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Otago University Shows Film on Muslim Converts

Muslim students at the University of Otago in Dunedin city, New Zealand are inviting everybody on April 28 to watch a documentary focusing on converts to Islam, who are sharing their experiences living in different countries around the world, Otago Daily Times reported.

“One of the most interesting parts of the documentary for New Zealanders would probably be an interview with a Muslim living in Christchurch,” informed Otago academic, Dr. Abdullah Barazanchi.

The documentary, which will be exhibited to the public for free in the lead-up to the holy month of Ramadan at the campus’s Union Hall, is named ‘Freedom’.

It was directed by husband and wife team Julien Drolon and Zara Shafie who featured entrepreneurs, educators, actors, environmentalists, and lawyers, talking about subjects ranging from the environment and consumerism to spirituality and Islam more broadly.

“Three Australians are also featured, including Peter Gould, a famous graphic designer, and Geoff Lawton, who is known as the father of permaculture with thousands of followers around the world,” Barazanchi said.

“Another highlight of Freedom is that people will discover Malaysia’s beautiful landscape and Masjids throughout the film, which makes the screening … very enjoyable both from a spiritual and visual perspective,” he continued.

Interestingly, ‘Freedom’ had been screened in eight countries before reaching New Zealand, and received an average score of 8.5 out of 10 from the Muslim audiences it was shown to, and scoring of 8 out of 10 for the non-Muslim audiences.

“During the world screening tour of Freedom, it has become clear non-Muslim communities are keen to learn about Islam from Muslims themselves,” Barazanchi believes.

Significance of the Show

Broadcasting the documentary in the University of Otago has a great significance since it’s New Zealand’s oldest university as it was established in 1869, and it stands as one of the main attractions in Dunedin or Ōtepoti as it is named in the native Māori language.

Meaningfully, students account for a large proportion of Ōtepoti population. Unlike the national standard, 21.6% of the city’s population was aged between 15 and 24 at the 2006 census, compared to the Pacific country’s average of 14.2%.

Earlier this month, the Otago University appointed the first chaplain for its Muslim students, only a few days after Christchurch terrorist attack.

In 2014, Ōtepoti was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature. It’s the 2nd largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, after Christchurch city which has witnessed the massacre of over 50 Muslims in two mosques during Friday prayer last March.

Ōtepoti is the principal city of the Otago region and is considered one of the four main cities of New Zealand for historic, cultural and geographic reasons.

It was the largest New Zealand city by territorial land area until superseded by Auckland with the formation of the Auckland Council in November 2010.

Currently, the city population was 120,246 in 2013. Around 46.2% of Otago’s population affiliate with Christianity and 3.2% affiliate with other religions including Islam, while 48.3% are atheists.


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