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Two Centuries on, Muslims foster their fraternal bond

Abdullah Drury

The first Muslims to visit New Zealand were Lascars, Asian Sailors, who worked on board European vessels.

Recent research by Dr Todd Nachowitz has revealed that two Indian Muslim sailors toured the Northland Coast in December 1769 on a French ship named Saint Jean-Baptiste.

The Crew Muster Roll included ‘Mamouth Cassem’ (presumably Mahmud Qasim) and a 16-year-old Bengali named ‘Nasrin.’ Following, many British East India Company ships with Lascar crews and even a few sepoys (Indian soldiers) visited New Zealand.

The first Muslims

The first Muslim family to reside permanently arrived in April 1854, when Wuzerah and his family entered Lyttelton in 1854 and settled in Cashmere, in the Canterbury Province, to work for Sir John Cracroft Wilson (1808-1881).

Wuzerah was also involved in transporting stone from the Port Hills to the Christchurch Cathedral when it was constructed. He died in 1902 and was buried in Sydenham, Christchurch.

From the 1890s, men from the Punjab and Gujarat regions of India started arriving and after the 1930s, some of these men or their sons began to bring wives and children.

Growth of Associations

The first Islamic organisation in this country was created in 1950 when the “New Zealand Muslim Association” (NZMA) was formed in Auckland.

At the time, there were about 200 Muslims in the entire country.

In 1951, ‘MS Goya’ brought dozens of Muslim refugees from Eastern Europe to Wellington. In 1959, NZMA acquired a property for use as an Islamic Centre in Central Auckland and the following year, Maulana Ahmed Said Musa Patel (1937-2009) arrived from Gujarat to serve NZMA as the first official Mullah.

The Association erected the first purpose-built mosque in New Zealand over 1979-1980, in Ponsonby, Central Auckland.

Over the 1960s and 1970s, there was an influx of East European, Asian and Fiji Indian migrants, refugees and students who made various contributions to the different Muslim communities across the country.

Over 1962-1964, the Wellington-based ‘International Muslim Association of New Zealand’ was formed and in 1977 the ‘Muslim Association of Canterbury.’

In 1979, there were about 2000 Muslims in New Zealand and agents of the various Muslim Associations convened to construct a nation-wide Muslim organisation to coordinate communal affairs at a national level, particularly with regard to Halal.

FIANZ established

In April 1979, the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) was created and in 1984 the Federation secured its first annual Halal meat contract with the New Zealand Meat Producers Board.

In 1982, Sheikh Khalid Kamal Abdul Hafiz (1938-1999) from India arrived to serve as Imam in Wellington. From the 1980s, there has been a steady growth in the number of Muslim immigrants, refugees and students.

The first purpose-built Mosque in the South Island was constructed in 1984-85 by the Muslim Association of Canterbury.

In 2004, they hosted the National Islamic Converts Conference.

The Otago Muslim Association was formally registered in July 1995 and the Southland Muslim Association in April 2008.

Rising Population

According to the 2013 census, there are presently 47,799 Muslims in New Zealand: around 21% were born in the Pacific Islands, 25% in New Zealand, 23% in Africa and the Middle East and 26% in Asia. These statistics revealed that more than 32,000 Muslims live in Auckland and that 20,000 Muslims in New Zealand identified themselves as Asian.

The integration of Muslims in New Zealand Society has developed over 150 years of peaceful coexistence.

Hajji Abdullah Drury is the author of ‘Islam in New Zealand.’ He lives in Hamilton.

References:

Drury, Abdullah. Islam in New Zealand: The First Mosque (Christchurch, 2006). ‘Mostly Harmless’, Waikato Islamic Studies Review, Volume 1, Number 1, March 2015, pp.29-49.

Once Were Mahometans: Muslims in the South Island of New Zealand, mid-19th to the late 20th century, with special reference to Canterbury (Thesis, Master of Philosophy (MPhil)), University of Waikato, Hamilton (2016).

Mahometans on the Edge of Colonial Empire: Antipodean Experiences’, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Volume 29, 2018, Issue 1, Pages 71-87.

 

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