New Zealander of the year semi-finalist Anjum Rahman

Latest - Magic Talk 18/12/2019

Muslim women are increasingly becoming targets of workplace discrimination in New Zealand, according to Islam Women's Council of New Zealand co-founder Anjum Rahman.

Speaking on MagicTalk on Wednesday morning, the Hamilton-based political and human rights activist said the number of cases had particularly increased "in the last six to eight weeks" alone.

"There are still a lot of cases of discrimination in employment: verbal abuse, harassment... particularly in the last six to eight weeks we're seeing a rise in the country," she told host Stephen McIvor.

Rahman, who is a semi-finalist for Kiwibank's New Zealander of the Year, said Muslim women who wear headscarves are particularly targeted.

"Muslim women who wear headscarves, because we're a lot more visible, people tend to target us because they think we're vulnerable and can't fight back.

It is feeling a bit hostile at the moment.

"There seems to be this undercurrent or rhetoric of hate... it isn't just our community, we see it a lot in online hate [towards] the transgender community. I wouldn't say it's specifically just us, but we're feeling it."

Rahman "expected" the wave of harmony that followed the terror of the Christchurch mosque shootings wouldn't last for long.

"I guess in that sense, that's why I'm working on this project, called Inclusive Aotearoa Collective, which is a long-term project looking to counter discrimination - or more positively thinking of how we can work differently to bring people together as a community," she said.

Inclusive Aotearoa Collective was founded by Rahman to help enable each person and community "to claim their place in Aotearoa New Zealand, while recognising the right of others to do so too".

She noted that New Zealand typically has low rates of physical violence towards the Muslim community.

In New Zealand, we're really lucky that we're not suffering from physical violence.

"To a large extent, we're not seeing the kind of things happening in India at the moment or laws that restrict our clothing... in that sense, we're free to practice our religion. I know people of many faiths across the world don't have that.

"Our young people are leading the way in so many cases... I think our young people will save us. The work needs to be done on people from my generation."

Eight women, including Rahman, and two men have been named as the shortlisted candidates for the 2020 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Magic Talk Breakfast Weekdays 6am-9am / Newshub reporter Lana Andelane