Young Muslims in New Zealand have impressed their elders by integrating well through adopting a laid-back Kiwi attitude, supporting the All Blacks and embracing the local culture.
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."
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."
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 posedproblems. "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."
Dr Ghani said anti-Muslim sentiment came from a minority who did not want to see the ethnic and cultural fabric of the country evolve.
"Most New Zealanders are quite accepting, that this is a faith that has been here for a long period of time and it's a faith which is obviously among us."
The convention will also focus on strengthening internal ties within the Muslim community. There are more than 42 different nationalities within the Muslim faith in New Zealand, from the Middle East to African nations such as Somalia and Ethiopia, and Asian nations such as Malaysia and the Philippines.
Wellington Muslim Association spokesman Sultan Eusoff said each ethnicity carried its own baggage and cultural norms but they were able to work through these within the federation. "Now we have New Zealand as our home, it is imperative that we try to drive the community to the New Zealand way of life, to the New Zealand culture – yet you can still retain your Muslim identity."
He said this involved things such as taking part in sports and other community activities.
"I'm very happy that I'm going to be an All Blacks supporter.
"We want to invoke this thing in each and every Muslim."
- The Dominion Post
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