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"Strong Families - Better Society"

For 2008 we have chosen "Strong Families - Better Society" as the theme for the Islam Awareness Week. It is my firm belief that "a strong family will raise its members to be strong people in their faith, work ethics, and relationship with the wider society". In essence, a strong family is a fountain of strength for an individual. It has been proven that strong families will reduce a number of the ills facing our youth today including despondency, low self esteem, truancy and disregard for human values and the lack of respect for life in general. In our first Muslim Stakeholders Forum held end of last month, this theme was explored and the Federation looks forward to rolling out activities and programmes to support this in the coming months.

The Muslim community, although ethnically diverse, places great emphasis on equality between different ethnic groups. This is based on our Islamic religious belief. Our imperative in New Zealand is to value this diversity as well as ensuring that ethnic differences do not undermine our unity as Muslims and New Zealanders.

The Muslim community desire to reach out to our fellow New Zealanders - initiatives like Islam Awareness Week highlight the work that needs to be done to increase the awareness of both Muslims and wider New Zealanders, of our respective beliefs and values. I believe we will find we have more in common than we thought. This will lead to a society in which all New Zealanders are understanding, respectful and global achievers.

The world was never the same after September 11, 2001 and events following that. However, the world today is increasingly interconnected. As a result of this interconnection, people of different culture and religious beliefs have converged together. Diversity has made our global societies culturally rich. Yet, it also has presented us with challenges that must be taken seriously so that we are able to create social harmony and peaceful co-existence.

New Zealand is a multi-racial and multi-religious society. The Government has placed utmost importance on promoting and maintaining racial and religious harmony. The provision of equality of opportunity for all New Zealanders to progress has provided the broader context for the growth of social cohesion despite racial and religious diversity. New Zealand's continued emphasis on tolerance and respect for different cultures and religious beliefs allows for the expression of difference without impinging on our laws and social norms. This is commendable.

The New Zealand Muslim community has built up our way of life founded on Islamic beliefs and principles, Over the years, we have worked diligently over to contribute to New Zealand's success. We have striven to preserve our values and, at the same time, made practical adjustments amidst changing social circumstances. Our approach, which is true to our religion and yet pragmatic in its outlook, has enabled us to live as good Muslims in a multi-racial and multi-religious society, and contribute to New Zealand's economic and social development.

All the faiths that are professed and practiced today have one theme in common. That is to work for peace and tranquillity in our thoughts and action as the basic condition for leading our lives as meaningful and acceptable to God Almighty. Making humanity realise the basic truth was the message and the mission of all our Prophets and seers of all ages.

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We look forward to meeting you at the events around the country and getting to know you better.