Is­lamic mega-cen­tre gets green light

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - By LAURA WAL­TERS

THE BIG­GEST Is­lamic cen­tre and mosque in the coun­try is set to be built in Auck­land, in an un­prece­dented mul­ti­mil­lion dollar con­struc­tion project.

The Fed­er­a­tion of Is­lamic As­so­ci­a­tions of New Zealand is seek­ing more fi­nan­cial back­ers for the south Auck­land project, which is be­ing pro­moted as a ‘‘ dia­logue cen­tre’’ or ‘‘peace cen­tre’’.

FIANZ project manager Umarji Mo­hammed said the cen­tre, planned for Takanini, would cost up to $15 mil­lion and be the largest of its kind in New Zealand.

Plans are still be­ing drawn up for the devel­op­ment, which would in­clude a mosque, sports cen­tre, swim­ming pool, trav­eller ac­com­mo­da­tion units and a school for up to 300 stu­dents.

New Zealand’s grow­ing Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion is es­ti­mated at around 55,000, with 40,000 in Auck­land.

Mo­hammed said the pur­pose of the planned cen­tre was to connect dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties and would al­low Mus­lims and non-Mus­lims to pray, learn, ex­er­cise and so­cialise to­gether.

The cen­tre, which will sit on a 4.5- hectare sec­tion owned by FIANZ, was es­pe­cially tar­geted at young peo­ple who needed some­where to ‘‘vent their frus­tra­tions’’.

There were a lot of prob­lems with New Zealand youth: ‘‘If they are not tended prop­erly they can go into drugs and al­co­hol or even be­come ex­trem­ists.’’

The cen­tre would ben­e­fit new im­mi­grants who needed a ‘‘step­ping stone’’ to help in­te­grate into the com­mu­nity and over­come lan­guage bar­ri­ers.

FIANZ has yet to get fund­ing for the am­bi­tious cen­tre and is look­ing to ex­pand its sources of in­come. It cur­rently earns most of its money from Ha­lal meat cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Mo­hammed said FIANZ had ap­proached donors for fund­ing, in­clud­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions in Is­lamic coun­tries, but was anx­ious to be as trans­par­ent as pos­si­ble. ‘‘We are living in a very the mo­ment.’’

The as­so­ci­a­tion also plans to ap­proach gov­ern­ment for fund­ing.

An Of­fice of Eth­nic Com­mu­ni­ties spokes­woman said the cen­tre would be a wel­come re­source for Auck­land’s Is­lamic com­mu­nity and its mem­bers’ needs.

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‘‘The of­fice sup­ports the Is­lamic cen­tre in help­ing to foster greater so­cial co­he­sion by pro­vid­ing a wel­com­ing com­mu­nity hub for Mus­lims to come to­gether, sup­port each other and in­ter­act with the wider lo­cal com­mu­nity.’’

Auck­land Coun­cil gave the devel­op­ment the green light in Novem­ber. The ap­pli­ca­tion had limited no­ti­fi­ca­tion, so only those who were be­lieved to be di­rectly af­fected by the devel­op­ment were in­vited to file sub­mis­sions.

One sub­mis­sion re­ceived coun­cil was with­drawn.

Ma­nurewa-Pa­pakura ward coun­cil­lor Calum Pen­rose said he was fully be­hind the cen­tre.

‘‘The church groups re­ally bring their peo­ple to­gether.’’

The cen­tre would help get youths ‘‘off the streets and out of trou­ble’’, Pen­rose said.

There were 178 dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups in the Coun­ties Manukau re­gion. ‘‘We have to move with the times,’’ he said

FIANZ has yet to make ap­pli­ca­tions to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion but it is hoped the school will be a spe­cial char­ac­ter school, sim­i­lar to Al- Mad­i­nah Is­lamic school in Man­gere.

Al- Mad­i­nah’s roll was full there was clearly de­mand an­other school of this type in area, Mo­hammed said.

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Fund­ing sought: An artist’s im­pres­sion of a new Is­lamic cen­tre and mosque planned for Porch­ester Rd in south Auck­land.

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