Scientist's efforts hailed

17:00, Aug 13 2010

A Hamiltonian only found out he had been named as one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world when the media called him to get a reaction.

Dr Anwar Ghani, a senior scientist with AgResearch in Ruakura for the past 20 years, was recognised for his work as president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ).

The list was compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Centre in Jordan and was published during the week.

But Dr Ghani was oblivious to the accolade until receiving a congratulatory phone call.

"I said `you've got to be joking' and then I asked for some more information, so they sent me the (internet) link," he said. "I was trying to find what extraordinary work I've done but I'm just a humble worker in the community."

As president of the FIANZ from 1996-2002 and his recent stint over the last year, he has overseen the strengthening unity of the nation's Muslim communities and tried to explain the message of Islam to the wider New Zealand community.


Dr Ghani would not be drawn on personal achievements though. "It's more recognition of the community than of myself. There are lots of people like me in the Muslim community."

But the bigwigs in Jordan obviously felt he was worth singling out. "His work leading FIANZ has been considerable; building bridges with the Government as well as with the broader New Zealand population and leaders of other faiths," the Islamic centre said in a statement.

Dr Ghani is in esteemed company too, with kings, sultans and sheikhs making up most of the top spots. The top 50 were ranked, headed by the King of Saudi Arabia, and the remaining 450 were categorised by their various vocations.

Te Amorangi Izhad Kireka-Whaanga was the only other Kiwi who made the list.

The leader of the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association heads the fastest-growing religion among the indigenous population and has appeared on lists in previous years.

Dr Ghani has lived in the Waikato for 28 years after coming from India to complete his masters at Waikato University. He now has a wife and four children and cannot imagine leaving.

"It's a fantastic region, not as crowded as Auckland but close enough if you want to go and see the crowd," Dr Ghani said. "The friendly people and the supportive environment make it easy to choose."

Though he goes back to India every year "to feel connected", Dr Ghani still considers Hamilton home.

"I love this place."

Waikato Times