SHAFAQNA -Â As thousands of Kiwi Muslims observe the fasting holy month of Ramadan, teens in the countryâ€™s most populous city of Auckland find it challenging, but not a hard task to control their hunger.
“In Ramadan most people bring all the good stuff to school like chocolate,â€ Hamza Riazuddin, a New Zealand-born Pakistani and Mt Roskill local told Stuff.co.nz on Tuesday, June 30.
“I never get offered food, but during Ramadan I do,” Riazuddin jokes.
“It’s hard but not that hard. I don’t really get hungry except when the kids I teach are running up and down. From controlling them I get hungry.”
The 16-year-old teen Riazzuddin plays cricket, teaches Qurâ€™an at his local mosque and works in his familyâ€™s cake factory while fasting during Ramadan.
Ramadan is the holiest month in Islamic calendar.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.
It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur’an.
Many men perform i`tikaf (spiritual retreat), spending the last 10 days of the month exclusively in the mosque.
Kiwi Muslims are possibly fasting the shortest fasting hours in the world, with just 11 hours each day.
Many Kiwi teens, like Riazuddin, often face questions about their faith.
“They don’t have a great picture of what Islam is,â€ he said.
“Some people will say as a joke ‘Allahu Akbar’ but they don’t actually understand that not everyone is like that.
“I try to explain to them I’m sitting here with you, I’m joking around, there’s no extremist thing that I’m doing.”
Observing the fasting month in New Zealand, Muslims teens feel accepted as the society is becoming more understanding about their faith.
“There are other people who really do understand the significance of what Muslims do,â€ Riazuddin said.
“We should be happy in New Zealand that it’s a multicultural country and people adapt to different people’s cultures.â€
The Muslim teenager praised the diverse Muslims community in New Zealand, saying that Kiwi Muslim identity is picking up.
“There’s all these different cultures at the mosque. Pakistanis, Indians, Afghans, Somalis, Middle Eastern, Malaysian â€“ you’ll find all these people there â€“ they have a great bond and that’s what is positive about Muslims in New Zealand,â€ Riazuddin said.
Nevertheless, Kiwis Muslims are reeling from the negative portrayals of the faith in the media.
It is a struggle to deal with issues of racism and “how the media portrays 1.6 billion people the same, as extremistsâ€, Riazuddin said.
“People call me a terrorist when I go out wearing Islamic clothes but what have I terrorised?
“Unfortunately every time something happens around the world it’s brought back to us.”
Muslims make about 1.1% of New Zealandâ€™s 4.5 million population, while Christians represent 44%, according to CIA factbook.