Located in the South Pacific, New Zealand is a country of about 60 million sheep but only 3.7 million people, of who about 20 thousand are Muslims.
The first Muslims arrived here in 1868. They were of Chinese involved in the mining industry. When the industry declined they returned without leaving any Muslim heritage behind. The next Muslims for permanent residence came in 1908 in Auckland. It was, however, from 1950 onwards that sizeable numbers of Muslims began establishing a firm foothold in this country, which is known by the indigenous Maori people as "Aotearoa" - Land of the Long White Cloud.
These first Muslims, although small in number, soon began to organize themselves and gather in their private homes to observe salaat, Qur'an classes and religious celebrations. As their number grew the need for a larger and fixed place of worship and education became more pressing. Thus, ordinary houses were bought and converted into Islamic Centers in all major cities throughout the country.
During 1950, the first regional Muslim association was formed in Auckland, named the New Zealand Muslin Association (NZMA). It was soon followed by other regions - in Wellington in 1962 as the Wellington Muslim Association, which later became the International Muslim Association of New Zealand (IMAN). The choice of this name was a reflection of the situation in Wellington where the majority of Muslims were students on the "Colombo Plan", from many different countries.
By mid-1950's, every region had set up Muslim Associations, which were registered with the Government as Incorporated Societies.
At this time, the functions performed and services provided by these Associations catered mainly for the immediate needs of their communities. In most cases, this meant establishing children's classes for Qur'an reading and Islamic knowledge, as well as study groups for men and women.
Despite the scarcity of educational resource material and adequately trained teachers, these classes filled the need for some form of Islamic education in what was a completely secular environment.
By late 1970's it was becoming increasingly apparent that a national body was required to co-ordinate the activities of the regional Associations, increase their efficiency and generally represent the interests of Muslims as a whole, at national and international levels. Thus it was that in September 1979, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand was formed.
Today, the New Zealand Muslim community comprises about 35 different nationalities. Over the last three decades our number has swelled to around fifteen thousand.
As well as the regional Islamic Centers, four Masajid have been built - Ponsonby and West Auckland (in Auckland), Hamilton and Christchurch. At Mount Roskill (Auckland) a Church has been converted into a Masjid. Islamic Centers are located in Otahuhu (Auckland); Palmerston North; Porirua and Newtown (Wellington). Plots of land have been acquired in different cities for two Masajid and one Islamic Center. An Islamic school is nearing completion in Auckland.
At the same time as organizing for our spiritual needs we have also secured, from the local City Councils, plots of land for our burial.
Schools and universities send their classes to visit our Centers and Masjids to get a better appreciation of Islam and the rituals of Muslims. Universities and other training institutions are visited by us and given information on Islam. TV and radio programmes are compiled, and scholars of international repute are invited for public lectures. Islamic/Masjid exhibitions are organized.
FIANZ publishes a quarterly newsletter for the whole of New Zealand. Despite being a small community, far removed in terms of distance from the rest of the Muslim world, New Zealand Muslims have developed a strong and committed community, dedicated to following the "straight path" toward success.
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