Pacific | Muslim

Tongan Muslim advocates for open conversations on faith and unity

Eimaan Hamid shares her journey as a Tongan Muslim, discussing Ramadan and emphasising the need for open conversations on faith for a path towards unity.

Tongan Muslim Eimann Hamid Photo / Supplied

It’s been over 20 years since Tongan woman Eimaan Hamid converted to Islam, a decision she says she wouldn’t trade for anything.

Hamid was raised by her grandparents in Tongatapu in the village of Fasi Moe Afi until moving to New Zealand as a teenager.

“Coming to New Zealand was a cultural shock for me. Back on the island, my upbringing was so strict. I only knew how to go to church, school and home.

“Nothing else, no social life at all. So coming to New Zealand was quite tough for me.

“That’s where I crossed paths with Islam and I found Islam the most comforting decision I ever made. It came through at the right time and I was in the right mindset to accept a new journey.

One of the best times to be Muslim

“It’s been 20 plus years now since I have been a Muslim and I would not trade that decision for anything in this life.”

She says one of the best times in Islamic culture is Ramadan which Muslims consider the holiest month.

“Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar during which a Muslim must fast from dawn until sunset.

“Personally, this is one of the best times of being a Muslim because everybody comes together and it’s a time for you to reflect.”

Alongside the good times, Hamid says there’s been challenges along the way especially following the March 15th attacks.

“Even though it was five years ago, it’s still raw… We heard that there were children involved and, as a mother, your heart sinks. You just don’t know what to do.”

Hijab worries

She says many in the Muslim community felt unsafe wearing their hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women.

“I remembered when my husband asked me, as I was still going back and forth with work as I am a public servant, if I’m okay with wearing a hijab and if I’d consider removing it.

“My heart was like, ‘are you kidding me?’. I think my husband forgot that underneath my hijab I’m still a Pacific islander, a strong Pacific woman who still stands strong in her beliefs.”

With Christianity dominating in Pacific communities, Hamid says conversations about other beliefs are important to broaden perspectives.

“Conversations like these can help others to be open-minded and to learn. Most importantly to shift the mindset and accept that whilst we all have different beliefs, we are one as human beings and share the same values.

“It is okay to step out of your comfort zone and explore other religions and learn about it because, when you understand something, it allows you to respect it more and accept that community.”

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