“Sports seems to be the one factor that brings the whole community together,” Ali, the co-founder of the Canterbury Resilience Foundation, told Radio New Zealand.
His efforts to help sports communities in Christchurch feel welcoming for Muslims started in 2019.
In the aftermath of the Christchurch terror attack, Ali met Julyan Falloon, chief executive of Sport Canterbury.
Cooperation with Sport Canterbury and other community organizations resulted in the “Game Plan” which promotes inclusivity in the community.
“I was sitting beside [Ali] and I immediately saw that he had a strategic view, and he was passionate about doing something in a wider context for the good of the Muslim community,” Falloon said.
Ali, along with Labour list MP candidate Zahra Hussaini, went to the Canterbury Muslim Liaison group as a starting point to find people to talk to and discover barrier preventing Muslims from participating in sport.
For Ali, in his community discussions, a key point to come out was the importance of diversity.
“If you talk about the Muslim community, we have over 33 ethnicities and cultures within the Muslim community, if not more in Christchurch.”
Sports uniform was also another barrier as many sports uniforms are not culturally or religiously appropriate. Uniform also does not allow hijab in many cases.
To address these barriers, the Game Plan contains three main phases:
1- Firstly, establish resources and commitment to making long-term sustainable change.
2- Secondly, establish and administer a fund to help with individual’s costs like uniforms and fees.
3- Thirdly, set up two inclusive sports programs, one at a community level and one at a club level.
“We need to do something that’s going to have systemic change and use sport as a vehicle to be more inclusive, acknowledging that some of our sporting community needs to better,” Falloon said.
Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region.
It is home to 404,500 residents, making it New Zealand’s 3rd most populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.