One of the leading figures in the New Zealand Muslim community, once recognised alongside American activist Malcolm X, has died.

Mazhar Shukri Krasniqi, the president of the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (Fianz) since 1979 and a founder of the country's first mosque at Ponsonby, passed away peacefully in Australia surrounded by family on August 8. He was 87.

The penniless Kosovar Albanian political refugee fled Communist Yugoslavia and sailed for New Zealand on the refugee boat SS Goya in 1950.

After working a variety of jobs throughout the 1950s, including farming in Southland, and steam drilling around the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions, Krasniqi finally settled in Panmure, Auckland.


He soon became an enthusiastic and vocal figure in the Muslim community and in 1973 was part of a group who met with Mother Teresa when she visited down under.

In 1979 he became the first president of Fianz and the NZ Albanian Civic League, while also helping to establish the halal meat export trade.

During the 1999 Kosovo crisis, Krasniqi again showed his strong leadership and spearheaded the relief campaign.

Krasniqi, honoured with a Queen's Service Medal, was named in a book, 100 Great Muslim Leaders of the 20th Century, alongside Malcolm X, former Malaysian political leader Anwar Ibrahim, and Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

New Zealand Muslim historian Abdullah Drury described him as "a real kaumatua of the New Zealand Muslim community" and a great Albanian-New Zealander.

"It is seldom you find a man so universally admired," Drury said.

"Many community leaders are scoffed and scorned but everyone remembered this bloke with affection. That is rare."

Fianz spokesman Dr Anwar Ghani said the association was aware of Krasniqi's death in Australia where he'd lived for some time.


He paid tribute to the legendary Kiwi Muslim figure.

"He was a very enthusiastic man and great at getting the community organised," Ghani said.

"It's a great credit to him and his work to what we are today. He made a considerable contribution."