Kiwi Muslims invite Queenstowners to 'ask them anything'

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 19, 2024

On his first week in New Zealand, Asif Munir was asked by a neighbour if he had any guns, and he soon realised how little New Zealanders knew about Islam.

Starting today, he's embarking on a South Island road trip along with friend Mustenser Qamar stopping in at seven different locations.

The pair plan to head to local cafes and other spots with plenty of foot traffic and offer themselves up to answer questions from members of the public. 

One of their destinations is Queenstown, where they're scheduled to spend the day on Monday (April 22).

Mr Qamar says their motivation is to "provide a counter-narrative to what people normally hear in the media", where extremist groups and views are given the largest platform both in the news and on social media. 

The true message of Islam is peace, Mr Munir says. 

The pair, who are from the group TrueIslamNZ, will don "I am a Muslim, ask me anything" shirts, and will host a coffee session in Cafe Society between 9am and 10am, as well as spend some time wandering and available in town.

They say anyone is welcome to come and say hello, and ask them any questions. 

They've previously gone on other tours throughout New Zealand and also met with people from the "far-right" for one-on-one sessions.

"One time, we sat down and read all their objections, and all the things you hear from the far-right, and the anti-Islamic rhetoric, but by the end of the one-on-one session - it had been a couple of hours - they made a complete turnaround and they were getting up and hugging us."

It's encouraging to see perspectives change as people are given the opportunity to "humanise the religion," Mr Munir says. 

Their campaign started in 2017 with social media content, trying to balance out the amount of misinformation and extremist content, and they amped up their efforts following the Christchurch mosque shootings. 

"It just became a reality that it could be us next and we should be taking these steps to at least play our role in preventing these things in the future," Mr Munir says.

When asked by Crux if they ever feel concerned or nervous conducting these sessions, Mr Munir explains after seeing firsthand how much they've changed people's perspectives it means they "have to put ourselves out there and make themselves uncomfortable" for the greater good. 

"Our motto is hatred for none, so, no matter what hostilities we face, or how much persecution we face, our community preaches that we still have to exhibit love and compassion to every single one of the general public.

"Whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, whether they are enemies or persecutors."

The pair will be at Cafe Society from 9am to 10am on this coming Monday, April 22, and stopping in other spots around the town.

They're also visiting Nelson, Greymouth, Invercargill, Dunedin, Christchurch and Timaru.

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