The Muslim community was first formally established in Tonga in 1983, but the government has still not approved its application for registration.
Imam Ilyas, or ‘Iliasi Manu, told Kakalu ‘O Tonga newspaper the Late King Tupou IV offered land for them to build a mosque, but he felt the congregation’s attempts to be registered were more difficult with the current monarch.
He said he believed if he could take the government to court over the registration application he could win, but at the same time he thought it was better for him to concentrate on educating the people to understand the Muslim doctrines.
This is what the Tongan constitution says about Freedom of Worship: “All men are free to practise their religion and to worship God as they may deem fit in accordance with the dictates of their own worship consciences and to assemble for religious service in such places as they may appoint. But it shall not be lawful to use this freedom to commit evil and licentious acts or under the name of worship to do what is contrary to the law and peace of the land”.
The religion was brought to Tonga by Ilyas’s late father, Fayaz Manu, also known as Fisi’ihoi Manu.
The Manus were originally Christian, but later converted to Islam.
Fayaz was the first president of the Tonga Muslim League.
In 2011 there were 24 Muslims in Tonga.
In a report by Dr Moshe Tediman, Islam in the Kingdom of Tonga, the Muslim community’s small size is acknowledged as a problem.
Ilyas studied Islam at the Suva Muslim College and at the madrassah at Toorak Mosque in Fiji.
He also enrolled in the University of Islamic Call Society in Libya, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies in 1992.
In 1993, he was appointed imam of the Tongan Muslim community.
He was criticised in a 2002 report on the Muslim communities in Tonga and Western Samoa prepared by the director of the Fiji Muslim League’s Da’wah Department, but praised by the Regional Islamic Da’wah Council of Southeast Asia.
In February a Tongan Islamic convert in Australia, Alo-Bridget Namoa was charged with terror offences
The 18-year-old woman was charged with terrorist offences for having a knife and documents in connection to an alleged terror attack plot in Sydney.
Namoa was Catholic, but later converted to Muslim and married a Muslim man.