Muslim local election candidates want 'harmony in our society'

8:48 pm on 1 September 2019

Two Muslims are standing in Christchurch's local government elections for the first time.

Zahra Hussaini – Waimari Community Board Candidate.

Zahra Hussaini – Waimari Community Board Candidate. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

Zahra Hussaini and Gamal Fouda are the first Muslim candidates to be standing for the region's council and community boards.

They spoke to RNZ at Labour's People's Choice launch in Christchurch yesterday. They were supported by members of the Muslim community.

Riccarton Community board candidate Gamal Fouda had decided to run following the 15 March mosque attacks.

Mr Fouda came to New Zealand in 2003 from Egypt. He is a trained primary school teacher and now works as an imam (minister) at Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque. He had just begun delivering his sermon when the shooting started at his mosque where 42 people died.

He told RNZ the terror attacks made him realise the need to get out in the community and start building bridges with people together.

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Gamal Fouda (front row, fourth left) and Zahra Hussaini (third right) with Megan Woods (front row, third from the left) and members of the Muslim community. Photo: RNZ / Eleisha Foon

"Tolerance and understanding of other cultures is very important and that will create cohesion and harmony in our society," he said.

Mr Fouda said he wanted to work and represent all people, listen to their ideas and "combat racism within the neighbourhood."

Waimari ward councillor and community board candidate Zahra Hussaini said she was pleased with the diverse turn out of people's choice candidates and was passionate about addressing water quality, housing, youth and climate change issues.

Ms Hussaini said she had been thinking about entering politics for over a year. She has a diploma in applied science but put her studies on hold following the mosque shooting.

She said she used that time to volunteer with youth and to work on climate change projects.

"I am probably the first Muslim woman running ... with hijab.

"I have always valued giving back to the community. I grew up on a farm in Iran and then I moved to New Zealand.

"Being able to take this step and be a voice for not only the Muslim community but also the wider community is important.

"This is who I am as a person and is part of my faith as well - being able to serve the community."

Ms Hussaini said she hoped to bring minority voices to the council table.

  • Christchurch imam Gamal Fouda stands in local body elections