Taihape, in the center of the North Island of New Zealand, is at an altitude of 440m, which makes this the highest mosque in the country. It’s so tiny, I call it a cubbyhole mosque. The idea is that Muslims travelling by road between Auckland and Wellington will be able to stop here to pray, rest, and freshen up. See the Manawatu Standard report of September 30, 2014, here.
The day was fine, the occasion pleasant. I reached Taihape at 11am — well in time for the official opening of the mosque at 11.30am. I was a little surprised by the number of police in attendance, though this should not have come as a surprise as the founder of the Ad-Deen Taihape Islamic Trust, Saifudin Abu (in white, in the fourth photograph on this page), is a local policeman.
After a set of excellent posters — bought from the United States at a cost of $US600 — was put up in the prayer room, we moved in dribs and drabs to a nearby hall — the venue for the inevitable speechifying. Needless to say, all the speakers stressed the Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace line (which is true, but needs to be qualified). If your Islam is a quietistic, apolitical Islam, which attempts to distance itself from all those nasty things happening overseas, you would have been completely satisfied with, even uplifted by, the proceedings.
The only remark that made me raise an eyebrow came from a local councillor, who rattled off a list of New Zealand’s achievements, in the past few years, in the field of social legislation. Among these was “equality in marriage”. He didn’t elaborate on the point, which led me to assume he was referring to the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 — the legislation that opened the door to “same-sex marriage”. Not exactly the kind of law that Islam can reconcile itself with.
But as I said, everything was thoroughly pleasant, with lots of praise for the initiative of Saifudin Abu, the role of the police as our impartial protector, and the big, happy family that is New Zealand.