More than $178,000 has been fundraised to establish Queenstown’s first mosque in New Zealand, Radio New Zealand reported on July 25.
“We were able to hire out a church hall for Friday prayers, but there wasn’t always one available. A new mosque would give us a place to gather as a community and teach religious education to our children,” expressed happily a Muslim husband and father of three girls, Philippe Saint-Pere.
Each Friday before the congregational prayer Jumu’ah comes about, Saint-Pere’s family is among up to 70 Muslim Queenstowners looking for a worship house to gather.
Queenstown Islamic Center members have been praying in their homes, in hired-out churches, or driving hours to get to the closest mosques.
The local Muslim community is now looking forward to having their own mosque to welcome a growing number of Muslim visitors to the city.
Indeed, the number of Muslim tourists visiting the city is increasing – and with it, the number of people contacting the Islamic Centre’s president, Mohammed Nadeem, asking questions about a place to pray.
“I get calls nearly every day – yesterday I had a call and today as well – people calling me and asking me about the places where they can have halal food, what time is a prayer,” Nadeem said.
The crowdfunding page, on the website Launchgood, was started last May, after three Muslim Aucklanders visiting Queenstown decided they wanted to help their counterparts.
Saint-Pere said: “the response had been amazing, with donations coming in from all over the world, and passing their original goal of $140,000.”
On the website, the Christchurch Massacre which took place last March is cited as a key reason why Queentown’s Muslim community urgently needs its own place to gather. Another is the distance that some of them travel to get to other mosques.
Need for Queenstown Mosque
Nadeem informed that: “there’s only one mosque in Southland, in Invercargill… it takes around two hours, 30 minutes to go there. The other one is in Dunedin, three-and-a-half hours away. Thus, we’re very thankful for all the donations that had been collected.”
One of the local Muslims, Abir Hossain who owns a Turkish Kebab restaurant in the city, has also welcomed the news by saying “now was a good time to be establishing a mosque. It’s a very good sign that Queenstown is growing, more people are coming. So, if there’s a place where people can gather – then they can know a bit more and get together more.”
The community’s biggest challenge was securing a central site in Queenstown’s competitive housing market.
“There are very few places available and there’s also the element of cost. And it has to be so-called, ‘zoned’ or approved for a place of worship,” Hossain informed.
Since the mosque’s fundraising page will close at the end of next week, Hossain said: “our community members would be meeting later this week to discuss our options.”
Queenstown is a premier tourist destination located in the southwest of South Island in New Zealand.
There is a small Muslim community in Queenstown, and with an increasing number of Muslims visiting the country.
With the absence of any mosques in the city, Muslim travelers were usually advised to perform their prayers in their hotel rooms whenever possible.