The Oamaru Islamic Centre Open Day was not only a chance to reflect on the Christchurch terror attack anniversary, but an opportunity to ask questions.
The open day was held on Saturday, and featured a cultural potluck dinner, presentations, and speeches made by St Patrick’s Parish Father Wayne Healey, Waitaki Multicultural Council president Maria Buldain, Muslim Association of Oamaru Incorporated president Ahmed Elsaka, and a guest speaker from Auckland’s Voice of Islam, Dr Firdaus Aziz.
Imam Nurhisyam Ramli said about 30 people attended the open day.
He was happy to see some of his colleagues and other familiar faces in the community, members of the Waitaki Multicultural Council, and strangers visit the centre.
“I could feel the support.”
Imam Ramli said before the terror attack two years ago, some people of the Islamic community felt like a minority and did not want to showcase what they believed.
But since then, young girls and women felt more comfortable wearing head scarves to school and in public without a problem.
“[The] tragedy showed us we don’t have to hide.
“The reality is, locals are kind and accept who we are.”
He hoped next year’s open day would attract a lot more people – and more questions would be asked.
All questions were welcome, even the uncomfortable or awkward ones, he said.
It was always better to ask questions, rather than assume or get information from the wrong sources.
“We are the minority, so people don’t know a lot about us, so it’s our responsibility to answer their questions.”
This was one of the aims of the open day, but locals were welcome at the centre any day of the year, he said.
“If there are people [in the centre] anyone can come in, ask questions and have a cup of coffee or tea.”
The centre planned to hold an open day ever year to continue building relationships and connections with people in the Oamaru community.