Muslim Community in New Zealand
Located in the South Pacific, New Zealand is a country of approximately 4.6 million people, of whom about forty-five thousand are Muslims. The first Muslims in New Zealand were an Indian family who settled in Cashmere, Christchurch, in the 1850s. Then in 1874 government census reported 15 individuals of Chinese origin who were involved in the mining industry, but when the industry declined they left. The first permanent Muslim residents settled in the 1900s in and around the city of Auckland. During the Eidul Adha in 1950 these migrants and their sons formed the first Islamic organisation in the country, the New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA) in the city of Auckland (NZMA is a member of FIANZ). These early Muhaijurun (migrants) began to organise themselves and gather in their private homes to observe salaat, Qur'an classes and religious celebrations. As their numbers grew the need for a larger, fixed place of worship and education became more pressing. Thus an ordinary house was bought and converted into an Islamic Centre in Auckland in 1957.
The New Zealand Muslim Association was soon followed by other Islamic organisations in 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. Subsequent associations were established in Christchurch (1980), Hamilton (1981) and Palmerston North in (1982). The most recent, the Otago Muslim Association, was established in Dunedin (1994).
By mid-1970s, Muslim Associations had been set up or were in the process of being formed in every region. These were registered with the Government as Incorporated Societies. The functions performed and services provided by these Associations catered mainly for the immediate needs of the local 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 the late 1970s 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 after two years of informal discussions between the various regional Muslim groups and organisations, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) was formed in April 1979.
Today, the New Zealand Muslim community comprises of over 42 different nationalities. Over the last three decades the number has swelled from approximately 200 in 1950 to around thirty thousand today.
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.
Al-Hamdolillah, over the last 20 years, FIANZ has been successful in achieving its goals. It has become the national organisation in bringing solidarity among the Muslim Ummah of New Zealand.