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AUT 's Islamic Chaplain shares a glimpse into being Muslim in the West

By David Williams (he/him)

AUT’s Islamic Chaplain Sheikh Rafat Najm spoke about being a Muslim in the western world for an online lecture organised by AUTSA.

Student Representative Council Diversity Affairs Officer Tasfia Mahmood organised the event in collaboration with the AUT MuslimStudents Association (MSA) and AUT's chaplaincy.

Mahmood feels that identity, understanding, and inclusion are so important in this day and age. “I wanted to arrange this event becauseit is important to understand ourselves and our place in this community - and by extension the world. But also, [because it is] equally asimportant to be understood by the wider community too.”

Najm is an Egyptian Muslim scholar and has lived in New Zealand since 1997. He co-lectured a paper titled “Spirituality, Health and Wellbeing”,and has been a member of the AUT University Ethics Committee for six years, during which he has reviewed over 100 master's andPhD thesis applications in various fields.

Najm spoke about the linguistic and religious definition of Islam, the meaning of Muslim identity, the Five Pillars of Islam in the day-to-daylife of a Muslim, and the historic presence of Islam in the west.

He also talked about the internal and external challenges Muslims face in western countries today, including Islamophobia and theportrayal of Muslims in western media.

However, he believes that the cultural distance between the west and Islam is closer than westerners think.

“Muslim societies are more human than portrayed in western media.”

Whilst citing Muhammad Ali as an example, Najm said that Islamic identity and national identity are not mutually exclusive. “I am asked ‘What comes first, Islam or New Zealand?' What a stupid question.”

Hima Faleel Gaffoor from AUT MSA agrees with Najm’s sentiments about Islam.

“Islam is a peaceful religion with beautiful teachings and a great way of life.”

AUT MSA is an organisation representing Muslim students at AUT. Gaffoor estimates there are over 1,000 Muslim students at AUT.

Mahmood is very happy with how the event went.

“Despite little technological hiccups, I think the event went really well alhamdulillah - as can be seen in the flood of incoming messages and questions. Engagement is always key!”

Najm is also one member of AUT’s chaplaincy service, providing spiritual support to students and staff whilst promoting taha wairua (spiritual wellbeing).

Chaplaincy Coordinator Dr Janine Irvine says chaplains come from different faith backgrounds and welcome working with anyone whowould like to speak to them.

“They will work with each person to help them find a faith teacher or community who can best explore ideas and values that encompasstheir spirituality.”

Chaplaincy also provides multi-faith rooms on campus for students to use for prayer, meditation, or meetings.


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