NZ follows British trends with an Imam from the mosque that produced international terrorists which inspired NZ’s first terror attack entering local politics.
Gamal Fouda, the imam of Christchurch’s Al Noor Mosque, hopes to enter local politics to “build bridges” between the Muslim community and the wider city.
Fouda has announced he will run for a position on the Halswell-Hornby-Riccarton Community Board in October’s elections, representing the left-leaning political group People’s Choice.
The imam, a former primary school teacher who lives in the Riccarton area with his wife and four daughters, said a role on the community board would allow him to be a “strong voice for those who need it, and [to] work to bring our whole community together”.
“After March 15, our entire community rallied around us. We saw love and compassion from all of our city and we were so grateful.
“I’m running for community board to give back to the local community, and to build bridges between the Muslim community and my neighbourhood of Riccarton and wider Christchurch.
“In our city we are determined to support each other and love one another.
“A strong, connected community where everyone has an equal opportunity is the best way to guard against extremism and hate.”
Fouda, imam of the Al Noor mosque full-time for the last three years, has won widespread acclaim for his response to the March 15 attack, which left 51 dead, including 44 from his own congregation.
A week after the atrocity he led a mass call Friday prayer in Christchurch’s Hagley Park, thousands of people – including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and rugby star Sonny Bill Williams – hearing his message that “evil ideology” will never triumph over “love and unity”.
He has since welcomed luminaries such as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Prince William and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the mosque to discuss everything from the Muslim community’s response to the attacks to hate speech.
Born in Egypt, he moved to New Zealand in 2003, assigned to Palmerston North to act as a religious adviser.
He also worked there as a kindergarten and primary school teacher, roles he also held in Dunedin, as well as being a halal inspector.
If elected, it is thought he would be among the first Muslims to have represented Christchurch at council or community board level.
Zahra Hussaini, who is also Muslim, is standing at this year’s election to represent Waimairi on the Fendalton-Waimairi-Harewood Community Board.
A Farsi interpreter with a background in applied sciences, Hussaini has worked for several community groups including the Canterbury Resettlement Service and Who is Hussain?, a service and social justice organisation.
“I’m passionate about serving our community in the West in the best possible way, to bring positive changes and I believe we stand stronger as a diverse community when we focus on our shared values of compassion,” she said.
“It’s also important we focus on the wellbeing of our community and address concerns whether those are environmental like protecting our water or social like ensuring inclusion and opportunity.”
People’s Choice chairman Keir Leslie praised Fouda’s candidacy as “really positive”.
“Gamal has been a party member for a while now and it’s good seeing him take that step forward and getting involved in Riccarton.
“As Gamal said, it’s about building a relationship between the mosque and the community, and I think the community board is a really positive way to do that.”