This is according to Sayed Mohammad Taqi Derhamy, founder and member of the board of trustees of the Islamic AhlulBayt Foundation of New Zealand, who made the remarks in an interview with IQNA.
Providing a history of the center, Sayed Derhamy said that it was founded in 1993 with a help of a few people that he knew after they saw the lack of proper instructions for their children with regard to history and the Quran.
Later the institution received a permit from the government of New Zealand for collecting funds and paying interest-free loans (Qard al-Hasan). “That was new and the center became a role model as some European centers took a copy of its constitution,” he said.
Two years after the establishment, the first wave of migrants from Iraq came, and facing a shortage of space, the center moved to a bigger place, he said, adding that soon another wave of Afghan migrants came and the bigger place could accommodate them.
There are some eight Shia organizations scattered around the country and the Islamic AhlulBayt Foundation of New Zealand still is the biggest one that helps others with their establishment, he said, adding that these centers are also cooperating in fields such as exchanging scholars.
Describing the history of the institution as “encouraging”, Sayed Derhamy said that have recently opened a kindergarten and are still “looking forward”.
“We are hoping to turn it into primary school and then secondary school and then university; we are looking forward, we are not static.”
Asked about the missions of the center, he highlighted that the mission is to “discover” and “get rid of” the weaknesses that have held the Islamic society back.
The center stages regular weekly programs such as reading Tawassul and Kumail supplications while also holding special programs during the year, such as Ramadan and Muharram and on the birth and demise anniversaries of Ahlul Bayt (SA), according to its founder.
“Teaching children Quran was the main reason for establishing this institution,” he stressed. He noted that a year before founding the center, they used to hire school rooms in the area to teach the Holy Quran to the children.
According to Sayed Derhamy, teaching the Holy Quran is still the first priority of the institution.
He noted that members of the community come from various ethnic backgrounds such as Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. The institution, he maintained, calls on the community to “pass through nationalities and learn to pass these boundaries and mix into what Allah wants.”
“We are trying to mix as much as we can; it has to be digested and it takes time,” he stressed.
Asked about the challenges that they face in New Zealand, Sayed Derhamy noted that he has been asked several times to explain Islam given the “bombardment of Islamophobia” in media.
He also pointed to the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack which claimed the lives of 51 Muslim worshippers.
“Muslims were not frightened and pushed into the corner and they are happy and proud of Islam,” he added.
Recounting the day, he said he was “flabbergasted” by the sympathies of neighbors after this attack.