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Building Bridges - Published 2013


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Connecting Muslims and Non-Muslims in New Zealand. The Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) intiated the Building Bridges Programme in 2005.

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Building Bridges - Published 2013

  1. 1. Building Bridges
  2. 2. Published in 2013 by the Office of Ethnic Affairs 46 Waring Taylor Street, Wellington, New Zealand All rights reserved. For all enquiries contact the publishers. © Crown copyright 2013 The Department of Internal Affairs, Te Tari Taiwhenua ISBN 978-0-478-35578-9
  3. 3. Foreword Society benefits from tolerance and respect that is built on a greater understanding of the beliefs of others. I’m delighted to present this Building Bridges booklet as a way to promote a more positive mainstream reception of Muslims in New Zealand by increasing awareness of local Islamic communities and their beliefs. Hon Judith Collins The Minister for Ethnic Affairs At the time of Census 2006, New Zealand was home to about 36,000 Muslims ranging across all sectors of our society. Many have been here for generations while others have recently chosen New Zealand as their new home. We have a proud record of respect and tolerance for diversity in all its forms, and a reputation as a successful model of social harmony. We are lucky in New Zealand to have a realistic expectation that all New Zealanders have the freedom to practice the religion of their choice. This freedom and respect of religion is something that we must all work to protect. Building Bridges is part of a programme initiated by the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand in 2005. It is a great way to further increase the social harmony that is part of what makes New Zealand a fantastic place to live. 1
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  5. 5. BUILDING BRIDGES Building Bridges Connecting Muslims and Non-Muslims in New Zealand The Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) initiated the Building Bridges programme in 2005. A programme based on the principles of respect, inclusion, empowerment and participation. The Building Bridges programme aims to: • Build positive relationships between the Muslim community and wider society • Increase awareness about Muslim beliefs and practices to counter stereotypes • Work with the community and other agencies to build capacity within the Muslim community • Grow the relationships between the Muslim community and government agencies • Optimise the opportunities available to the Muslim community • Increase leadership skills and civic participation within the Muslim community. Background Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the topic of Islam and its compatibility with Western society’s values and mores has been a matter of public debate in many countries with Muslim minorities. The Building Bridges programme is an example of the New Zealand government’s work to build the capacity of the Muslim community and strengthen connections between the community and wider society. 3
  6. 6. BUILDING BRIDGES New Zealand has participated in global efforts such as the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations, and regional programmes such as the Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue. The New Zealand government has applied a domestic focus reflected in the Building Bridges programme to these initiatives. The objectives of the Building Bridges programme can be categorised into three areas: social cohesion, government responsiveness, and economic transformation. Social Cohesion New Zealand is not immune to the effects of events and incidents that occur abroad. In order to maintain social cohesion the aim is to prevent extremist activities from having an impact on the domestic landscape. In the context of the Building Bridges programme the Office of Ethnic Affairs has developed capability building initiatives designed to strengthen New Zealand’s social cohesion. These initiatives include leadership, media and communication skills training, and youth development. Government Responsiveness Improving government responsiveness to ethnic communities is a priority for the Office of Ethnic Affairs. The Building Bridges programme has enabled a range of government agencies to engage effectively with Muslim communities, which has led to the development of tailored programmes and enhanced intercultural competency. Economic Transformation The Muslim community not only contributes significantly to the New Zealand economy, but it provides New Zealand with a point of access to the global halal market. This market, valued at $US 2.3 trillion, presents numerous business and trade opportunities. The Office of Ethnic Affairs helps connect organisations such as the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand with a range of government and private sector organisations to help maximise these opportunities. 4
  7. 7. BUILDING BRIDGES The New Zealand Muslim Community There are over 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, making Islam the world’s fourth largest religion. New Zealand’s Muslim population is approximately 36,000 (2006 Census), the majority of whom were born overseas (77 per cent). While the size of the community is relatively small (less than 1 per cent of the population), Islam is the fastest growing religion in New Zealand. One of the striking features of New Zealand’s Muslim community is its diversity. It comprises at least 42 different nationalities or ethnicities, including Indian, Somali, Malaysian, Fijian-Indian, and Albanian. In addition, approximately 4,000 New Zealand-born Muslims identify as Pākeha or Māori, and there are approximately 1,000 Māori and 1,000 Pacific Islanders in the Muslim community 1. Because of this diversity, it is clear that there is not a single, homogenous community, but rather a multitude of distinct communities that make up a whole. The Muslim community presents an intriguing window into the dynamics of New Zealand’s cultural diversity, at both a micro and macro level. At the macro level, we can observe the ways in which Muslim communities adapt to a multicultural society, and vice versa. At a micro level, we can examine New Zealand as a transnational Muslim site, where many of New Zealand’s Muslims frequently encounter diverse expressions of Islam. As Hartono puts it: “They encounter the complexities of multiple religious interpretations and practices among multi-ethnic Muslim migrants. Hence in this transnational context, Muslims endeavour to define, negotiate and redefine their religiosity.” 2 Exposure to a variety of Muslim practices may prompt many Muslims to reflect on their own understanding and practice of their faith, and likewise, stimulate debate among the wider Muslim community. Census 2006 Hanny Savitri Hartono, “The Making of Muslim Spaces in an Auckland Suburb”, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 14, 2 (2012): 38-53. 1 2 5
  8. 8. BUILDING BRIDGES For the Building Bridges programme, this situation raises questions such as: how will different Muslim communities respond to this diversity? Is there a distinct New Zealand-Muslim identity emerging out of this space? While New Zealand has avoided the type of serious events that have occurred in Europe and America, incidents of Islamophobia do occur here from time to time. In addition, a study 3 on attitudes towards Muslim migrants has shown that there is a degree of perceived threat in relation to Muslim immigrants. Importantly, the study revealed that more positive attitudes toward Muslims are associated with greater contact with Muslim people. This study underlines the motivation for the Building Bridges programme to continue strengthening connections between the Muslim community and wider society, and to continue increasing awareness about Muslim beliefs and practices as a way to counter stereotypes. Collen Ward and Jaimee Stuart, Attitudes toward Muslim Migrants, 2011 (Centre for Applied Cross-Cultural Research, Victoria University). 3 6
  9. 9. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Projects and initiatives Social cohesion Social cohesion relies on factors such as building mutual trust and respect amongst people living in New Zealand, and preventing the emergence of inter-communal tensions or intolerance. A collaborative effort by government and local communities is required to address problems such as prejudice and alienation when they arise. Without collective action, diversity may become a source of intolerance, instead of something to nurture and celebrate. In the context of Building Bridges, this collaborative effort has broadly entailed raising awareness about Muslim beliefs and practices and capability building. A significant part of capability building is focused on leadership development, including for youth and women, and working with the media. This approach seeks to help cultivate a strong and unified community, and facilitate interactions between the Muslim community and wider society based on understanding and respect. To meet these objectives, the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Muslim community have developed a range of projects and initiatives. Islam Awareness Week (annual event) Islam Awareness Week is organised by the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ). The broader purpose of Islam Awareness Week is to demystify Muslim beliefs, values and practices. FIANZ hopes to achieve better understanding between the Muslim community and wider society by promoting communication and relationship-building. 7
  10. 10. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Activities take place at mosque open days and Islamic centres throughout the country, and include recitations from the Qur’an, interfaith panel discussions, cultural fairs and art workshops. Themes for Islam Awareness Week have included “Islam and the Environment: our Rights and Responsibilities”, “Discover Islam”, “Getting to Know Each Other”, “Muslim Heritage”, “Unity in Diversity”, and “Strong Families – Better Society”. Critical Dialogue The Office of Ethnic Affairs has invited high profile Muslim figures to speak at events to create a forum in which Muslim issues can be openly discussed and debated. Tariq Ramadan Tariq Ramadan, Swiss-born Professor of Islamic Studies, undertook a speaking tour of New Zealand in early 2008. As part of this tour, Tariq Ramadan attended meetings with government officials and gave a keynote speech at a forum in Auckland. Tariq Ramadan’s message focused on the need to develop mutual respect. He encouraged the Muslim community to participate in open dialogue and debate, and asserted that Islamic principles and western democratic values were not mutually exclusive, nor were they in conflict with each other. He believed that one could be a practicing Muslim and a fully engaged participating citizen of the state. ‘Tariq Ramadan ... when he spoke there was pin drop silence. Everyone sat absorbing everything that he was saying and afterwards people were tripping over themselves to get a word with him. What he was saying resonated with the youth..’ Forum attendee 8
  11. 11. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Farah Pandith The first Special Representative to Muslim communities for the United States Department of State, Farah Pandith, visited New Zealand in 2011. She gave a keynote address at the Office of Ethnic Affairs’ EthnicA Conference, which adressed multiculturalism and the benefits of diversity. Farah Pandith also met with various Muslim organisations and the Muslim Youth Advisory Council. She shared the learnings of her experiences with Muslim communities around the world. Youth Leadership Training Since 2006 the Office of Ethnic Affairs has provided leadership training for young Muslims, predominantly in the Auckland region. Most participants go on to put their skills to good use in their communities, by working on initiatives such as Islam Awareness Week and for Muslim Student Associations. In 2009, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, the Islamic Studies Research Unit (ISRU), and University of Auckland ran a two-day conference on leadership development. This approach enables the community to participate in shaping the future of their young people, and also be given the opportunity to build their own capacity in providing similar initiatives. Muslim Youth Advisory Council While young New Zealand Muslims face many of the same issues as young people throughout the world, they also face problems unique to their religion and culture. Additionally, they are likely to face challenges concerning their identity. They are likely to grapple with questions such as: how do I forge an identity that acknowledges my Muslim self and my New Zealand self? How do I preserve my traditional values and practices while participating in the wider New Zealand society? How do I ensure that my heritage takes its rightful place in my future? A strong community environment is needed to support these challenges. 9
  13. 13. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES In 2011 the Office of Ethnic Affairs supported the formation of the Muslim Youth Advisory Council (MYAC), which was set up to advise government agencies, organisations, schools, and the wider Muslim community about the views and concerns of Muslim youth. ‘MYAC is a council which actively seeks out the views and opinions of young Muslims, up to the age of 25, in response to key issues and events impacting their lives - presenting these views to community, business and political leaders who can foster positive change to benefit the youth. We aim to give young Muslims a voice of influence that draws on their identities as Muslims and New Zealanders.’ Maryam Khan, Chairperson of the Muslim Youth Advisory Council The Muslim Youth Advisory Council is encouraged to carry out its own projects, and through these experiences members are able to develop valuable leadership skills. For example, the members organised a visit to New Zealand by American-Muslim filmmaker Mustafa Davis. Davis presented a narrative that young people found easy to hear and respect. He spoke from personal experience, and presented himself as a role model. The Ta’leef Collective4 became an ideal to which the members of the Council aspire. Initiatives like the Muslim Youth Advisory Council have demonstrated that effective engagement with Muslim young people entails involving their elders, and providing a space and the skills to have inter-generational dialogue. 4 For information about the Ta’leef Collective see 11
  14. 14. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Women’s capability building Given the diversity of New Zealand’s Muslim population, there is naturally a wide range of views, from liberal to conservative, about the role of Muslim women in the community. There are several organisations that deal with women’s issues, many of which are associated with the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ) and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ). They deal with a range of issues including domestic violence and poverty. They are also concerned with providing role models for young Muslim women growing up in New Zealand, and allowing them to explore their religion, talk about identity issues, and learn how to balance their religious and civic identities. The Office of Ethnic Affairs has worked closely with the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand (IWCNZ) and other groups to identify the main challenges and opportunities, provide relevant information, scope potential projects and build the capacity of these groups. IWCNZ projects seek to promote a better understanding of the status of women in the Muslim community, and to support their positive development through initiatives, such as: • Project Well-Being (2008) – a comprehensive training programme to help Muslims deal with family violence • Muslim Women’s Directory (2009) – a web-based directory which supports communities to work together to achieve their goals. Muslims and the media Media portrayals of Muslims have often relied on, and perpetuated, harmful stereotypes and assumptions. Media capacity building initiatives have sought to help Muslim communities represent themselves in a fair, balanced and constructive way. In 2006 the Office of Ethnic Affairs facilitated a comprehensive media training programme for our Muslim stakeholders. 12
  15. 15. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES ‘The training we received definitely helped to galvanise a more coordinated response and develop a better idea of how to work with the media. For negative reasons there was a spotlight on the community. But we were able to turn the negative into positive and as a result there was no major backlash against Muslims in New Zealand. One of the key messages was that we are Muslims of New Zealand and that this is our country.’ Javed Khan, former President of FIANZ The media training programme enabled the Muslim community to better articulate the messages they wanted to communicate with wider society. It also built the capacity of the community to challenge and respond to misinterpretations and misrepresentations of Islam. Perhaps the most visible improvement has been the capacity of Muslim groups to navigate the media. A series of critical dialogues entitled “Muslims and the Media” (2009-2010) were held in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton. These dialogues acknowledged the progress made, the ongoing need for Muslim leaders to build their media management capability and for people working in the media to consider how they represent Muslims in New Zealand. Muslims now more actively inform the New Zealand public’s perceptions of Islam and Muslims, and this effort has largely involved presenting the positive rather than reacting to the negative. 13
  17. 17. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Government responsiveness Government responsiveness includes initiatives to ensure that all communities have access to government services, information and resources. It also includes consideration of the needs of diverse communities throughout the policy development process. The Office of Ethnic Affairs seeks to act as a conduit between government and ethnic communities, by providing advice and information to Ministers and government agencies about ethnic communities, and similarly, providing advice and information to ethnic communities about government services and resources. In the context of the Building Bridges programme, the focus has been on initiatives designed to give the Muslim community a voice, as well as acknowledge and raise awareness of their contribution to New Zealand society. Imam’s Conference (2007) The Building Bridges programme facilitated a conference at which 35 Imams met with the Prime Minister, Minister for Ethnic Affairs, and representatives from various government agencies. ‘After the Imam’s conference many people in the community changed their mind about the Government. It built trust. The content did not matter that much, what mattered was that the Government was serious and sincere about wanting to engage with the Muslim community. We were able to go back to the community and explain with greater ease the benefits of engaging with government.’ Javed Khan, former President of FIANZ 15
  18. 18. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES ‘Keeping New Zealand Safe’ forum: Getting from policy to the practical (2011) This forum involved representatives from the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service, New Zealand Police, Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand Customs, and New Zealand Defence Force. Members of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) outlined the difficulties that the Muslim community were facing when dealing with these particular agencies. The Government agencies explained the objectives of their work and the constraints that they worked under. The forum focused on ways to bring about systemic change to reflect cultural differences without compromising security measures. For example, the need to implement more intercultural training was highlighted. The Muslim community offered to participate and assist with intercultural training. The discussions allowed each group to gain a better understanding of the issues they faced, which developed a better working relationship and greater capacity for government responsiveness. ‘It was wonderful to see senior government officials face the public in the way that they did. We saw a human face and it instilled greater confidence. They were approachable and we talked about quite difficult things. Some people were really emotional but we managed to talk through it all.’ Mustafa Farouk, FIANZ 16
  19. 19. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES The New Zealand Afghan Community meeting with the Ministry of Defence Government agencies often approach the Office of Ethnic Affairs to arrange a meeting to address specific issues. In 2010 the Ministry of Defence wanted to talk to the New Zealand Afghan community about New Zealand’s engagement in Afghanistan and the work that was being done by the Provincial Reconstruction Team. The Office of Ethnic Affairs talked to members of the Afghan community in preparation for the meetings in Auckland and Christchurch. Strong relationships were built during these meetings that allowed the Afghan community to actively and openly voice their views and ideas. Following the meetings, New Zealand Afghans participated in the Provincial Reconstruction Team briefings. Eid in Parliament The celebration of Eid ul Fitr (Festival of Feasts) to mark the end of Ramadan has been celebrated in Parliament since 2006. The celebration has become an important symbol of respect for Muslim communities and recognition of the contribution that Muslims make to New Zealand society and the economy. The Minister for Ethnic Affairs hosts the annual event, which is attended by the Prime Minister and other Members of Parliament, the interfaith community, leaders of the Muslim community, and other government officials. 17
  20. 20. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Economic Transformation New Zealand’s Muslim community opens doors to the global halal market. This market, valued at $US 2.3 trillion, presents business and trade opportunities in areas such as: • The meat industry • Tourism • The finance and service industry. While trade between New Zealand and the Muslim world is not a recent development, many business and trade organisations are only now beginning to see the potential and opportunities presented by the global halal economy. The New Zealand Meat Industry Association and New Zealand Middle East Business Council (NZMEBC) are two agencies that recognise the potential of growing business with the Muslim world. NZMEBC seeks to promote better business and trading relationships, and also to learn from the collective experience of business people working in the Middle East. Halal is a term that designates any object or action permissible to use or engage in according to Islamic law. There is now a better understanding of why it is necessary to appeal to Muslim consumers. Halal tourism refers to holiday destinations that cater for Muslims. These destinations offer facilities that do not compromise the religious beliefs of Muslim tourists. These include removing alcohol from hotel rooms, providing food that avoids the use of pork and other non-halal food items, and accommodating prayer by indicating the direction of Mecca and providing prayer mats. An example of the Muslim community and the wider business community already working profitably together in the context of halal can be seen in the meat industry. When the meat industry requires meat products to meet halal criteria, it enlists the assistance of halal certifiers such as the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand. 18
  21. 21. BUILDING BRIDGES – PROJECTS AND INITIATIVES Examples of economic initiatives that the Office of Ethnic Affairs and the Muslim community have collaborated on include the following. Trade and the Muslim World conference (2010) This conference invited representatives from the New Zealand Middle East Business Council, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and the Meat Industry Association to discuss ways to trade more productively with the Muslim world. Mustafa Farouk spoke about a delegation which had gone to Saudi Arabia after the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy. As the Arab world was considering boycotting countries where the cartoon had been published, the delegation was able to explain that the New Zealand media and Government attitudes to Muslims are positive, and that Muslims live peacefully and with equality. This intervention prevented a ban on New Zealand trade from occurring. ‘The community can use our connections for economic advantage, for example, in the meat industry. We are able to talk directly with leaders in Muslim countries and emphasise how we live happily in New Zealand. This can open the door to market access.’ Mustafa Farouk, FIANZ Meeting with New Zealand Tourism The Office of Ethnic Affairs facilitated a meeting between the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, New Zealand Tourism, Māori Tourism, Regional Tourism Organisations New Zealand, and the Motel Association of New Zealand, to discuss the development of halal tourism, attracting Muslim tourists to New Zealand, and providing them with tailored services. This meeting led to follow-up activities, which included the Office of Ethnic Affairs creating material about the potential of halal tourism that these agencies could circulate amongst their stakeholders. 19
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  23. 23. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Future direction Since the start of the Building Bridges programme: • Awareness about Islam and the diversity of the Muslim community has grown • Leadership capability throughout the Muslim community has increased • The Muslim community’s ability to interact with the media has been enhanced • A sense of belonging amongst Muslim youth and a New ZealandMuslim identity has been fostered • A more balanced portrayal of Muslims is starting to be seen in the media. Given the increasingly positive and cohesive state of the Muslim community and the strength of its relationship with wider society, do we need to continue with the Building Bridges programme? The Office of Ethnic Affairs considers that the answer is yes, but we recognise that the world has changed since the start of the programme, as have the needs of the community. Therefore, there is a need to adjust our focus to reflect these changes. It is clear that the situation of Muslims in New Zealand is significantly different to what might be seen in Europe. Only time will tell if New Zealand will have the same issues here in the future. Our world is more connected than ever and information is communicated quickly. International headlines and policy responses to issues concerning Muslims still receive significant attention both online and in the New Zealand media. Recent international events have at times elicited strong polarised reactions in New Zealand, including from Muslim groups. International events will need to be monitored on the premise that they may have an impact on relationships in New Zealand. There is a need to continue strengthening the foundations that have been laid in order to facilitate constructive dialogue between groups when required. 21
  24. 24. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? There is a need to develop new and better ways of responding to the challenges and opportunities that arise within and amongst our communities. The Office of Ethnic Affairs will continue to focus on maintaining authentic relationships with our communities. These relationships will help enable society as a whole to remain cohesive and harmonious, as well as enhance a sense of belonging for all those who call New Zealand home. In the context of adapting the Building Bridges programme to meet the changing needs of the Muslim community, the Office of Ethnic Affairs has identified our key areas of focus for the next phase as follows. Leadership Leadership is key to enhancing the unity, voice and vision of a community. Expressing diversity is important, but so is having a common voice and common objectives. Intra-community and inter-community relationships need to be strengthened, and this will require a greater capacity for inter-cultural dialogue and enhanced conflict resolution skills. Media The Office of Ethnic Affairs will seek to strengthen relationships with media organisations and develop the community’s capacity to manage the ways Muslims are portrayed in the media. We will strive to counter stereotyping and negative assumptions about Muslims. Expanding the programme to the regions To date, the majority of our work has focused on Auckland because of the city’s diversity, and the larger Muslim population in the area. The Office of Ethnic Affairs sees an opportunity to build on the foundation that has been laid in Auckland by expanding the programme to regions such as Christchurch, Hamilton, Wellington, and Palmerston North, where there are sizeable and growing Muslim communities. 22
  25. 25. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Facilitating Dialogue We have repeatedly witnessed the value of creating a forum where critical issues can be discussed and debated between communities, and government agencies and communities. The Office of Ethnic Affairs will continue to seek opportunities to facilitate such dialogue. Economic opportunities The Muslim community can facilitate entry into the global halal market and presents numerous opportunities for economic growth. The Building Bridges programme aims to help share and increase awareness about these opportunities, which will further serve to strengthen the relationship between the Muslim community and wider society. In June 2011, the value of New Zealand halal certified meat to Muslim markets was approximately $490 million. In the same year, the Ministry of Primary Industries was awarded Best Service Provider at the World Halal Forum for its Animal Products Notice. This was the first time a nonMuslim country had won this category. In June 2012, the Asia Dialogue Conference, which was organised by the Auckland University Business School and the New Zealand Asia Institute, covered topics that included the potential of the global halal market. At an Office of Ethnic Affairs and The Federation of Islamic Association of New Zealand stakeholder forum in 2010, Professor Asad Mohsin referred to United Nations World Tourism Organisation figures that revealed tourists from the Middle East spent US$20billion on their holidays each year, led by the Saudis who spent US$8.5 billion.7 There is potential to build on the opportunities presented by the $US2.3 trillion global halal market in areas such as IT products, finance services, travel and tourism. 7 United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Tourism 2020 Vision, retrieved from: 23
  26. 26. WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? Intercultural awareness and communication The Office of Ethnic Affairs has commissioned a research project that examines the role of faith in the workplace. This research will help us better understand the dynamics of religious diversity in New Zealand and present an insight into those who actively practise their religion in a secular country. Muslims from a range of ethnic groups, along with members from many other religious groups, participated in this research. One of the outcomes of the research will be to formulate practical guidelines for employers, which will aim to improve intercultural competency and reduce negative assumptions in the workplace. 24