Muslim population rises in New Zealand

The number of Muslims living in New Zealand reached 46,194 as at March 5, 2013, accounting for a rise of 10,441 (28%) over the 2006 Census, according to Statistics New Zealand.

Census is taken every five years but the Government decided to postpone the headcount scheduled for 2011 in view of the earthquakes and aftershocks experienced in Christchurch.

The country’s total population, placed at 4,242,048, showed an increase of 5.4% since 2006. Contrary to popular belief, there are only seven sheep per person in New Zealand.

Editor’s Note: The Muslim population includes ‘Sufis,’ subscribing to ‘Sufism,’ a branch of Islam defined by some as ‘the inner, mystical dimension’ of the religion. According to others, it is ‘a perennial philosophy of existence that pre-dates religion.’

Christian faith

According to the latest Census, the largest segment of the population claimed ‘no-religion’ status, followed by the two main branches of Christianity, Catholicism and Anglicanism.

Other sizeable branches of Christianity include Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) and the Ratana Church.

Ratana is a Maori movement with the star and crescent as its symbol and hence may resemble Mosques at the first glance. However, this does not represent the total of Christians, as some respondents labelled themselves ‘Christian’ without further subdivision.

The second category includes many other Christian branches including Born Again, Christadelphians, Congregational (Cook Island, Samoan), Exclusive Brethren, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutheran, Nazarene, Orthodox (Assyrian, Coptic, Greek, Russian, Serbian), Quakers, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists, Unitarians and Vineyard Christian Fellowship.

Census 2013 showed that the Commonwealth Covenant Church had only six followers.

Victoria University Professor Paul Morris, a specialist in world religions, said that New Zealand is in ‘new territory,’ with Christianity losing its central position in society.

Other Category

“For the first time since 1901, Christians are not the clear majority,” he said.

The Other category also includes many religions with very few followers. Among them are Rastafarianism (1917 followers, an increase of 534 over 2006), an African-based spiritual belief that arose in Jamaica; Wiccan (1452, down by 630), a modern interpretation of paganism and witchcraft; Satanism (843, up by 324), the worship of Satan, often as a liberating figure against religious orthodox and conformity; Hauhau (744, up 135), a 19th century Maori religious movement that followed prophet Te Ua Haumene, focused on lifting Pakeha dominance at the time; Animism (243, up by 36), a belief that all living things and many natural features, such as rivers or mountains, have a soul.

More migrants

What is the reason for the rise in the number of Muslims? Do New Zealand Muslims have many children? Are New Zealanders converting to Islam in large numbers?

The rise is probably due mostly to migration. Since the late 1980s, Muslims have migrated to New Zealand (and other countries) to escape war zones and troubled countries such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

This should be apparent from a breakdown of the Muslim population by ethnicity, data due for release in April 2014.

Source: Rocket Science, Newsletter of Mt Albert Islamic Centre, Auckland

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