Barely a week after NZ’s Islamic State supporters reveal and the closure of the first Islamic State Watch fb page, the NZ media are working overtime to promote Islam as peaceful. This academic, Abdullah Drury, knows many of the radical NZ jihadi well, and those that finance them, yet chooses to write only the peaceful fluffy stuff of Islam in NZ. For his silence, Muslims in NZ honour him and give him prominence in their media.
Statistics from 2013 show there were about 46,000 Muslims in New Zealand.
A university paper on religion piqued Abdullah Drury’s interest in Islam and he later became a Kiwi convert.
The Waikato man isn’t alone – Kiwi-born people made up more than a quarter of those who identified as Muslim in 2013, according to Census data.
And those who choose to take up the religion cover a broad section of the population, says a Waikato elder: men, women, Pakeha, Maori, professionals, old and young.
Waikato man Abdullah Drury converted to Islam about 20 years ago and is now preparing a Master of Philosophy, looking at the Muslim community in the South Island.
Drury got curious after an Introduction to World Religions paper at the University of Waikato and has been Muslim for about 20 years.
“This was the thing that made sense to me… It was a surprise to me as much as anything else,” he said.
Statistics from 2013 show there were about 46,000 Muslims in New Zealand, 2987 of them in the Waikato.
Nationally, about 4400 of Muslims identified as European and 1100 Maori.
That wasn’t necessarily seen in mosques, Drury said, and he wasn’t sure why – although people came and went.
“I was living in the South Island for 10 years, there were a lot of converts associated with the Canterbury mosque, so you could visually see more,” he said.
Yet when he went with his Fijian Indian wife to the South Auckland Muslim Association mosque it was about 99 per cent ethnic Indian.
“When I go there I get the staring eyes, boring holes into the back into my skull sort of look.”
He wasn’t of any particular faith before conversion but said Islam lined up with a lot of his thinking.
“It wasn’t a big leap for me,” he said.
“It’s not like I had to get something tattooed on my forehead.”
His advice to other converts is to read the Koran themselves instead of relying on friends or family, as many practice according to their area’s beliefs and that may differ from the books.
While his conversion didn’t get push-back from family, he’s heard of others who didn’t have such a smooth road.
One friend’s mother kept trying to feed his kids pork pies, for example.
More and more people who live in New Zealand are affiliating with the Muslim religion, according to Census data.
The number went up about 28 per cent between 2006 and 2013 – from 36,072 to 46,149.
Their places of birth include the Pacific Islands, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, as well as New Zealand – although some of that number may be children of immigrants.
There were ups and downs in terms of numbers choosing to make the change, religious elder Dr Mustafa Farouk said.
“Since I came [to New Zealand] I have seen growth in the number of Kiwis becoming Muslim,” he said.
“Whenever there’s a lot of activities overseas, whether positive or negative, there will be a lot of people who become curious and they try to learn about the region, and some of them come to us.”
From his experience at the Hamilton mosque, Maori and Pakeha, men and women were interested, “probably slightly more women than men”.
Male converts tended to be younger but women came from across the age groups, including professional women.
However, of the 100 or so people who regularly came to the Hamilton mosque to pray only two or three would be converts, he said.
The conversion process was simple and step one was acknowledging belief in one god and in the prophet, Muhammad.
After that they would start on practices, including praying five times a day and fasting, and learning more about the religion.
NZ residents identifying as Muslim, by ethnic group
European Muslim: 4353
Maori Muslim: 1083
Pasifika Muslim: 1536
Asian Muslim: 28,497
Middle Eastern/Latin American/African: 12,243
Source: 2013 Census data