theguardian: Friday noon prayers are a highlight of the week for Muslim communities, a time when worshippers pack into tight rows inside mosques. At Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, it was “calm and quiet” before the imam’s sermon on Friday. “You could hear a pin drop,” said one worshipper.
The peace was shattered by gunfire that left dozens of people dead. Three miles away at the Linwood Islamic Centre, there was another scene of horror. Within hours, police had ordered mosques across New Zealand to lock their doors, and community leaders appealed for calm.
Mustafa Farouk, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Fianz), said the organisation was “seeking the prayers and support of all New Zealanders for the victims of this senseless attack. We ask our Muslim brothers and sisters to remain calm and display common sense. We are resolved to maintain cohesion and peace among all New Zealanders.”
A post on the Muslims in New Zealand Facebook page said: “We are overwhelmed with all the messages we have received and are receiving from our fellow New Zealanders.”
New Zealand’s most recent census, in 2013, found 1.1% of the population of 4.25 million was Muslim. Almost half of the population identified with a Christian religion, and a growing proportion, more than 40%, said they had no religion.
A 2011 study by the Victoria University of Wellington found Muslims were the country’s most rapidly growing religious group, increasing sixfold between 1991 and 2006. According to the Pew Research Center, Muslims are likely to make up 2.7% of New Zealand’s population by 2050.
The first Muslim presence in the country is believed to have been an Indian family who settled in Christchurch in the 1850s. There was an influx after a coup in Fiji in 1987, and more recently the Muslim population has been expanded by refugees from conflicts in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as students from Malaysia and Singapore.
More than 50 mosques and Islamic centres have been established across the country, including three in Christchurch. In recent years Muslim organisations have held awareness weeks, inviting people of other religions and none into mosques to learn about their faith and customs.
In a national survey in 2008, almost nine in 10 respondents said it was good for society to be made up of different races, religions and cultures. But more than one in four said immigration increased crime, and more than one in five said New Zealand culture was weakened by immigration.
Source: Published by theguardian