Anjum Rahman in Hamilton City Council bid

Anjum Rahman, centre with light scarf, with supporters, from left, Suad Guya, Khatra Omar, Aaminah Ghani, Sarah Ather and Aasiya Ather.

Muslim women rally for a rare council candidate

Anjum Rahman will never forget watching a man wave his fists in front of her as she drove down a street. She hadn’t done anything wrong – the Muslim mum-of-two was just wearing her headscarf.

Instances of verbal abuse followed the intimidating experience, as some Kiwis reacted angrily to Muslim protests about cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that depicted the prophet Muhammad in unflattering poses.

Six years on, things have changed. Rahman is running for Hamilton City Council and has knocked on hundreds of doors for her campaign. She’s even rallied fellow Muslim women to leaflet drop.

Some residents have been disinterested but none have showed any hostility towards the 47-year-old, who wants to be what she thinks will be the first Muslim woman elected to public office in New Zealand.

“I think things are improving, we’ve still got examples like the taxi driver incident in Invercargill but in general it’s better. I think there’s a really strong section of New Zealand society that is fair-minded and don’t like to see people being abused for what they believe.”

Rahman should know – she has had a strong hand in the community she has called home since emigrating to New Zealand from India as a child.

The chartered accountant is involved in several community organisations, including helping set up an ethnic women’s centre in Hamilton, and is a member of the city’s Interfaith Council. She is also on the board of the trust that operates community radio station Free FM.

She is standing on a platform of connected communities and better public transport, and says her faith is her motivation.