Dr Anisur Rahman
The current position of the New Zealand Muslim community, the need for a change in outlook and the significance of taking measures to be more active partners in social and economic development of the country were among the issues that were discussed at a Symposium held in Hamilton on January 20, 2018.
A Waikato Muslim Association (WMA) initiative, the meeting discussed a draft plan that would examine the position of the community over the next 20 years.
The 2018-2038 Plan was suggested last year by a small group led by Tariq Ashraf, employed as Senior Strategic Advisor to the local government based in Hamilton.
WMA organised the Symposium with the support of the Wellington based Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) and was attended, among others by Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa, Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy, Social Development Ministry Government Relations Manager Ann Dysart, Ethnic Communities Office Director Wen Powels, FIANZ President Hazim Arafeh, WMA President Dr Asad Mohsin, Muslim leaders, officials representing the New Zealand Police and Multicultural New Zealand and members of the community.
Land of Opportunities
Addressing the delegates, Ms Salesa described New Zealand as ‘A land of opportunities,’ citing the examples of Dr Ashraf Choudhary as the first MP from the Indian Sub-Continent and the Muslim community, Sonny Bill Williams (Samoan origin), who became a Muslim and just returned from Makkah, the Holy Land of Muslims.
“The success of any community in New Zealand is measured by whether they are represented in the All Blacks team – and you are there! There are well over 1000 Muslims within the local Maori community as Tangata Whenua and Muslims have much in common including compassion, care and unity,” she said.
New Zealand has a reputation as a diverse but socially harmonious society, although we still have some way to go in achieving social cohesiveness, Ms Salesa added.
Ms Powles praised the New Zealand Muslim community for its ‘incredible diversity.’
“I would be happy to see New Zealand Muslims to join State Sector and Public Sector Boards reinforcing New Zealand as an inclusive country,” she said.
Dame Susan outlined the efforts being made to eliminate racial discrimination in Crown entities which currently have no ethnic CEO. More hate crime data should be collected and hate speech legislation needs to be strengthened, she said.
Ms Dysart said that communities, families and whanau are best to identify issues and find solutions to make the difference.
She praised the efforts is grooming young Muslims and hoped that the elders would continue to listen to them, an advice which she also gives to the Maori community.
Peri Paea, a Senior Constable representing the Police Commissioner, advised Muslim leaders to ‘grow’ healthy roots on which healthy plants can grow in form of the new generation.
Key Note Speakers
The Symposium included three Keynote speakers, each followed by three Panel Discussions led by a Panel Moderator.
They were Muhammad Cajee, a South African-born professional who discussed the critical success factors in Leadership and Strategic Planning in Muslim Organisations; Tariq Ashraf, a Senior Strategic Advisor to the local government in Waikato was the second Keynote speaker. He outlined the Strategic Plan; and researcher and writer Dr Thamina Anwar, who spoke about Waqaf and Social Enterprise as a tool for socio-economic development.
The Panel discussions examined suggestions for a future plan which would value ethnic minority, emphasise social harmony and inclusiveness as well as appreciate diversity.
The discussions also provided an opportunity to focus on the future and identify national opportunities and challenges facing the New Zealander Muslims and how these may be addressed.
Dr Anisur Rahman is a Research Scientist at AgResearch, Ruakura Research Centre in Hamilton since 1972. Supported by his wife Qamar, their children Nadeem, Anjum and Shadia and their extended family, he has played a pioneering role in the development of the Muslim community in Hamilton and establishment of Islamic Centres and Organisations in New Zealand.
The above article is a highly edited version of the original sent by Mr Rahman for reasons of space.
- Jenny Salesa
- Dame Susan Devoy
- Hazim Arafeh
- Dr Anisur Rahman