23 Nov 2013

Minister urges more social links with Muslims

1:40 pm on 23 November 2013

Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins says New Zealanders need to form more social links with Muslim people.

Judith Collins made the comment while opening the first Muslim world forum in Auckland, which address what it calls a climate of suspicion and stereotypes after the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2001.

Ms Collins said the country needs to maintain social cohesion with Muslims, because it is evident what happens in other countries when that isn't successful.

"We also know that all people in New Zealand, whether they're Buddhist, whether they're Christian, or various denominations of any of those, that it is really important they don't feel that they're not part of New Zealand."

Islamic Association president Dr Anwar Ghani said acceptance of Muslims is increasing but there is room for improvement.

Dr Ghani said a recent survey shows 65% of people who were spoken to thought Muslims contributed positively to the culture and economy of New Zealand, and while that is good, the figure should be higher.

Forum participants will also discuss the significant contribution Muslims bring to the economy, such as the halal meat market worth about $US2.3 trillion. Ms Collins said the potential for the halal meat market in New Zealand is immense.

The Meat Industry Association says New Zealand exports meat to 120 markets and of those 75 take halal product.