Mathew Howell

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Introduction

Ko te mihi tuatahi ki a Allah,

Na Allah ra hoki maatou ki a ia anake to maatou hokinga atu.

I firstly acknowledge Allah, to him we belong to him we return.

Assalaamu alaikum dear brothers and sisters.

Ko Tongariro te maunga,

Tongariro is my mountain

Ko Wanganui te awa,

Wanganui is my river.

Ko Rotoaira te moana,

Rotoaira is my lakeocean.

Ko Te Wharerangi te tangata,

Wharerangi is my chief.

Ko Ngati Tuwharetoa te Iwi,

Ngati Tuwharetoa is my tribe.

Ko Ngati Hikairo te hapu,

Ngati Hikairo is my sub tribe.

Ko Papakai te marae,

Papakai is my Meeting house,

Rotoaira is my lake/Ocean.

Life before Islam.

Drinking, gambling, horticulture and Martial arts.

My first encounter with a Muslim.

My first encounter with a Muslim was in Havana Cuba, where a seed was planted.

I was there for the 14th World Festival of Students to build solidarity and brotherhood between universities and tertiary institutions.

My Conversion.

I went to a mosque in Otahuhu the Imam took me through Shahada and gave me the name Abu Bakr which I’ve kept.

I heard about the Koranu Tapu (Quran in Māori) and wanted to progress my Reo (Māori language) so I grabbed the opportunity to read the Holy Quran in Māori.

What do I love about Islam?

Kindness, integrity, if you love Allah you have to love his creation.

I love that Islam is aligned with Māori values such as,

Manaaki whenua-care and preservation of the land.

Manaaki tangata- hospitality care for the people.

This philosophy has inspired a Hapu Kainga project which is natural affordable living for our brothers and whanau (family).

Which consist of pitching Yurts and tiny homes on land.

I love the Muslim brotherhood, how faith is in action, the brothers have been coming to the Pa Wars with me, cooking their kai (food), feeding the people and sharing knowledge through Islamic books, so feeding the body and soul.

Pa Wars is a inter Marae sports festival.

How has Islam improved me as a person?

We were put in the ring at a young age boxing, karate, kickboxing over the years I’ve hurt a lot of people but through Islam.

I help a lot more people and now facilitate wellbeing in people and communities.

I am more giving, I have more aroha (love). Islam teaches us selflessness and kindness.

These qualitys are apart of my Māori culture. People have been indoctrinated with the narrative that all Māori are violent, drug users and losers and with some of us it stuck.

These are social diseases that affect all communities, in all societies.

Through Islam I am a better new improved version of MĀORI!

I have reconnected and am reinforcing our Māori values which so many are Islamic principles.

For example, acts of service - we look after the Marae, mow the lawns, cut the wood for the hangi, put up and maintain fencing, maintain the cemetery,

clean the water ways around the Marae so the water is clean and pristine.

My wife runs Rongo workshops-

Māori medicine.

We both help maintain the facilities and Kohanga reo- Māori language for kids.

My family likes my changes.

When I converted my uncle wanted to shoot me and my brother wanted to stab me.

So we are still working on that and hope they come around to a better acceptance of my religious choice.

As a Māori Polynesian Muslim what challenges have I faced?

I experienced a lot of hostility through ignorance, people believe the narrative the media paints.

I explained to whanau (family), the media painted a negative narrative against Māori, it's the same for Muslims.

I went to the Marae with some Muslim brothers and an Aunty said "do they want to blow us up"? But after getting to know them they warmed up to the brothers.

I explained that the Rātana faith which many Māori follow, used the star and crescent moon symbol and Muslims use the crescent moon symbol also.

The Islamic calender is a lunar calender and Māori also follow the lunar calender.

Thank you.