It is no surprise that the study of Islam and Muslims is of paramount importance in the world today. Yet, with recent events in France, Belgium, Syria/Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria, and Australia (to name a few) the global understanding of Islam and its transnational, de- and re-territorialized, and local dimensions is evermore vital.
Take for example the Maori agriculturalist living in the Hawke's Bay region of New Zealand. A respected man in the community and one of the world's "500 most influential Muslims," Te Amorangi Kireka-Whaanga recently declared his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and "founded" his own "Islamic state" in the town of Hastings.
Why did a Maori New Zealander state his fidelity with a jihadist organization in the Middle East? What was the reaction of the local population? His neighbors? The Muslim community he once represented? When did Mr. Kireka-Whaanga convert? What were the circumstances? What are the local dynamics of the community? Are there any connections between that community and Syria and/or Iraq?
These are just some of the questions that need to be asked. Just one of the instances of Islam in Oceania, and around the globe, that need to be studied, apperceived, and explained.
It is in this context of exploration, and cognizance, of global Islam that I am excited to announce I have now been named a Corresponding Associate Research Member with the University of Waikato's Islamic Studies Group (UWISG).
The University of Waikato (Te Whara Wānanga o Waikato) is located in Hamilton, New Zealand. With strengths in computer science and information systems, economics, education, law, and languages, the University serves not only the south Auckland populace, but also the central region of Aotearoa's North Island. The University has over 30 different research centers and groups, including the UWISG.
The UWISG is "a non-partisan and a not-for-profit organisation committed to the objective of fostering academic insight and understanding on Islamic phenomena through interdisciplinary research initiatives." The group hosts seminars and presentations, publishes a bi-annual review, and provides public relations services and consultation in the public and private sectors.
As a Corresponding Associate Research Member I am associated with the UWISG, but continuing my studies and work at University of Florida in Gainesville. I will contribute by writing for the Waikato Islamic Review via articles and reviews, present UWISG workshops, talks, and/or symposia at the discretion of the UWISG management, and provide commentary advice/support as and when called upon.
I am more than honored and pleased to join the UWISG as a Corresponding Associate Research Member and look forward to continuing my study of global Islamic dynamics and community and sharing some of that insight with you here at the blog.
In the meantime, I encourage you to look into the University of Waikato, its Islamic Studies Group, and perhaps read more about Islam in New Zealand via the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand.