Muslim Leaders from across New Zealand, together with a number of well-known community members, gathered at the Tainui Novotel Hamilton to participate in a one-day New Zealand Muslim community leaders’ symposium on Saturday, January 20.

The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) and the Waikato Muslim Association (WMA) in Hamilton organised the symposium jointly.

Minister for Ethnic Communities Jenny Salesa, and Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy expressed their pleasure at the opportunity to be present and speak positively about the initiative that the symposium represented.

Others who attended the event included officials from the Office of Ethnic Communities, the Ministry of Social Development, the New Zealand Police, Members of Parliament representing Hamilton, and officials from the Waikato Interfaith Federation.

Hazim Arafeh, President of FIANZ, welcomed the dignitaries and the symposium delegates. He said it was timely that this symposium had been organised to brainstorm strategies for the future in order to draw on the considerable untapped potential of the minority Muslim community of New Zealand.

FIANZ President Hazim Arafeh

President of WMA and Associate Professor at Waikato University Asad Mohsin welcomed the delegates and expressed his gratitude to WMA officials and volunteers who had worked very hard to organise the symposium.

The symposium deliberated on issues and discussed viable solutions. The issues were directed by three well-structured keynote papers presented by scholars, which were then followed up by panel discussions with community leaders.

The key speakers at the Symposium were:

Muhammad Cajee, speaking on "Leadership and Strategic Planning in Muslim Organisations";

Tariq Ashraf, on "Strategic Plans for Inclusive Society";

Dr Thamina Anwar, who spoke on "Waqaf and Social Enterprise as a tool for socio-economic development."

At the conclusion of the symposium, the following outcomes were identified, all of which are to be progressed:

•    To incorporate the symposium’s outcomes into all strategic planning;

•    To address the gaps identified between the leaders and the community;

•    Bridging trust within and among the Muslim community;

•    Encouraging youth engagement and dialogue;

•    Building the intellectual capital of the Muslim community in New Zealand;

•    The need to remain a future-focused community;

•    Initiating practical steps toward establishing FIANZ Waqaf

The community leaders acknowledged that the community needs to make a start to achieve the goals set by them, that is to sustain Islamic values, to raise the living standards, education levels and economic gains of the community, and to improve social recognition by the wider community and the Government of New Zealand.