Kiwi Muslims

The Dom Post reports:

It’s possible to be Kiwi, Muslim and an All Black fan, says MICHAEL FOX, but it’s not always an easy road.

Young Muslims in have impressed their elders by integrating well through adopting a laid-back Kiwi attitude, supporting the All Blacks and embracing the local culture.

And integration over isolation is the key, in my opinion. Integration does not mean assimilation where everyone is the same, in some Borg like collective. The diversity of races, cultures and religions in New Zealand is a great thing, with integration and tolerance for others being the key.

As Muslims gather in Auckland this weekend for their first national convention, they will be reflecting on why young followers have avoided problems such as violent crime associated with disenfranchised youth in other countries.

Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand president Anwar-ul Ghani called the convention a hui.

“Our community is now getting quite a reasonable size and really once in a year we need to start to have a hui like this to reflect on things and get the grassroots involved.

“We need to strengthen our Islamic belief and way of life and yet identify ourselves as Kiwi Muslims.”

Even just little things such as calling their convention a hui, is quite cool – it is reflecting that Kiwi side.

There are now almost 50,000 Muslims in New Zealand.

Dr Ghani says young Muslims are leading the way in integration. He believes they are “Kiwianised”, with as much interest in New Zealand’s popular culture as their own.

He says this is in marked contrast with European countries where youths have felt like outsiders and rebelledthrough crime, riots and terrorism.

“I won’t say that it is not an issue [in New Zealand] but it is certainly less of an issue. We’re finding that the transition is reasonably smooth.”

I think in New Zealand we are remarkably blessed that the extremism and isolationist you get in the UK, much of Europe and even Australia is very rare here.

I think part of the credit goes to the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand themselves. While obviously I have different views on issues, they have always struck me as taking their leadership position responsibily. And the fact that they are led by an accountant with NZ Post, rather than a DVD distributing preacher, is helpful.

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

Wellington’s Aneesa Adam, 27, who grew up in New Zealand with her Fiji Indian parents, said a clash between faith and Kiwi values occasionally posed problems. “As a teenager at times things were a little bit difficult, particularly with things like drinking. I basically had to choose who my friends were.”

Ms Adam didn’t wear a headscarf until she started university because she was self-conscious.

“As a teenager I was always too shy. As I got older it just became easier and I decided that I was ready to wear it.

“As soon as people see you wearing a scarf there’s immediately a barrier and an idea that they have about you. For younger people I think it’s harder, but as an adult it’s very easy and people are very good about it.”

She said Muslims could remain strong in their faith while also identifying themselves as New Zealanders. “When people ask me where I’m from I don’t have any answer to them apart from New Zealand, although I don’t look like a typical Kiwi. I’m definitely Muslim and I’m definitely a New Zealander.”

One of my favourite sayings is that the only thing I am intolerant of is intolerance. I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical Kiwi, but I think diversity is a great thing.

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