Islam is one of the religious groups with the most followers globally. Like other religious groups Muslim share certain characteristics such as their dressing code, beliefs about a higher power, worldview or perceptions towards life and the afterlife, and events or festivals use to celebrate their religion. Like other countries, Muslims in New Zealand adheres to specific customs and beliefs related to their religion and participate in annual festivals such as Eid al-Fitr to honor their deity. The unity associated with the shared religious beliefs ensures that members of the Islam religion work collaboratively to ensure anyone within their communities who are faced with economic or other challenges receives the help they need, which in turn promotes the well-being of the country. With this in mind, it can be assumed that the Islam religious group in New Zealand promotes the country’s economy by addressing the economic challenges of low-income Islamic households and supporting other projects implemented through their religion.
History of Islam
Islam is associated with the history of Prophet Muhammad, who is a main figure in the Islamic religion. Prophet Muhammad introduced the religion in Mecca, modern-day Saudi Arabia, where he preached and taught about Islamic values from 610 AD. The prophet claimed to have received an angelic visitation from God. Prophet Mohammad was around 40 years old when he began spreading the message he had received through his visions. He dictated the message communicated to him through the visitation, which formed the holy book, Qur’an, which is used by Muslims today. The verses of the Qur’an were written down from the point he started having the angelic visitations until he died (Syed, Akhtar, & Usmani, 2011). According to the teaching of the Qur’an, God gave angel Gabriel, the Qur’an, which was then passed down to Prophet Muhammad. The message in the Qur’an states that anyone who opposes Gabriel should know that angel Gabriel brought down the Qur’an into Prophet Muhammad’s heart in accordance to God’s will (Sura 2:97). The presence of these words in the Qur’an and existence of other supporting scriptures within the same book, assures Muslims of the connection between Muhammad and God.
The distribution of Muslims globally began in 630 AD after Muslims conquered Mecca and more people started believing the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. After he died in 632, a series of Caliphs, who were also known as individuals who were rightly guided took over leadership of the Islamic religion. The Caliphs were distributed across several Islamic states in the Middle East including Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar, and Hazrat Ali. During the reign of the first four Caliphs, Muslims were able to conquer larger areas of the Middle East including Iran, Palestine, Iraq, and Syria. Islam was, later on, spread to Europe, Asia, the US, and Africa. The caliphate system ended in 1517 and the Islamic states began using the Ottoman Empire approach, which ended in 1917 after the First World War (Syed, Akhtar, & Usmani, 2011). The states that had been conquered through the caliphate system promoted the spread of Islam in their communities and to their neighboring states.
Modern Islam is divided into different subdivisions that originated after the death of Prophet Muhammad. When Muhammad died, there were debates among the existing Muslims over who should replace him as a leader. Variations in opinions led to the development of two distinct sects, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Sunnis form the largest group of the Islamic population and believe in the existence and leadership of the first four successors of Prophet Muhammad while the Shiite only believe in caliph Ali and that those who followed him are the real successors of Prophet Muhammad. Most of the Shiite Muslims currently reside in Iran, Iraq, and Syria while Sunnis are spread all over the world (Esposito, 2000). The division between the Sunni and the Shiite Muslims has contributed to variations in religious beliefs.
The Arrival of First Muslims in New Zealand
The arrival of Muslims in New Zealand stemmed from the migration of Muslims from other regions. The arrival of Muslims in this country can be traced back to between the 1820s and 1830s. Most Muslim New Zealanders are recent immigrants or the descendants of immigrants who had initially moved to the area. Majority of the initial Muslim settlers in New Zealand stemmed from Anglo-Celtic (British). In 1874, the New Zealand national census documented seventeen Mahometans who were living in Otago and Auckland. At that time, there were 16 Muslims in Otago and one Muslim in Auckland. The older documents referred to Muslims as Mohammedan, Mahometan, or Muhammadanism. There are different sources that offer varying information about the arrival of the first Muslims in New Zealand. The migration of Muslims to New Zealand continued during the 20th century increasing the number of Muslims in the country. According to the 1901 census conducted in the country, there were 41 Mahometans in New Zealand (Shepard, 2006). The growing number of Muslims in the area was promoted by the migration of the family members of the initial immigrants.
The initial immigrants established themselves in New Zealand and promoted the settlement of other Muslims within their communities. The Islamic men who had moved to the region established shops where they settled and brought their children from India. In the early 1950s, their children also brought other family members from India. The following generations that stemmed from these families were brought up in New Zealand. In 2001 there were 23, 631 Muslims in the country (Shepard, 2006). The 2013 Census reported that there were 46,000 Muslims in New Zealand. This number of Muslims formed 75% of the population of people in Auckland and 25% of people in New Zealand (Stats.govt.nz, 2013). This increase was attributed to immigration and growth of the Muslim families that had initially settled there.
Liberal immigration policies that had introduced in New Zealand during the 1960s increased the number of people that migrated and settled in the country. The immigration policies paved the way for the migration of more Muslims from South Asia to New Zealand. The growth of the Islamic communities was also supported by the migration of students who moved to New Zealand for their university education (Shepard, 2006). The liberal immigration policies contributed to the growth of the Islamic population in New Zealand.
History of Establishment of Mosques and Community Organizations
Establishment of Mosques
The establishment of mosques in New Zealand began with the unification of the Muslims who lived in Auckland through the new NZMA that was formed after local Muslim groups joined forces and began collaborating in unifying Muslims. The NZMA planned and raised funds that were used to build the first mosque in Auckland. The construction of the mosque began in 1979. By the end of 1983, the constructors had finished building the main hall meant for prayers, which could accommodate 400 Muslims and an ablution block. By 1990, other advances made to the building included the construction of a flat for the imam and a meeting hall. The increase in the number of Muslims in recent years, the South Auckland Muslim Association (SAMA), which sprouted from the NZMA, began building another mosque in 1995 (Haddad & Smith, 2002). The projected was completed in 2003, giving Muslims in the southern hemisphere the largest place to worship.
Another mosque that was constructed in New Zealand was based on a project organized by the International Muslim Association of New Zealand (IMAN). The association, which initially comprised of university students acquired and modified a large commercial building to create their mosque. The building was bought and modified into a mosque in 2000. This mosque is located in Wellington where the continued growth and spread of the Islamic religion in Wellington has led to the construction of three new mosques in different areas of the greater Wellington region (Shepard, 2006). Other Islamic groups in New Zealand have either acquired commercial buildings and turned them into mosques or collaborated in buying land to construct other mosques.
Establishment of Community Organizations
The current Muslim community in New Zealand began with the settlement of the initial Muslim immigrants in New Zealand. The history of the establishment of the current communities began when the initial settlers brought their families to New Zealand. The children of the first settlers brought their wives and children and settled permanently in New Zealand. After World War II, the New Zealand government accepted an increased number of immigrants. Among the immigrants were Muslims from Turkey and the Balkans. Muslims among immigrants who moved to Auckland was assisted by other Muslims within the region to settle down. Some of the non-Muslims were integrated into Islamic culture over time (Shepard, 2006). This led to the growth of the Islamic community within the region.
Between 1960 and 1980, New Zealand saw major community organizational developments at both local and national level as more Islamic immigrants moved to New Zealand. Local and national Islamic institutions that consisted mostly of Sunni Muslims formed seven associations that were associated with the Federal of Islamic Association on New Zealand (FIANZ) along with other unaffiliated association, which has been formed to cater to the needs of student groups, two schools, and trust organizations. The oldest community organization established in the area was the New Zealand Muslim Association (NZMA), which had been formed in Auckland in 1950 and comprised mostly of Gujarati families and a few Islamic families that had initially migrated from Turkey and Balkans. Meetings for these community organizations were initially held in the homes and shops of the members of the organizations.
By 1975, there were three more community organization groups in New Zealand for Muslims. These groups were divided based on the country origin of the Muslims within that region and other factors such as the location where the Muslims had settled. They included the Anjuman Himayal al-Islam, which mainly included Muslims that originated from Fiji and India, a Sufi group that was led by a Muslim of New Zealand origin, who had converted from other religious groups. The third group was referred to as the New Zealand Council of the World Muslim Congress. This group was led by a New Zealand citizen of Albanian origin and focused on promoting and publicizing international political concerns related to Muslims. Since the Islamic community consisted of a limited number of people, the existence of different communal organization groups caused numerous conflicts that led to the unification of NZMA and Anjuman to form the new NZMA, which united most of the Muslims in the Islamic community (Kolig, 2009). The growth of the NZMA association since its formation in the late 1970s has promoted the development of Muslims in Auckland, New Zealand.
Contributions that Muslim Communities Make to the New Zealand Economy
The halal economy entails a system that involves conducting businesses in a manner that aligns with the Shari’ah laws that govern the Islamic lifestyle. The global market for halal products focuses on products like processed foods and beverages, bakery products, cosmetics and personal care products, nutraceutical, confectionery, pharmaceuticals, and meat (Mujar & Hassan, 2014). Countries that have accepted and practice the halal approach of conducting business focus of producing goods and services that have been accepted in Islamic culture. Since most of the countries globally are not focused on producing halal goods and might be involved in unscrupulous businesses that go against the Islamic culture, those that focus on halal products and services attract more Muslim customers (Nalar, 2012). Muslim require products that have been handled in a halal manner from the point of the first contact to its distribution in the market.
The growth of Muslim communities in New Zealand has promoted New Zealand’s ability to venture into diverse sectors in the halal economy, thereby increasing the amount of revenue generated by the country through the halal economy. While the global halal economy is based on sectors like food production, manufacturing of ingredients and additives, cosmetics, animal feed, drugs and vaccines, pharmaceuticals, and handling of logistics, New Zealand halal market focuses mainly on meat and meat products (Mujar & Hassan, 2014). Most of the manufacturing companies run by Islamic groups and involves in the production of halal products prefer using logistics and transportation companies that adhere to Sharia laws to ensure that their goods are not damaged. For instance, in 2016, exporters of red meat and other processed foods made using red meat were worth $7.5 billion (Shatnawi & Al-Essa, 2017). By being a country that is heavily involved in the halal meat economy, New Zealand obtains a large percentage of its overall income from this industry.
Muslims are cautious about what they eat, which is an additional advantage for New Zealand’s economy since it is recognized for being the largest exporter of halal food globally. New Zealand is the largest exporter of halal slaughtered meat worldwide. In 2010, New Zealand exported halal slaughtered meat that was worth approximately 98 million New Zealand dollars, which equated to $81.4 million in US currency. The country also exported halal meat worth NZ$37 million to Malaysia and a combined annual export of NZ$2.6 billion to Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. The global market for halal meat is worth more than US$600 million annually, which equates to 16% of the overall food industry (Nalar, 2012). The New Zealand government understands the opportunities that this venture offers its Muslim citizens and supports the industry.
The halal industry in New Zealand has promoted the country’s economy by offering employment opportunities to many Muslims in different sectors of the halal industry, which in turn has increased the productivity of the country and the revenue generated through income taxes. Halal meat for instance, should only be slaughtered by Muslims. Individuals from other religious groups are not allowed to work in halal meat production companies as this could jeopardize the credibility of the products sold by the company. Muslim consumers are keen on ensuring that the whole process of meat preparation followed the Sharia principles that govern their lives and behavior. The entire preparation of the meat from the slaughtering processes to cleaning and packaging is also supposed to be performed by Muslims. The animals brought to the slaughterhouses are not supposed to be given feeds that could make the meat unhealthy to people. As such, Muslims involved in cattle rearing and those who work in slaughterhouses and meat products manufacturing companies benefit from the job opportunities linked with the halal meat industry (Nurrachmi, 2017). The country also benefits from foreign taxes and other revenues collected through government-owned halal meat exportation companies.
To further support its Muslim population in the halal meat exportation industry and increase the revenue obtained, the New Zealand government developed new rules for food safety certification that have made the halal meat exported from New Zealand credible and accepted in other halal meat markets in different countries. The rules ensure that the meat exported met the expectation of the halal meat industries in different countries (Nalar, 2012). Through this approach, New Zealand won the highest recognition in a global award event that had been carried out in Malaysia to promote the halal industry. The award increased the market value of halal meat exported from New Zealand and the country’s economy through the additional profits made in the meat exportation business.
The growth of businesses related to the halal economy in New Zealand promotes the revenue obtained by the country from restaurants that offer their customers halal food. Aside from exportation of halal meat, an Auckland-based company, Burger Fuel, has successfully expanded its fast-food franchise across New Zealand and other Middle East countries. The franchise has more than 50 fast-food restaurants located in New Zealand and the Middle East. The business offers its customers halal grass-fed meat. It was estimated to be worth US$650 billion in 2010 and has been expanding continuously. The revenue directed to the government from the business stems from taxation and certification (Ligaya, 2010). By offering employment to Muslims within the country, the business also promotes productivity and improves people’s spending power, which supports the overall economy.
Aside from the food industry, the halal economy in New Zealand is also supported by the hospitality and tourism industry. By attracting Muslim tourists to the country, New Zealand manages to make a significant amount of revenue through the tourism industry. Muslim tourists are fascinated by the abundance of restaurants, grocery markets, and fast food franchise that offer halal foods (Wan-Hassan & Awang, 2009). The growing population of Muslims in the country also makes Muslim tourists feel welcomed and comfortable. Most hotels also meet the religious needs of Muslim tourists through the provision of prayer mats, information about places of worship near the hotel, banning of alcohol and gambling practices, as these are considered haram, and dressing the hotel staff in an appropriate manner that honors the Islamic faith. Muslims in New Zealand have been promoting the development of the hospitality and tourism industry to ensure that it meets these requirements since the late 1990s (Hall, Razzaq, & Prayag, 2016).These factors have increased the number of Muslim tourists that visit the country and increased the overall revenue obtained from the tourism industry.
Muslims have contributed significantly to New Zealand’s economic state. The migration of the first Muslims to New Zealand and the introduction of the liberal migration policies during the 1960s promoted the growth of the Islamic community in New Zealand. After their migration, the utilization of Sharia laws to developed halal businesses has placed New Zealand on the global economic map as the largest exporter of halal meat and meat products thereby promoting the country’s business relations with other nations that have large Muslim populations like the Middle East countries. New Zealand’s halal meat exportation legacy has also increased the revenue obtained from the country’s hospitality and tourism industry. As such, the presence of the Muslim community in New Zealand has been beneficial to the overall country’s economy.
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