intolerance of that small fringe of society.

In the oft quoted words of Rudyard Kipling, the famous English writer who spent much of his life in India:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating .
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it.

These are qualities which are deeply admired in the New Zealand psyche, and long may it remain so.

Today's celebration encompasses the proud history of FIANZ and the growth of the ties between New Zealand and the Muslim community worldwide. In addition, it is a celebration of the end of the fast of Ramadhan.

For most non-Muslim New Zealanders the notion of an extended fast is probably rather puzzling. Those who were brought up in the traditional branches of the Christian church may remember the relatively light privations of the period of Lent. Apart from that, self denial is a rather foreign concept for most Kiwis.

In light of that, one of the valuable things that the Muslim community brings to New Zealand is an opportunity to see worked out amongst us a markedly different view of how human beings should live and relate to the things that sustain their lives. It is a view that that stresses that we must not take these things for granted, and that despite our technological sophistication we need to approach life with gratitude and humility.

That said, today's celebration focuses on the end of the fast, and not the beginning. It is a time when Muslims around the world kick up their heels and have a party.

I trust that those who have worked over the years to build FIANZ into the organisation it is today will take particular pleasure out of this year's celebrations.

As-salaamu Alaykum. Peace be upon you.


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