FIANZ of course, was instrumental in setting up the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association, aka, Islamic State of New Zealand, with Isaac Te Amorangi Kireka-Whaanga over a decade ago.
Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand’s national director of security Abdul Lateef Smith, a member of the Palmerston North mosque and former army major, will be working closely with the new mosque designers to provide guidance.
Palmerston North could be home to an expanded new multi-million dollar mosque to replace the current structure, which is full to bursting for Friday prayers.
Manawatū Muslims’ Association president Riyaz Rehman says a committee is exploring options for the mosque site on Cook St, which is no longer fit for purpose due to its size.
In the past year, an increase of new immigrants and refugees to Manawatū, as well as an increase in others wanting to be connected with the community following the March 15 mosque attacks in Christchurch, has seen capacity pushed to its limits.
“We need more space… On Fridays we are now feeling the pinch. With 320 people, we’re almost full to brim.”
Rehman said special events such as the religious holiday of Eid saw more than 1500 congregate at the mosque and there wasn’t the space for everyone.
He said following the March terrorist attack, the mosque had noticed an increase in attendance.
“I think people want to be more connected,” Rehman said.
It was hoped the association could either build on to the current mosque or begin again by building from the ground up, he said.
“We are talking to our Māori brothers, Rangitāne. We want to incorporate Māori influence in to the design,” he said.
Rehman said the project could cost about $2 million, but some estimates, depending on a design, push it out to $4m.
And although the association was hoping to remain at the Cook St site, he said there was a chance it might have to move.
“It’s going to to be good for Palmerston North as well. Whatever we do it will be iconic,” he said.
“It’s going to be something that Kiwis can relate with.”
Committee member Zulfiqar Butt said the increase in Muslims attending the mosque was unexpected, after an audit about three years ago suggested the current mosque would suffice for the next 15 years.
“No-one knew there would be an influx of refugees. At Friday prayers we hardly accommodated everyone and unfortunately some people have had to turn back because there’s no room.”
Butt said more than 50 people attended a workshop last week about the new project, including representatives from the city council, iwi and an architect from Wellington, who discussed potential ways forward.
“We are quietly hopeful and positive we were get somewhere.”
Over the past decade, a range of projects at other mosques across New Zealand had been well supported and funding was always found.
“Once you start a project, funding comes from all sorts of places. Once we finalise the design, we are hopeful we will get the funding.
“We are trying to get a very welcome place, which should be a place for all of Palmerston North, not only Muslims, but all the wider community of Palmerston North.”
He hoped the mosque design would match the city council’s plans for making the city more welcoming.
Security will also feature in the new design, with the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand’s national director of security Abdul Lateef Smith, who is based in Palmerston North, working closely with the planners, Butt said.
It is not known when the redesign project will begin, however, more details will be shared at the association’s regular committee meeting on Tuesday.