Muslim Makes History as New Zealand First African MP

For long decades, Muslims have been setting record and making positive impacts in New Zealand, such as being elected to local offices and parliament.

Yet, for Ibrahim Omer, getting elected to the parliament is a dream come true.

Omer achieved this great success after the Labour Party secured a huge election victory, making him a New Zealand’s first African MP, briefly.co.za reported.

The 42-year-old Eritrean was born in Eritrea in 1978. He was forced into exile in Sudan in 2003.

He was later arrested by Sudanese authorities for allegedly working as a spy for outsiders and detained under harsh conditions. 

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Officials from the United Nations relocated Omer to New Zealand, where he worked as a cleaner. 

Joining Victoria University of Wellington in 2014, Omer studied politics while working as a cleaner in his free time. He later rose to become a top politician after getting appointed as the chairman of the Changemakers Resettlement Forum board.

Sponsored by New Zealand’s Labour Party, Omer was part of a team of 40 new faces who made it to parliament after historic election win for PM Jacinda Ardern.

“Such a wonderful first day in Parliament,” Omer said via his Facebook page on his first day in parliament on October 19.

“What an inspiring and kind group of people we have in the Labour team. Thank you to the MPs and parliamentary staff who welcomed myself and the class of 2020 so warmly. I’m humbled and excited to be here,” he added.

Islam in New Zealand is a minority religious affiliation. Small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and eastern Europe settled starting from the early 1900s until the 1960s. 

Large-scale Muslim immigration began in the 1970s with the arrival of Fiji Indians, followed in the 1990s by refugees from various war-torn countries. The first Islamic center was started in 1959 and there are now several mosques and two Islamic schools.

The number of Muslims in New Zealand according to the 2013 census is 46,149, up 28% from 36,072 in the 2006 census. 

The majority of New Zealand Muslims are Sunnis but there is a large number of Shias who live in New Zealand, concentrated mainly in Auckland (the largest city of New Zealand).