The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) the representative body of Muslims in the country recently observed the 40th anniversary since its formation in 1979.
The first Muslims to visit New Zealand were lascars – Indian sailors – on board a French ship named the Saint Jean-Baptiste captained by Jean François Marie de Surville pursuing trade opportunities from Pondicherry (the French colony in India). The ship toured Northland in December 1769.
The first identifiable Muslim immigrant family came to New Zealand in 1854 from India. Wuzeerah, his wife and children, settled in the Canterbury Plains.
In 1950, Muslims living in the major city of Auckland formed the first formal Islamic organisation in the country, the New Zealand Muslim Association.
In 1978 representatives of the various regional Islamic organisations in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington, met to negotiate the creation of a national body. There were around 2000 Muslims in the country at the time.
The Islamic Federation, was formally set up on 15 April 1979 when Mazhar S Krasniqi was appointed the first president. Krasniqi was himself a refugee to New Zealand, who in 1950 had fled the Socialist occupation of his native Kosova.
In 1982 Sheikh Khalid Kamal Abdul Hafiz (1938-1999) from India arrived to serve as the Imam in Wellington and within a few years he was appointed senior spiritual advisor to FIANZ.
In 1984 the Federation secured its first annual Halal meat contract with the NZ Meat Producers Board. The revenue has been partly used to build mosques, stage educational seminars, operate youth camps and Quran recitation competitions.
The 1990’s saw massive changes to the size and shape of the resident Muslim population.
In 1990 the Islamic Women’s Council was created by Muslim women involved with the Islamic Federation, in order to give them a distinctive voice in national Muslim community affairs.
Presently there are over 40,000 Muslims in New Zealand – immigrants, refugees, students, reverts, all looking to the Federation for national leadership.
The ethnic and social diversity within the organisations that have helped seal this place for the Federation. From the outset community institutions predicated along exclusively ethnic lines did not flourish in New Zealand and, to the credit of the earlier leaders, the emphasis on diversity and inclusion has ensured the moral authority the Federation wields.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said the real pillars of a strong civilisation were unprejudiced, independent and self-reliant people.
The achievements of the local Muslim population attest to the remarkable resourcefulness and hard work, and the latent creative and entrepreneurial abilities of some community leaders.
Few sociologists or government planners could ever have anticipated them to become pace settlers who would contribute increasingly to the country’s general prosperity.
In the final analysis the accomplishments and successes of FIANZ have outweighed the setbacks and mistakes committed along its development.
“Mahometans on the Edge of Colonial Empire: Antipodean Experiences” in Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp. 71-87.