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We still have a lot to learn about Islamic culture after Christchurch terrorist attack

Over the past two weeks, this secular nation has been exposed to the Islamic faith and culture on a scale not seen before.

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Lacking an adequate understanding is what breeds Islamophobia says Muslim community. Source: 1 NEWS

Still, those in the community say New Zealanders don’t have an adequate understanding and that’s what can breed Islamophobia.

Muslims have been coming to this country for at least 165 years and today make up one percent of the population, or about 46,000.

The 1861 census is understood to be one of the first official records of Muslims in New Zealand. It records four Mahometans – a derogatory term for followers of the prophet Muhammad.

Historian, Abdullah Drury, who did his Masters thesis in early Muslim immigration to New Zealand, traces those four to Mahomet Wuzerah and family.

Wuzerah came out to New Zealand in 1854 from India. Drury says he’s the first identifiable Muslim to settle in New Zealand permanently and also had a hand in the building the Christchurch Cathedral, carting the stones from a Port Hills quarry.

By the turn of the century, about 40 Muslims were living in New Zealand, mostly from Asia.

They were shown respect by those in power. In 1907, the Justice Minister defended the rights of two Herzegovinian men to wear their fezzes in court,

But in one particular newspaper, the New Zealand Truth, Muslims were vilified,

Articles from the 1910s reveal the racist language directed at them, with descriptions like "sooty-coloured Hindoo," "dark-hued Syrian" and "dusky hubby."

Over the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s there was an influx of Muslims from Fiji, Asia and Europe.

Among them, Hanif Ali, from Fiji. He was the only Muslim living in Porirua in the 1960s and says it was an isolating time.

"There was no social life, didn't go out anywhere. Being Muslim we didn't go to the pub and drink. Pub was abhorrent of places, not a nice place."

Abdurrahman Khan also moved out to New Zealand in the 1960s and found it a totally unfamiliar place with few people he could relate to.

But despite feeling lonely at times both men say they’ve felt mostly accepted,

Mr Ali said he’s faced only one incident of overt racism.

"I came only across one, she opened the door, saw my face, said sorry the room is taken. I was dressed nicely but maybe she had a bad experience you know."

Mr Khan says the racism he faced was with fellow students trying to have banter. He says that banter is unacceptable and comes from a lack of understanding.

"I think New Zealand is a very insular country and I don't think our education system for the young gives them the wide world,"

Faried Saenong, who tutors religious studies at Victoria University agrees there a holes in New Zealand’s education system.

"A wise person would say before judging something we need to learn."

He says Muslims in New Zealand believe the Islamophobia here comes from a place of ignorance and people not willing to ask questions about the religion.