I often hear claims that when the proportion of a country’s population reaches 5% (sometimes 3%) then all heel will break loose, Sharia Law will take over, praying to Mecca will become compulsory and the secular sky and Christian heaven will fall in.
I haven’t seen any substantial support of this ‘theory’. Some just state it as if it were fact, while sometimes a country with Muslim problems is cited as an example.
Muslim immigration is very contentious, and fear of terrorism is real, albeit out of proportion to the relative real threat.
There are people and groups who obsess about spreading fear of all Muslims, predicting dire consequences for any country that let’s it’s Muslim population reach 5%.
The 2013 census in New Zealand counted 46,149 Muslims, just over 1% of the population. About 7,000 of them are Maori, Pacific Island or European. The others come from a diverse range of countries including Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Fiji, with growing numbers of students from Malaysia.
Australia has about twice the proportion of Muslims, 2.2%.
The closest country to New Zealand with a Muslim population over 5% is Fiji (6-7%). Like ours their legal system is based on the British system. No Sharia. No major Muslim issues.
Just north of Australia is Indonesia, the country with the most Muslims in the world, about 87% of their total 263 million population.
While religious freedom is stipulated in the Indonesian constitution, the government officially recognises only six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
A large proportion of Indonesians—such as the Javanese abangan, Balinese Hindus, and Dayak Christians—practice a less orthodox, syncretic form of their religion, which draws on local customs and beliefs.
There are also a number of indigenous religions. These seem to coexist with Muslims.
One part of Indonesia, Aceh, applies sharia law in criminal matters. In other parts of the country it just applies to civil law (marriage, inheritance, gifts) to varying degrees, parallel with their Roman Dutch based legal system.
Other countries with large Muslim populations have varying degrees of Sharia law and varied application. Sharia law applies in 12 of Nigeria’s 36 states. About 41% of the Nigerian population is Muslim.
In a number of countries with large Muslim populations sharia law plays no part in their judicial system
The only European country with a majority Muslim population is Bosnia and Herzegovina at 51% (Christian 46%). They have a civil (not sharia) law system.
Germany (1.9% Muslim) has Sharia as part of their private law but it is limited and only applies to people with nationalities from countries using Sharia.
The United Kingdom (about 4.3%) has a voluntary dispute resolution system, the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal. The tribunals have the power to rule in civil cases. They operate under Section 1 of the Arbitration Act which states that: “the parties should be free to agree how their disputes are resolved, subject only to such safeguards as are necessary in the public interest”. This operates within the English law framework and is not a separate legal system.
I am not aware of any pressure to have similar tribunals operating in New Zealand. Muslims can try to resolve civil matters through the Disputes Tribunal of New Zealand like everyone else.
An estimated 8-10%of the French population is Muslim, many of whom emigrated from French colonies in northern Africa. They have significant issues – but these may be more to do with the percentage of Muslims who live in deprivation and with high unemployment rates rather than their percentage of the population.
Each country deals with the ethnicities and religions of it’s inhabitants as they see fit.
New Zealand has long had cultural diversity, including religious diversity. We have a history of religious tolerance. Nearly half of New Zealanders identify with no religion, and many others barely practice their religion.
From Islam in New Zealand:
The first Muslims in New Zealand were an Indian family who settled in Cashmere, Christchurch, in the 1850s. The 1874 government census reported 15 Chinese gold diggers working in the Dunstan gold fields of Otago in the 1870s.
Small numbers of Muslim immigrants from South Asia and eastern Europe settled 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 centre was started in 1959 and there are now several mosques and two Islamic schools.
The majority of the Muslims are Sunni, with a large minority Shia and some Ahmadi Muslims, who run the largest mosque in the country.
The number of Muslims in New Zealand according to the 2013 census is 46,149, up 28% from 36,072 in the 2006 census.
That’s quite a surge but on quite small numbers. Immigration numbers from countries tend to vary a lot so it is difficult to predict trends.
The community is noted for its harmonious relations with the wider New Zealand community, with various interfaith efforts from all sides contributing to this situation. FIANZ established the Harmony Awards as part of Islam Awareness Week in 2008 to recognise the contributions of New Zealanders to improving understanding and relationships between Muslims and the wider community.
We currently don’t have any appreciable problem with Muslims in New Zealand. They tend to blend in like the many other religions, and they have diverse ethnicities like the rest of the population.
There is no way of predicting with any accuracy whether the proportion of Muslims will ever reach 3% or 5% in New Zealand, and I’m not aware of any credible evidence that those thresholds on their own would have any particular risk anywhere in the world, and especially not in New Zealand.
Note: this post is a genuine attempt to explore and understand Muslim demographics and their potential effect on New Zealand. Feel free to discuss anything related to the content.
But please do not launch into general sermons about ‘them versus us’ or general mass dissing. If you think that Muslims are an issue in New Zealand then the topic deserves decent debate, and not screes of hobby horse rehashing.